With the ascent of interest in research and IIT Delhi itself inclining itself towards being more research oriented than it has ever been, fabricating your career in your field of interested, dwelling in the depths of the field that has always been fascinating, are some of the things that have always amassed interests of countless people. Today we bring you one of the best from such people, Shreya Rajpal, student of Industrial Production and Engineering of the batch of 2012, former research Intern at University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign in the field of Computer Vision. And presently pursuing her PhD from University of Montreal.
Her own words on her journey from IP at IIT D to CS at UIUC-
- When was the time you started thinking over pursuing research?
“I was always agog to explore CS but considering my branch never got a chance to go and turn all the stones that existed in Computer Science. The ice broke when I was working with Dr. Mausam on a Mini Project, and as a follow up to this I got an opportunity in a workshop paper at ICML. Where I met people doing full time research in so different yet interesting areas. Meeting those people, talking with them, made me realise what I actually wanted to do, and the decision was made, as late as my 6th semester.”
- How was your experience with the selection procedure?
“Selection procedure might not be as feverish as that of getting a job in your Job semester but it’s no less either. You need to have at least three letters of Recommendation from professors. Have to compile all your transcripts, and mail them. Fill all those application forms, send your GRE and TOEFL, and so many other things. You especially also need to shortlist your preferred schools and even the professors in those schools. Shortlisting is fairly essential as you can’t apply to all the universities, you need to analyze well and then pick them.
- How was adjusting to a foreign country?
“Adjusting to a foreign land, seeing foreign faces speaking a language not foreign to me yet in a foreign way. Period. It was tough, and to be truthful, it actually shocked me how difficult I found adjusting. Well my struggles with adjustment weren’t all due to the new land I was walking on, as someone who had lived all her life in a big city, the size of the small University town of UIUC was a bit alien to me. But the delirium didn’t last long, two months into time and I started cherishing it. In the meantime, during my intern at Pinterest in San Francisco, a big city, it felt more home than UIUC. During my time at UIUC I made a lot of close and fun relationships at UIUC, all which I will always revere. Eventually the difference of culture, language and everything becomes something to relish rather than regret.”
- Anything for students who are not economically strong? Any scholarships?
“Well, Masters in US are not funded, but I was fortunate enough to go to school at UIUC, which is amongst the few that offer a tuition waiver and a generous stipend too if you do a TAship or an RAship. While many of the other colleges even have a blanket ban on allowing Masters Students do any type of assistantships to be able to pay for a waiver, some allow assistantship with a stipend but no waiver. If money is a factor, do your “research” before choosing your school.”
- What all did you learn at IIT that helped you accomplish milestones?
“As said before, I wished to explore Computer Science more, which I couldn’t do because of a different department. Hardly any of my courses were coherent with what I am doing now. The ones which were, were MTL106, COL106, COL341. So when I came here what I looked for was an uninterrupted unconstrained thorough flexible research and I haven’t been disappointed. I’ve had a great experience with research and coursework at UIUC. I actively worked in the new booming market of self driving cars too. There was no dearth of faculty in my area of research and even some resounding job opportunities. Though getting a job was never a reason to pursue MS, I actually went blank minded into my MS and hoped for things to sort themselves, which they did.”
- What is the ideal profile for someone to pursue higher studies from a college like yours?
“To be able to pursue research you need to have a lot of research on your CV, a lot. That lot of research should be able to provide you with many LORs, the more the better. In my experience, these two are the most important wheels in getting you to your dream school. What people do a lot and I believe they should not is prioritising GRE and TOEFL. Obviously they are important, but they are more of a qualification construct, if you don’t have a good score then you are doomed but having a perfect score doesn’t guarantee anything, it comes down to your research projects and LoRs at the end of the day. You also need to prioritise Research Internships over Industrial ones, especially in CS, if you want to pursue research when the sun sets. The last factor that comes in to play is your CG, supposed to be 9+. But this aspect of your preparation is negotiable, remember a dip in any of the components needs to be backed up by a swell in others. Even I had a CG of 8.2 but my extensive coursework (a minor in CS), research interns, projects and LoRs counter bailed them out. Précis of getting a research is great research, a high GPA, LoRs good GREs, it looks difficult because it is but no good thing comes easy.”