Exchange Diaries  

By International Relations Cell

Outbound Diaries 2021

Madhusudhan Reddy Pittu | Computer Science and Engineering

Carnegie Mellon University, USA

From where did you get the motivation and how did it all start?

For pursuing a Ph.D. you need a particular personality type. Those who have the motivation to dedicate their lives to research and solving problems are the best suited for it. It is all about the person and what he wants to do in life. I have always been interested in math; since my school days, I have been very keen and enthusiastic about Olympiads and won a bronze medal in IMO. I was sure from long back that I would be doing something which involves thinking and research. The trigger for the decision to pursue Ph.D. was when I contacted a professor at IISc Bengaluru who admitted me for a 2-month research project which manifested in my mind that I want to pursue this and nothing else. Proper planning and time management made the preparation very easy for me as I made small timetables and tried to complete them within the time limit.

What is the process of application?

So I chose a course which involves the three departments interlinked and all are equally beneficent. Firstly, you need to know your interest, about what projects are present, and of course, a good recommendation from a professor is extremely helpful for the application.

Did you apply to Multiple Universities? Could you enlist some major differences in their respective processes?

I applied to many universities and got calls from CMU, Georgia Tech, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. But since my only preference after MIT was CMU, I chose it. Mostly the selection process was similar with slight differences in their way of taking the interview, but in the end, not a lot of difference was there. I feel that I gave my best attempt for all of them but it is dependent on luck as well because the current COVID scenarios have served as a hindrance.

Some important factors for selections are :

Vacancy under the professor (Max to max 3-4 selections happen) as they only get limited funding.

Area of work as different universities give preferences to different research areas.

Luck Factor and connections as a better recommendation letter can be quite fruitful.

How are you planning to manage your finances?

PhDs are fully paid courses and seats are only offered when the university can provide enough stipend for the food and living expenses. It is a kind of job so yeah it’s completely dependent on the university.

What would you say is the role of CGPA in the selection process?

I had a 9+ CG. For a Ph.D. it is all about research interest and applications, publications, etc. However, a good CG gives an idea of how much potential you hold, and therefore it is one of the most necessary factors for good universities.

How is your university going to manage everything in this confusion of COVID-19?

I am supposed to join on Aug 16, 2021, but with the current rising rate of infection spreading, I might have to spend one semester here only. But the management has been excellent. They have conducted an open house. Talks and video tours were given and the entire situation was explained to the students. And yes, the most important thing is that they are communicating with the students continuously.

How did IIT KGP benefit you in your journey?

Academically IIT KGP was not helpful at all as the faculty wasn’t that enthusiastic to help. My BTP Advisor helped a lot and provided a recommendation for my IISc project. Most of my colleagues were not interested in theoretical studies and so there was not a lot of benefit from that side either. But the mark of IIT which gets a lot of respect in foreign universities was quite beneficial. Also, the alumni network helped a lot as many foreign faculties are alumni of IIT KGP. Arindam Khan, the professor I worked under at IISc is also an alumnus of IIT KGP and he helped me a lot and recommended me and I feel meeting him was a turning point in my life.

What difficulties do you think the pandemic will bring(or has brought already) in the process?

I might have to spend one semester here due to the pandemic. Also, I was supposed to go to Georgia Tech in May 2020 for FTP but wasn’t able to go. It would have been beneficial as I would have gotten much more interaction and would have an idea about the USA and the living conditions, but now it will be a new experience, so a bit difficult but still enriching one.

What are the opportunities after the Ph.D. course?

Better job offers due to the presence of an additional degree of specialization will provide better pay of course. Also, the posts which a Ph.D. guy can get are inaccessible to the ones who have just a Bachelor's degree. Also after your Ph.D., you can work as a researcher, work in labs of big companies like Google, Microsoft (MISR), etc. Also can get a postdoc and apply as an assistant professor and raise the level. Also can get a job anytime in the industry due to a higher level of specialization.

What message do you want to give the juniors today who are interested in pursuing similar courses?

The first thing that you will realize is whether you are made for it or not. Just try to do some research work, projects in the fields you are interested in to get a basic knowledge of it.

For 1st years- Keep exploring as the world is filled with a lot of fields and you never know which one might interest you for life.

For 2nd years- Leap of faith in one of the fields and try to do some projects or research in it and work hard in it.

For 3rd years- Make a choice CDC or Research interest. You must skip your CDC if you are interested in the field as sooner or later you will realize the benefit of it.

Ph.D. might be a bit tricky to pursue as it involves long years of hard work, dedication, and patience but it is surely worth it.