Saturday, June 12, 2010

Interviews

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.

25 comments:

VJ said...

"There is no strict restriction on the number of seats available."
-- I am not sure if I got this right. Is the number of students admitted to the graduate program less than the allocated seats? If that is the case, could you please elaborate on the reasoning behind the selection criterion?

Anonymous said...

i'm sure this is the case. the intake, at least for MSc(Engg) is a joke. they take like 10 students every year per dept.

it's a joke. i'm sure each dept can take about 20 MSc students every year, but they seem to take only 10.

each iit takes around 20/year i guess(per dept). so someone has to question these people

Anonymous said...

Postgraduate studies (especially PhD) are neither appropriate nor suitable for everyone. In the IITs and IISc, there is no financial incentive to recruit the full quota of students (there is usually only a soft quota to begin with). The quality threshold decided by the faculty of a department is the only factor in the selection process. It makes absolutely no sense in recruiting someone with poor fundamental background knowledge who is unlikely to cope - this will not only bring down standards but also make life difficult for the supervising faculty member.

Anonymous said...

" the intake, at least for MSc(Engg) is a joke. they take like 10 students every year per dept."

No. Many departments like materials engineering do not take M.Sc (Engg) students. The number of seats alloted to each department is for the sum of M.Sc (Engg) and Ph.D. With a dramatic increase in the number of M.Tech students, M.Sc (Engg) appears less attractive to students.

"i'm sure each dept can take about 20 MSc students every year, but they seem to take only 10."

You are joking, right? The number of seats alloted to each department is less than 15 for both Ph.D and M.Sc(Engg).

"each iit takes around 20/year i guess(per dept)."

WRONG. Many IITs do not have even have M.Sc (Engg). The number admitted there are much lesser. Their numbers for M.Tech are much higher.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 2 & 3

"Postgraduate studies (especially PhD) are neither appropriate nor suitable for everyone"

"You are joking, right? The number of seats alloted to each department is less than 15 for both Ph.D and M.Sc(Engg)."

BTW i'm the 1st anonymous poster

@anonymous2

you seem to say that postgraduate studies is neither suitable nor appropriate for everyone. well in that case i feel that the government must increase the level of the GATE exam to the postgraduate level, and recruit say 20 MSc students. how can they just decide who is suitable and who isn't?

and also why are always the students targeted with regards to quality? what about the profs?
i'd say only 20-30% of the profs work here at IISC and are genuine and honest(i'm sure prof giridhar is one among them). the rest just seem to make their students work for them while they themselves fool around doing nothing.

BTW i'm an IISC student



@anonymous 3

here is a link which i'm sure is the intake list for iit madras mechanical. please explain me with regards to the numbers here

http://mech.iitm.ac.in/announce.php

Giri@iisc said...

To clarify on the number of seats, this is the situation.

The ratio of research students (sum of M.Sc engg and Ph.D) on ROLL to faculty is 4:1 for engineering, 6:1 for science. The ratio of M.E. students to faculty is 2.5-3:1 in engineering. Thus the total students on roll are around 6.5-7:1 in engineering and 6:1 in science.

Regarding how these ratios are arrived, it is partly based on hostel accommodation, which is around 2400.

Some departments do not want to admit M.Sc (Engg) students at all because they would like to fill the quota of research students only with Ph.D. But the ratio of how many Ph.D to M.Sc students is decided in individual faculty department meetings and left to the department.

The total number of students admitted per year depend on the students currently on roll, vacancies available, number of faculty willing to take students etc.

In some departments, the quota is not filled. In most departments, the quota is filled. Even if it is filled, an extra 1-2 seats can be accommodated. This is what I meant by saying and asking whether it is good to reject a candidate who has an excellent academic record based just on an interview.

Thanks

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

I am also a student of IISc but I disagree with anon#1. Actually, faculty in IISc should take students only if they feel that can guide them properly. The way many students are guided in India, it is better if the numbers admitted are reduced and not increased.

Other than that, in almost all departments many students are forced to work with faculty and research areas which are not of their interest.

Many of the students work for faculty while they themselves fool around doing nothing. In this, I agree with anon #1.

Anonymous said...

