Friday, June 25, 2010

(old) Pinned post for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc

This is a pinned post (i.e., this post will always appear at the top of this blog though newer posts appear below it) for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc. Please post all your questions and comments here and please read this site before you post your queries.

This has crossed 200 comments and a new pinned post has been created.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


It has been a long week of conducting interviews to select research students. During the last weekend, nearly 200 candidates were interviewed in two days by 4 to 5 committees in the nanoscience center. Throughout the last week, nearly 90 candidates were interviewed in the chemical engineering department. In the department, we have a two stage interview. A screening committee, of which I am a member, interviews the candidate for 15-20 minutes on mathematics and general chemical engineering principles. We select roughly 25% of the candidates and send them to another committee, which interviews them for around a hour per candidate. The selection rate of this committee is roughly 50%. This translates to a ratio of 1:8, which is also the average in the institute.

However, these interviews always leave me pondering with a question. Suppose you interview a candidate who has scored very high (> 90%) in X and XII standard, has a very high AIEEE score, went on to join a good NIT, topped in most of the semesters there, got a GATE rank within the all India rank 10 and the performance of the candidate in the interview is very poor. Would you select him/her? This year (as in past years), we did not select two candidates who fit the above background. Despite a very sub-par performance in the screening interview, we selected them to go to the final interview but they did not make it to the final shortlist. The question is how well would they have performed in courses and research, if they were selected based purely on academic record without any interview.

My view is that we should always select candidates for the master's degree with a consistent academic record irrespective of the performance in the interview. Because there is no strict restriction on the number of seats available, a candidate who does not have a great academic record but performs very well in the interview can also be selected. But that is just my view and opinion and it is something for me to think about as I travel out of Bangalore on Saturday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Library Budgets

I have written extensively on library budgets before. My alma mater, Univ California, has once again shown the way to deal with commercial publishers. After successfully dealing with Elsevier, they have now taken on Nature group of publishers. In the chronicle article titled Univ of California tries just saying no to rising journal costs, the letter issued by the Univ of California says,

The letter said that faculty would also organize "a systemwide boycott" of Nature's journals if the publisher does not relent. The voluntary boycott would "strongly encourage" researchers not to contribute papers to those journals or review manuscripts for them. It would urge them to resign from Nature's editorial boards and to encourage similar "sympathy actions" among colleagues outside the University of California system.

I encourage readers not only read the article but also the comments that follow that article. The Nature group of journals responded to this and the UC system was quick to counter their arguments.  I found the latter letter to be extremely well written and persuasive.  Of course, very very few scientists in India publish in journals like Nature or even review for them, forget serving on their editorial boards, and thus boycott would not work against Nature. However, the same policies could be followed in Indian universities for other journals published by commercial publishers. 

The librarians may note the cost paid by Univ of California for the Nature journals. It is worthwhile to note that all the IITs put together (all 15 of them) and IISc will have less full time equivalent researchers (FTEs) than a single UC school, yet we pay several times more.  It is an atrocity that we pay commercial publishers for access to journals in case of some new IITs, which have less than 10 faculty. I hope, one day before I retire from academics, that librarians in our country will take interest and try to reduce the library budgets by negotiating in consortiums.