An extremely meek person, from the district of Bhadrak, who loves to describe himself as a “late bloomer”, went to the land of the werewolves, Germany for a DAAD internship. Team MM presents to you a multi-talented person who is now The German Ambassador (Der deutsche Botschafter) of our institute. Read on to find out how he got the opportunity and the lack of the culture of research in our institute.
MM: You originally hailed from a distant district of Odisha, went to Bhubaneswar for studies, and in the end landed up in NITR. How tough was the journey?
PPD: I belong to a coastal district of Odisha, very close to the border of West Bengal, called Bhadrak. Till my 10th standard I did my schooling from Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandir, a vernacular medium school. In my board examinations I ended up in top 8. Then I thought that let me compete with a more proficient group of students and decided to move to the capital. There I got myself admitted to BJB Junior College. And I took up Science in my +2 because I had a special liking for it. In my 12th examinations I was in top 20. And in my school life I fetched good positions in Pradeshik Medha and Ganit Medha Exams organised by the Shiksha Vikas Samity. I was awarded scholarships in my 3rd, 5th and 7th standard. Apart from that, I also participated in Uranium (an examination held for the state board students opting for science in their +2). There I was within top 20 and was selected for a camp in Bhubaneswar. Since I was taught in Oriya throughout my entire childhood, it is in this camp where I felt that
The language is not the barrier in education. They showed me the transition that it’s never the language.
In fact, I also used to attend many Science fairs and seminars and I got selected in one of the seminars on a water management. Additionally, I attended CSIR Programme on Youth for Leadership in Science in my 11th standard.
And yes, like everyone else, I used to take coaching for IITs, but it didn’t happen and now I am in NITR.
MM: .Give an insight into the extra-curricular activities that you are involved in.
PPD: If I tell you about my hobbies, the first one would be reading a lot of books. Also in my free time I do sketch, which was one of my favourite pass times in my first year. Apart from these, I play violin though I am still a learner.
To be specific about reading books, it may sound a bit awkward; my favourite book is Bhagvad Gita because I have found it most relevant in my life. It prevents you from brooding over your life. For example, during the exams one generally thinks whether one would be able to remember the things or not and produce it correctly and get a good result out of it or not. But Gita would tell one to think in different lines. The mindset should be that it is just an exam and one should give his/her best and the rest shall automatically come out of it. It takes out the fear from one.
About clubs, I am in Cognizant, Bureaucrats and AstroNITR. Last year, in AstroNITR, we made a small scale telescope and this year we plan to make another one.
MM: You went to Germany through DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst; German for German Academic Exchange Service). Throw some light on it.
PPD: I went to DAAD for an internship and now I am a part of it. And I am the young ambassador of DAAD in NITR. I went there through WISE Programme (Working internship in Science and Engineering). It was a summer internship programme of about 60-90 days. To get into DAAD, you have to choose a professor of any public German University and try to contact him through e-mails describing him about what you want to do the project on. If he accepts the request then you are through.
I applied for Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany. My project was on Industrial Automation Systems. I was responsible for developing and validating a data interaction system between the different adverse tools that are used in the production systems. It’s a combination of Mechanical, Electronics and Computer Science Engineering. That is the type of projects they give to the students; it is always interdisciplinary. The important thing about this project was that it was funded by leading industries in Germany namely, Diamler AG, Siemens, KUKA and ABB.
MM: How is the environment both academically and on an overall noting in Germany different that from India and NITR to be particular?
PPD: One thing about the Germans that I still say to my friends is their punctuality. The chairs used to start at 8am, and not a single employee would arrive at 8.05am. Even in other fields like if one reaches the platform 5 seconds later, one would miss the train. Everything about them is very precise and orderly. They also keep a very distinct line between their work life and personal life. In week days they would work very hard, and during weekends they party hard. Sometimes it was difficult to believe that the same person who was partying so hard was the same scholar sitting besides doing the research work. Apart from this, cycling is one of their main hobbies. If you have a cycle, you can go anywhere. Like footpaths in India, there are roads meant for cycles in Germany.
Now coming to academics, the project on which I was working was worth a million euro. I was unable to understand anything about it, not even the machines. My supervisor did not tell me anything. He asked me to read the manuals, explore the machines and learn on my own during the initial stage. But I messed up. I broke one of the machine parts and I was quite afraid about it obviously keeping in mind about the cost of it. To my utter surprise, my supervisor told me that I was allowed to make as many mistakes as possible but was not allowed to repeat them. In other words,
One should learn from one’s mistakes.
But in NITR,
There are 3 CNC machines costing around 10-15 lacs INR, which we were not allowed to even touch during our 6th semester.
So we are not getting the scope to explore the machines. They gave me the freedom to learn from their systems. That was something amazing about them. When it turns to research, they are extremely helpful.
Another point is that, over there you can choose what you want to study, which is absent in NITR. In my branch, I had to study 11 professional electives and there was no choice. I had to take up the 11 topics decided by the institute.
It is an elective but it is compulsory.
So the flexibility is much less over here and everything is done in a pre-destined way. Also, the R&D companies are in collaboration with the universities. In India, these companies recruit student from the institutes but the curriculum is not according to the need of the industries.
MM: Are you planning to do any workshop for sharing your experience in DAAD and motivating the aspirants?
PPD: Yes, I am pretty much interested in conducting a session and if possible I also want to involve some German professors in a webinar. In NITR, the inclination of the students towards job is much more than the line of research. But many of them leave their job after a certain period of time and go for higher studies. It is because, they are not ready for it, it is not aligned to their area of interest, it is quite strenuous, and lastly, there is less opportunity in it. In our institute, if we talk with our PhD students,
Sometimes, in the pursuit of quantity the quality of research is compromised.
This is one of the reasons for the poor reasearch scenario in India.
I have planned to put up a helpline stall during the Techfest and another one during the ISM.
MM: NITR is known for its Mechanical Engineering. How good is the curriculum for the students to excel in higher studies?
PPD: Whatever is taught to us is not used in our industries.
The curriculum is obsolete now-a-days.
Certain topics like Entrepreneurship are not taught to us. It is kept as an open elective for other branches only. So we need to make a new curriculum based on the recent industrial developments and the technologies that are used now. I feel the inclusion of Product Design Lab is a wonderful step. And if you want to apply for DAAD, they mainly stress on your academics, your CGPA and what type of projects you have done.
MM: You are placed in Bajaj R&D. Share some of your experience of the interview.
PPD: The interview was quite good. They were basically checking whether we were thorough with our academics. The questions were very general and what we studied in some topics. They did not stress much on extra- curricular activities. But some of their questions were really interesting. For example, I was asked how others rate me, like what would be my parents’ and teachers’ opinion about me. Suddenly they asked what would be my girlfriend’s opinion on me. I kept saying the same thing on this matter that I don’t have one. From a technical point of view, it was one of the toughest interviews.
MM: What are your future plans?
PPD: At this moment, I plan to pursue my job in Bajaj for the next couple of years at least and then see if it does not interest me, I would go for higher studies abroad. And I am preparing for GRE.
For GRE, according to my seniors, I would like to advise that being an engineering student, solving a few sample papers would do for the quantitative part. But for the verbal part you need to work hard. I feel that reading would be much more an interesting and elegant way of preparation for this rather than preparing through some online strenuous courses.
MM: Any message you want to give to your juniors.
PPD: The most important task is to have a clear vision in your life. If there is anything that picks your interest, now it is the best time to give it a try. If you are indulged in research, do not do it for the sake of publishing journals. If you are into extra-curricular activities, just do not do it to add something to your resume because doing something only for adding something to your resume is just like saving sex for the old days when it is of no use.
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