@prof giridhar

i'm anon 1

the reason i talked about increasing the seats is based on the intake i see at iits. keeping in mind that iits recruit undergraduate students also, in spite of which, their intake for MS and PHD seem to be higher than iisc(who take in only graduate students). this baffles me.

i went through the chemical engg dept to see really scary numbers there.
ME - 19 + 12
MSc - 4
PhD - 27

thankfully my dept is better off with around
ME - 42 + 33
MSc - 40
PhD - 80

to prof,
sir don't the faculty members have a moral obligation to pass out or at least take in a certain number of PHD, MSC students every year. how can they themselves decide on the numbers?

i think it should be mandatory for each prof in iisc that they take in 2 MSc and 1 PHD students per year(minimum)(provided students are willing to join him). if they say they cannot handle the load , etc they must be asked to resign.
+ if students are denied admission due to lack of hostel accommodation, then IISC has some serious issues.(anyway i think the new 7 story hostel block will be complete anytime next year i suppose)

+ have we ever heard of any of the top tier US universities behaving like this? choosing to take in only PHD students while denying MS students admission? i guess these things happen only in india.


@above anon

the reason i said that intake should be increased is because i felt that if a student is good enough and wants to pursue his research work in india he should not be denied admission due to these nonsensical intakes. for ex in my dept there are around 25 profs and yet the intake per year for MSc is 15. shouldn't it be at least 25(1 student per prof).

the reason i'm talking exclusively about MSc is because i've seen many of my friends struggle with the ME program. Due to the higher intake most of the ME students are forced to work in areas(depending on the prof they get in 2nd sem) in which they have no interest in. thus, they end up relying completely on the knowledge they have gathered through their course work, and thus leave the institute

at least this is not the case with MSc, where due to the lower intake students are generally free to choose their guides and can thus pursue their research in their field of interest.


anyway i think only god has to save IISC from it's dwindling quality of profs and research output(don't take this as a personal attack on you prof giridhar. i respect you and your work a lot, but unfortunately i don't have the same opinion about most of the other profs at iisc)

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 2


"Postgraduate studies (especially PhD) are neither appropriate nor suitable for everyone"

What is that even supposed to mean. atleast here in india the intake is taken based on technical exams, whereas in the US intake is taken on stuff like reco, sop, GRE etc. how can you can that a student is unfit for research after he has passed the engg exams?
and yet the top tier US univs are head and shoulders above iisc.


why don't you extend your argument and say that literacy isn't for everyone and only the top 10% of the population is fit for education?

Giri@iisc said...

"+ have we ever heard of any of the top tier US universities behaving like this? choosing to take in only PHD students while denying MS students admission? i guess these things happen only in india."

Before I respond to your other comments, with reference to your above comment, can you please post the data of the number of ME, MS and Ph.D students in your branch and in chemical engineering from one top tier US university. Say, Purdue. I look forward to your data and analysis before proceeding.

Thanks

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

i would not like to disclose my dept, but anyway here is the data for Mech @iisc.

http://www.mecheng.iisc.ernet.in:8080/htmlweb/Student.htm

PhD - 89
MSc - 43
ME - 39 + 26

regarding chemical engg at purdue i hope this is the correct page showing the student strength

https://engineering.purdue.edu/ChE/People/ptGradStudents

from what i see they have a strength of 101


anyway i hope this isn't making you angry prof giridhar, because i just wanted to know why the intake in IISC is so low in spite of the fact that IISC does not admit undergrad students

- anonymous 1

Giri@iisc said...

Dear anon,

Please provide the data for ME, MSc and Ph.D students in top-tier USA universities and not mecheng in IISc. This has regard to your statement,

"+ have we ever heard of any of the top tier US universities behaving like this? choosing to take in only PHD students while denying MS students admission? i guess these things happen only in india."

So, tell me how many of the 101 students pursuing chemical engineering in Purdue are doing Ph.D, M.S and M.E. Prove that the ratio of these numbers are significantly different from the chemical engineering department in IISc.

We *may* have admitted lesser M.Sc(Engg) students than some IIT but the number of total research students (Ph.D+ M.Sc) admitted in 2009 in IISc was higher than any other IIT.

Commenting anonymously (without even wanting to disclose your department) that "intake in IISC is so low" and "these things happen only in India" is very easy; proving such statements is NOT.

Thank you

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

Prof. Giridhar:

M.S is given in very small numbers in most IITs except IIT-Chennai.

Don't you find that M.E wtudents with 1 year project are comparable to M.Sc (Engg) students and that is one reason why IISc has reduced the number of M.Sc (Engg) students over the years?

iitmsriram said...

