Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Doing Ph D

Saw a post from Prof Dheeraj Sanghi on Ph D programs in IITs. This is not a counterpoint but just a perspective.

  1. The importance of research for any country, society, or economy is critical in developing its reservoir of ingenuity as the key tool for survival, sustenance, and growth. Ph D programs need to contribute to that reservoir significantly
  2. As Ph D programs are long drawn the trade off between the 'real' world and the 'academic' one is a very hard choice. One wishes for an ecosystem where cutting off from the 'real' for 3-5 years is not the only way to do a Ph D. What is more important than the degree is the contribution to research whose cumulative effect should weigh more than the degree itself
  3. Perhaps a collaborative program between institutions and industry where a series of research efforts is reasonably directed and can be deemed to be equivalent to nano, micro, mini or mega Ph D may be a workable way of encouraging a culture of research
  4. I recall a comment by Late Prof V K Deshpande of IIT/K in one of those student/faculty discussions (how I loved IIT/K for that openness) where he mentioned that he must have learned at least five times since his Ph D. Clearly Ph D is not an end but the start of a mindset that empowers with tools for investigation and problem-solving. Cultivating that mindset in undergraduate and postgraduate programs is equally critical
  5. Horror stories of dictatorial culture in universities abound where Ph D scholars are often supposed to be at the mercy of their guides/supervisors
  6. When I finished my B Tech I did not fancy doing more of academics without having seen the 'real' world as I was not convinced of doing Master or Doctoral work without getting one's hands dirty was the right thing. The 'real' world was a mixed bag that kept one extremely busy with responsibilities leaving little time to do anything else. I 'escaped' after some time to do M Tech at another IIT. But when it came to doing a Ph D I told myself that there has to be a topic that I must fall in love with to do a Ph D. That love never came! There must have been dozens of smaller flings but not one that would entice me enough to go away with it for a few years! I suspect that being in a community that included academics may have helped find such a love
  7. I met Prof Singaperumal in Santa Clara in PanIIT 2007. He had taught pneumatics to us in IIT Madras. His advice/request was to come to IIT M for a Ph D. He said you don't need to come to campus much for doing this. So there is hope I guess
  8. I guess 25 years of career should count for a little more than GATE as far as doing Ph D is concerned. Institutes that are restrictive in getting research fellows on the basis of GATE scores certainly need to prioritize slightly differently. Universities need to lead not follow rules blindly