The PhD journey, so far! : Part-1

I have been writing my prelim report all week, and it is due on the 16th. If I pass this prelim, I will be well on my way to get a PhD (and if not, I still have another shot at it).

But I have never been one of those “research” types. One of those PhD types, who eat-sleep and drink research, get excited with good as well as bad results, have ideas brewing inside them all the time. Neither am I one of those types- no job, recession, lets do a PhD. I have been stuck in the middle, alternating between an irresistible urge to work on my research, and an unstoppable urge of not wanting to do anything with research.

I still recall, a long after dinner walk sometime in 2003, just finishing 4th semester of engineering, defending my non-interest in CAT/GATE/GRE, and a great desire to get a job. And, I still remember people, trying to talk me into one of the three exams, promising that with my “talent”, I will breeze through them. I recall, sitting in front of Electrical engineering, discussing about “our calling”, and how there are “tech-guys” and “management-guys”. But, this did not much change my decision, and I still wanted a to take up a job. Infact, I remember, talking about not being much interested in an MBA either, because, I never knew understood what the “management type” was except that they were the “I did not like engineering type”. Things got much simpler, when Appa refused to give me the 16,000 for IMS (which in afterthought, was great, I would have prepared with half-an-heart, and that is no good). I also never got the “research bug”, with uninspiring teaching in the department and a syllabus that hardly whets your analytic skills, but got my hands dirty with some technical reading with a couple other people who were pretty sure that research was the way to go and were trying to work on some projects to get a good admit.

Some “events” transpired in February-March 2004, and slowly I drifted out of one friend circle and into another, from the “CAT” gang, to the “GRE” gang. This is where, the first burst of impulse stuck me, and I decide that I will go to America. But unlike, the friends who were applying with me, I had hardly thought about the prospect. Everyone in the hostel, were on one side or the other, MS or MBA, preparing with word-lists and quants and stuff like that. Such stuff was needed for placements too, and I decided that I will go the “GRE” way . Although it was the much expensive proposition, MBA was an unkonwn entity, and I did not know if I would like it or not. Atleast, I was sure, I will not dislike a MS.

We had done thermodynamics in our 5th semester, and some of the models really impressed me. I put a special effort to learn parts of it which were unnecessary for passing the VTU exam, but evoked interest in me, because there were some algorithms listed in the book to solve those equations. So, Thermodynamics became my research interest. Over the 6th semester, my newer GRE enthu friend circle, motivated and pushed me to study for the GRE, to read up on interesting technical stuff. We wrote the GRE over the 6th semester break, and came back with apping on our minds. In the meantime, I landed up a job with CTS. I still was not sure about the whole America thing, but researched universities along with friends, always telling myself, finding out does not mean I will apply. But, I got carried away, and when we found out that universities do not offer funding for MS, decided that PhD is the way to go.

GATE, came in the middle, pretty much out of nowhere. My enthu gang of friends were the only ones in the whole MS enthu gang in the hostel to actually write the exam. Preparation for GATE was an even bigger joke. The three of us, prepared for exactly 2 hours, and almost directly from the exam center, we boarded the Karnataka express for a Delhi/Rajasthan/Agra holiday.

Surprisingly, I was the first to land up with an admit to the USA. Even more surprisingly, the three of us and Haddi, managed to get great GATE ranks as well. My other friends had not gotten admissions yet, and so we decided to apply to IIT-Bombay. I had totally forgotten about interview calls, when PJ, checking for his interview calls, spotted my name on the IIT-B website. And, I was on my way to Mumbai for the interview.

The may interview was actually the first time, I really felt that, I could grasp technical stuff (VTU exams just test how well you can memorize), when, I almost derived a not-so-intutive result with casual egging on by the interviewers. To boost my confidence further, I was put in the top-10 of the selected list (and that was huge jump, because the weight was to GATE rank and interview performance, and my rank was the last rank to be admitted). IIT was a huge huge dream, and I had decided to take that up, almost immediately. Still, long discussions about India/US higher education scene etc etc, ate up my evenings.

I flew into Bombay in July-2005, to live my IIT dream, and there I was, getting a MTech degree. Thinking back, there was hardly a coherent reason, that I could think of, which made me take a MS/PhD decision during the RVCE days, or made me not to accept the CTS job.

The first semester in IIT, stretched me to my limits, and I learned that I have a passion for mathematics, thanks to Prof SCP’s class. I seemed to have impressed the professors (those who interacted with me) too, and the seminar that we had to give by reading a few papers, whetted my appetite for more mathematics related course. SCP’s advance controls class in Spring fit the bill.

The story of 2006 and ’07 and my landing in Madison : Next installment!!

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  1. #1 by Protege on February 10, 2009 - 5:54 am

    Hello Kaushik.. Nice post.. I am looking forward to Part 2 as I am still facing the same dilemma after completing 3 yrs in corporate circle.. Our stories sound similar but one striking difference is that I accepted the job offer at CTS.. So I am sure we would have nice stuff to discuss πŸ™‚ Good luck for your prelim report!

  2. #2 by Vinay on February 10, 2009 - 6:24 am

    Well… you seem to have landed in IITB with luck by chance… best of luck for your prelims… aur haan… kitne paper chaape ab tak?

  3. #3 by Ammalu on February 10, 2009 - 12:39 pm

    Go Tiger …Go!! B-)

  4. #4 by Anonymous on February 10, 2009 - 6:43 pm

    You have a pretty neat blog.I love reading your blog. I enjoy your interesting posts especially on arranged marriage, missing Mumbai and home and I like how you express your feelings.I also felt the same when I left India for my higher studies here in NYU.Anyway, keep up the good work and good luck for exams.

  5. #5 by kaushik on February 10, 2009 - 9:37 pm

    @giri: Part 2 will come soon πŸ™‚ Nice to see you in my blog…you can mail me if you want some information. Where are you now???

    @vinay: yes, luck by chance πŸ™‚
    # paper = 0

    @ammalu πŸ™‚

    @anon: wow!!! thanks!! who does not like comments which praise their blogs….all the best for your studies :p

  6. #6 by Vinay on February 11, 2009 - 11:05 am

    Some part of your story is similar to mine… I gave GATE just because my dad urged me to give it. Earlier, I’d given my GRE and was ready for apping. The first person to be shocked on hearing that I had a GATE score was my dad. Me getting a GATE score was like Kumble scoring his century. Once in a life time opportunity.

    Also, by looking at my GATE score, the clerk at UICT who handled admissions guaranteed that I will easily sail through the admission procedure. So, I wasn’t too worried about the interview at IIT. And I was amongst the last persons to be interviewed. And it was an even greater shock to learn that I was admitted to IIT. So, even I came to IIT with some luck, by chance.

  7. #7 by kaushik on February 15, 2009 - 6:48 pm

    @Vinay: Me getting a GATE score was like Kumble scoring his century. Once in a life time opportunity.

    We have overestimated the GATE exam. People are still in awe when they hear my GATE score, and it I have to make an effort to explain that it is not so hard.

    I value my 2 years in IIT as the most influential part that has shaped me so far. And, I am thankful that I took that step to go to IIT.

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