Anon says "M.S is given in very small numbers in most IITs except IIT-Chennai"; well, that is probably because most IITs dont have MS programs. Only IITM and IITKGP have 'regular' MS programs. Some others have one on paper or have a slight variation on the M.Tech., -20 credits for courses and +20 for project on a 2 year time bound program, for example. IITM has had a distinct research based non-time-bound MS program and some other IITs are trying to go in this direction now.

iitmsriram said...

anon says"Postgraduate studies (especially PhD) are neither appropriate nor suitable for everyone". Research programs (PhD and MS) are different from class room based programs (ME / MTech) and need additional skills (and temperament, probably). So, MTech admissions can be based just on GATE score, whereas PhD selections at IIX usually involve interviews. I dont see what is wrong with this.

VJ said...

Hi Prof. Giri,

I really enjoy reading your blog. The intent of my comment was just curiosity about the current admission process, and not to start this sequence of harsh and highly opinionated comments. I have a few other questions:

1. Is there a website that maintains all (or at least some) of the information about quotas and admissions for all the (premier) institutes that have graduate programs?

2. On a similar note, are there self-financed graduate programs in India? For instances, many of the institutes in the US (including Stanford and UMass Amherst) grant admissions without a promise for any kind of funding. Not that I am suggesting the US model is the best to follow, but just wanted to get your opinion on this matter.

3. Is there a particular reason why you have not disabled anonymous comments on your blog. Not only are they annoying to the readers, but they also give the commenter an unwanted lack of accountability. If people want to maintain their anonymity, I am sure they can create an appropriate online account -- just a friendly suggestion :D

Giri@iisc said...

" I have a few other questions:

1. Is there a website that maintains all (or at least some) of the information about quotas and admissions for all the (premier) institutes that have graduate programs?"


No. Much of the information can be obtained from websites.

"2. On a similar note, are there self-financed graduate programs in India? For instances, many of the institutes in the US (including Stanford and UMass Amherst) grant admissions without a promise for any kind of funding. "

There are several self-financed programs but not in IITs/IISc. Actually, for the master's program, we have an excess of candidates. GATE qualifies around 30,000 students every year and everyone is eligible for scholarship. IITs and IISc admit around 3000 candidates, so there is no need to admit self-financed students.


"3. Is there a particular reason why you have not disabled anonymous comments on your blog. Not only are they annoying to the readers, but they also give the commenter an unwanted lack of accountability. If people want to maintain their anonymity, I am sure they can create an appropriate online account -- just a friendly suggestion :D"

So, one can create a dummy account in gmail/yahoo and then comment. So, what does disabling of anonymous comment do? Moderation of comments is possible but I simply believe one can say whatever one wants !

For example, the student of IISc who commented on M.Sc (Engg) has his own point. He feels that IISc should admit more M.Sc (Engg) students. Some in the faculty feel so too but many do not.

Many faculty feel that a M.E. student, who has a very high GATE rank, is able to accomplish in the one year project the same as the M.Sc (Engg) student accomplishes in 1.5 year thesis and, therefore, feel that we should go the IIT way of admitting only M.E and Ph.D students. Some faculty do not agree with this viewpoint.

Ultimately, the quality of students admitted, the ratio of M.Sc/Ph.D students admitted etc is a collective decision of the department and varies from department to department.

There is no right or wrong in all this but much of all this is discussed in faculty meetings over and over again. Unfortunately or fortunately, ultimately it is the faculty in the department who decide on the ratio and this is a collective decision. An individual faculty or student may differ from this opinion but the decision stands !

iitmsriram said...

Giridhar,

I will add just a little to your detailed reply.

About self-financing students - if one presumes that the 3000 number comes because of the limit on the number of scholarships, then taking on self-financing students would increase enrollment. I would think that only this 3000 out of the 30000 or so who qualify in GATE meet the input expectations of IIX (as evaluated at the interviews etc) and the limit does not come from the scholarships available.

And, "the IIT way of admitting only M.E and Ph.D students" does not apply to IITM which has a distinct MS program. IITKGP also has a similar program, but I am not able to find much information on this in their website.

Giri@iisc said...

Dear IITMSriram:

I agree with you. I am aware of the M.S. program in IIT-KGP and IIT-M.
IITD still has a M.S program
http://www.cse.iitd.ernet.in/academics/msr.shtml

Actually, in the sentence, "feel that we should go the IIT way of admitting only M.E and Ph.D", there is a typo. It should read IITB. IITB used to have a M.S program, which was discontinued and some in IISc feel the same.

But M.Sc (Engg) will never be discontinued in IISc but the ratio of M.Sc/Ph.D admitted by each department is decided by the department and can vary from 0.1 (Materials) to 2 (Electrical).


