Thursday, March 26, 2009

Graduate studies

My colleague in IIT-M, Niket Kaisare, talks about GATE, GRE and the flight to US and makes an interesting point,

We need to get the word out that doing a Masters (and even a PhD) at IIT/IISc is a viable option. Just to give an example, working with me for MS allowed one of my students to secure admission in a top-20 US university, which he otherwise would not have gotten based on his undergraduate degree alone. More of “Flight to US” will be dealt with in a follow-up post.
In fact, after my undergraduation, I could not get admission to a top 20 school in USA (I did get a few in 30-50) and, therefore, I joined IIT-M and then did my doctorate in a top 20 school in US. However, the situation has changed in that many middle class and upper middle class students who get admission in the top 20-30 schools in USA without financial aid still leave the country after getting loans. This was not common when I studied.

I am sure that all students joining the program in IIT/IISc know that getting financial aid in a top ten school requires a degree from IIT/IISc. Of the 32 master's students that I have graduated, 11 of them were interested in going abroad and all of them went to the top 20 schools in USA with financial aid. All of them published research papers with me and used it as a basis to get into the top schools in the US. Thus, IISc (or the IITs) has not been facing any problems in getting students for M.E/M.Tech programs. Our cut off is all India rank of 25 for admission in the M.E. progam in chemical engineering.

The problem is why these students do not continue to do a doctorate in India. Institute like IISc benefit greatly from a doctoral student than from a master's student. My colleagues often ask me whether I advise a master's student to pursue a doctorate in IISc itself and not go abroad. I do not.  I think facilities are now comparable and the quality of *some* faculty in IISc are comparable to that of the US. I, however, tell them the advantages of doing a doctorate in IISc (faster completion because they are already familiar with the experiments etc., closer interaction) and USA (more money, more independence from families (especially for girls)) and then ask them to decide.


ggop said...

Great writeup Professor. I specially liked your dispassionate advice to students interested in doctorate degrees.

Balaji Ramasubramanian said...

Your advice to students is very good indeed. I especially liked your impartial treatment in this mater. But I shall write about another important point you have noted here:

Admission with financial aid in top 20 schools is not incumbent upon just a degree from IITs or IISc. I am an example: I only completed BE from NSIT, New Delhi (University of Delhi) and am pursuing a PhD with full financial aid in a university ranked in the top 5. In the broad area of solid state electronics, it is actually ranked #1.

But your point is generally valid. I am rather an exception than the rule. In my batch of undergrads, 15% applied for graduate programs in engineering, 65% for management and the rest joined industry. 9% were admitted to top 10 schools in the US, and one student went to 20-30 ranked school. But in this entire batch I am the only fortunate person to be admitted with full financial aid. (One more person who worked in industry with me and graduate from my college will be joining grad school in top 5 schools this year with financial cover) When compared to this, IISc students regularly go for PhD to top schools with financial cover. So your point happens to be right - but because of a different reason I shall point out later on.

On the other hand I know a lot of people with degrees from non-IIT/IISc universities in my school (Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) and even at MIT or Stanford who are pursuing a PhD (with full financial aid). So I am not such a unique exception. I see people from Anna University, BITS Pilani, DCE New Delhi, NIT Suratkal, NIT Nagpur, NIT Trichy NSIT New Delhi and many more colleges. In all 40 engineering graduate students from India joined here in Fall 2008 of which only 15 were from the IITs and IISc, taken together.

There are two strong correlations that I find at the U of I and believe may be holding even for places like Stanford or MIT:
1. Every single engineering graduate student, whether international or citizen is fully funded. They don't make admissions without identifying a funding source. A graduate student position is a legitimate job and you are paid for working.
2. Nearly 9 out of 10 people I know of have published research papers in international conferences or journals either during their undergraduate or graduate programs. Only a few students I know of are here because of a perfect GPA alone. They usually get a TAship for the first year and it pays equally.

So, while you are right that you have a fairly better chance of going to top programs after a master's from IITs or IISc, that is not a criterion for admission that I see here. The criterion seems to have a lot to do with identifying students with the ability to produce state of the art research work. It is only because students at IITs and IISc are regularly publishing papers with their faculty members that their students are able to go to the top programs in the US.

So the fact is that you need to spread the word that graduate programs in IITs and IISc are a very good option for an excellent career in academia. Spread the word that IITs and IISc are doing world class research work. Advertise your RAship programs.

Anonymous said...


With due regards to your profile, You must understand that NIT students are more capable of IIT counterparts. Ex:- The recent paper publications done in any conferences, mincluding High performance computing. Students from NIT nagpur are way ahead of any IIT except IITB in electrical and mechanical engineering for submission of papers and patents. ex:- Nmber of ATV and international competition winners. Sometimes, we find IITM maakes it to pre-final with lot of efforts.

Secondly, NIT with their Vision 2025, along with HRD ministry signed MOU with all the top German and Finnesh universities in all invincible areas to focus on Vision 2025. This includes Max planck institute of siftware systems.It will take a six months for vetted MOU because it is very big program. The Finnish and german universities are going to collaborate with NITs in the cutting edge research.
This is only tip of Iceberg as NITs are going to proceed to US with same degree or even more to have the anchor points like waht you have mentioned Top 10 ,probably MIT, CMU, Berkely and many of them to have them partners in 2025 program. Theerfore, NITs can get rid of not so good talent for research in india in universities and not the good quality Ph.d's coming from IITs,IIsc and NITs ,however, there are considerable fraction are good.

This is voiced by NIT director that vision 2025 is not possible only with Ph.d'sfrom NITs or similar institutes because the creativity required fro achieveing 2025 vision is enormous.

We have thoroughly failed to produce thinking scientists, which is the focus there.

They will do joint partnership with all the institutes in russia, Japan and china too in the talk.

The identified areas are Nano electronics, Bio technology, all areas of pure sciences, information sciences, energy,Materialsciences with heavy funding from TEQIP or NITs and HRD budget.

This will eventually get many Ph.d's to proceed with vision 2025 faster and sooner.

Already.NIT graduates are working with top industries and research with UKERI and university dundee and many top universities in UK are working with NITs in various programs.

NIT graduates get full paid stipend even during third year for doing research in UK.
I personally feel even College of engineering Guidy stundets are brilliant and produced good work. said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

Feynman said...

I think everybody is forgetting about Jadavpur University, which has been ranked sixth in All India recently. I am a student of ETCE and know many students going to Stanford, UTA, Maryland etc after doing their graduation from JU alone.In GATE this year, our department has produced top rankers like AIR-2, AIR-5, AIR-30 etc in EC and they are all going to IISc to do ME there.Here UG students regularly publish papers in international journals like IEEE, ACM with the faculties.

So talents exist not only in IISc/IIT but in JU too.