Giridhar

VJ said...

I guess my question goes back to the issue of limiting the number of students admitted to the graduate programs. If there are 30000 qualified candidates (according to GATE), and IIXs limit the admissions to 3000. In particular, I am wondering about:

(a) What fraction of the remaining 27000 do take admissions to graduate programs, and not give up the hope of graduate studies?

(b) What is the reason for the IIXs to have this limit of 3000? Is it because the infrastructure (hostels, i.e.) can not sustain a larger number, or is it the requirements of student-to-faculty ratio? If former is the case, is having self-financed students in addition to the existing limit of 3000 not a win-win solution?

I am not sure what you meant by "we have an excess of candidates.. so there is no need to admit self-financed students." -- isn't it the students' loss not to get in to a program they wish to.. and if the reason is "we don't have infrastructure to support larger number of admissions" -- if they can finance their own education, that should be good, right?
if the reason is "we want to maintain quality" -- may be a clear evaluation with comparisons to campuses abroad may help. And if there are other reasons -- I am definitely very interested to hear them, and I suppose many others will be interested too.

Anonymous said...

VJ: I am puzzled you are asking this question. Surely, you must have interacted with MTech students within the IITs? While there are "always" some good students in each MTech cohort, the average quality of the intake is not very impressive (one exception is CS). In courses that are common to BTech & MTech, it is standard practice in several departments to employ two different grading schemes just to make sure the latter get respectable grades. This is the situation in spite of the highly selective admissions process based on GATE scores. IITs are currently seen by many as a factory for producing BTech graduates. Why strain the fragile infrastructure further by creating one more massive production line for MTech graduates?

Anonymous said...

i am an iisc alumnus (ME).in my view there is hardly any difference between ME and MSc programs (at least in my department) w.r.t the research project requirement (roughly 15 months). thus, the ME program turns out to be an MSc with extra course work, most of which is redundant. also, though ME students are the top 20-30 in GATE, and the MSc students could go upto 500 the MSc students have roughly the same CGPAs (i am sure prof giridhar has access to data that could test my claim).
so the questions are:
-as iisc is a research-based intitute, should it have the ME in its current form?
-also, wouldn't it be better to divert the funds intended for ME scholarships to finance research students instead? the ME could be made self-sponsoring with less focus on research (maybe with assistantships like website maintenance or merit fellowships)
-is there some sort of miscommunication to applicants? (i opted for ME since i was under the impression that it is a better course since it is harder to secure admission to. with better knowledge, i would have probably tried for the MSc or the integrated phd program)

another observation is that some phd students are forced to opt for a certain phd supervisor, irrespective of their preferences (after joining the program), with the dept chairman citing various non-academic reasons. is it fair to expect someone to invest 5 yrs + possibly entire future to an area they do not like?

Anonymous said...

^^
hi anonymous(@above). i completely agree with your statements. there is hardly any difference between ME and MSc. ME is equal to MSc with additional coursework most of which will be redundant anyway. this happens because ME students have to do on an average 5 courses per sem(at least in the depts which i'm familiar with). and i don't think we need to mention how most of the courses here at iisc are(they are very tough :P). so students have to end up taking 1-2 redundant courses per sem just to ease the load and maintain a decent cgpa. the problem here is that time is wasted doing redundant courses, instead of which time could be spent doing math courses or related and relevant courses from other depts(doing courses which are related to your research interest, but are from other depts especially the math dept turn out to be very tough, or rather impossible for ME students due to the already heavy course load. thus the ME students end up with a weak math background which is not something they must have envisioned before coming here)

another problem with ME is the intake for the ME program is much higher than the MSc program. so ME students have to fight it out and get a gpa good enough to get the research topic of their interest. MSc students get to freely choose their guide/research interest in the 1st sem itself.

overall i would say int phd is better than msc which in turn is better than ME here in iisc. i think to make things easier for ME students iisc has to cut the course load from 13 or 15(this is the course load in the depts im familiar with) to 8 or 9.

aruni shaj said...

Respected Professor



I got interview call letter from the materials engineering department for PhD admission. I have finished my bachelors' in Polymer Engineering and Technology and masters' in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. I will be very much grateful to you if you could please tell me how to prepare for the interview?

Please be kind enough to reply me vai my email : aruni.shaj@gmail.com

Looking forward to hear from you at the earliest





Thank you for your valuable time

Sincerely

Anonymous said...

Would a person having just qualified GATE but with proved research potential through some published work in M.Tech, stand a chance to get an interview call for Ph.D.