Gyan Prakash Sahoo | Jun 19, 2017

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Alok Ranjan, a Ph.D. Scholar from the Department of Mining Engineering recently added some feathers to his cap that has thwarted his career to newer levels. He attended an international conference held in Paris during March and also completed a 6 month Ph.D. Internship on May 10 at TCS Research and Innovations, Bangalore. On a hot sunny afternoon of Friday, he had a candid chat with Team MM where he shared his journey from his small village in Bihar to Paris.

Growing Up

Born and brought up in a small village of Bihar named Banmankhi, Alok completed his schooling up to 10th in a Hindi Medium school of his village due to the absence of English Medium schools in the nearby areas. But this did not deter him from dreaming big and he moved to Purnea district post-matriculation, where he attended tuitions in English and completed his 12th in ISC from an English Medium School.

He then completed his B.Tech in the stream of Computer Science from RGPV University, Bhopal.

NIT-R at Last!

As Alok narrates, he appeared for GATE post-graduation, but could not get a rank decent enough for admissions to any of the IITs and he hoped for getting into one of the NITs. He then moved to Bangalore, where he was placed in a small company which had an agreement of working for a minimum of 2 years over there. But, luckily he came across an advertisement of admissions in NITR for Masters Program and using his GATE rank he applied for a position in two departments- Computer Science and Mining Engineering. He was not selected for the former but did get selected for the latter. It was his sheer interest in research in the field of communication and thirst for knowledge about the root causes of basic phenomena that has kept him going since his college days.

Research Prospects

Alok’s area of research is in the field of wireless communication. Lack of proper communication systems in the underground mines and the fact that existing research is mostly confined to laboratory levels motivated him to pursue his studies in this field. Currently, most of the research works have been done on transmission tunnels in overseas whose conditions are different from what is observed in underground mines, here. So his first approach was to develop a stable mathematical model for the scenario which can be simulated with varying conditions to obtain the exact solution. His next approach was to validate the model via experimentation which he did in three different mines and obtained the real-time data.

Conference Glory

With this extensive research, Alok applied for COMSNET conference in the year 2016 where he presented his poster about his motivation for his area of research and the initial findings of his research on wireless communications. It was appreciated a lot by the presenters and he received an award for it. Following which he worked further on the experimental validation of the mathematical model and participated again in the 9th IEEE International Conference on Communication Systems (COMSNET) held in Bangalore during 4-8 January 2017. He presented two papers titled ‘Importance of link characterization for Wireless Sensor Networks in underground mines’ and ‘Experimental Measurements and Channel modeling for wireless communication networks in underground mine environments’. Both his papers earned a lot of repute and earned the awards of Best Graduate Forum presenter Award-2017 and LRN Foundation Award respectively.

LRN Foundation Award involved a few of the research papers being selected by LRN committee after a lot of scrutiny and being provided financial support of INR 50,000 to present their papers at a reputed international conference named European Conference on Antennas and Propagation (EUCAP 2017) held at Paris during 19-24 March 2017.

As mentioned by Alok, one of the good things that he experienced in these conferences was that there was a separate mentor-mentee session post-paper presentation where the presenters presented their papers in front of industrial and academic experts and further suggestions were discussed.

International Experiences

After being selected for EUCAP conference, Alok started looking for further funds as the fund provided by LRN covered only the travel expenses and Visa. Apart from that, every presenter had to pay a registration fee of 620 Euros. So he applied in another forum named EUCAP Young Author Travel Grant, where he filled up his Statement of Purpose (SOP), CV and how his research would benefit the EUCAP committee. Luckily, his work added a notch over the other presenters and he bagged this grant, which covered his registration fee. But, he had to bear the accommodation expenses on his own.

The title of his paper was ‘Experimental Measurements and Channel Modeling for wireless communication networks in underground mines’ where he presented his mathematical model that he had validated in the coal mining tunnels of rectangular and circular shapes.

As quoted by him:

The acceptance ratio in this conference was only 25 percent, where the papers had to go under 4 different reviewers and based on their reviews only the papers were categorized into 3 categories- Acceptance, Rejection and Acceptance with minor revisions.

The conference witnessed speakers from various reputed international institutes and startup ventures. As mentioned, the level of interaction was very friendly over there where one could freely interact with the dignitaries sharing the common interest and seek suggestions and further guidance from them.

PhD Internship

Apart from the reputed conferences, Alok also bagged a prestigious 6-month internship at TCS Research and Innovations in Bangalore during the period of December 2016 to May 2017. Sharing his experience, he narrated that at first, they were reluctant to take any intern from NITR due to the absence of any MoU between the Institute and TCS Research Lab. Despite that, he applied directly with his CV to the HR at Corporate Technology Office (CTO) and then had telephonic conversations with some scientists where he explained his work to them and finally managed to bag the internship.

He worked under Dr. Hemant Rath and Dr. Bhimraj Panigrahi from Networks Lab. Luckily for him, he discussed his ideas on the communication system in cases of disasters in underground mines with the scientists and they appreciated his idea and allowed him to continue with this rather than going with their current research work. His area of work over there mostly got engrossed with rescue operation using a swarm of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

His Inspiration

Drawing a comparison between the research facilities of NITR and overseas, he commented that there people work more towards solving practical problems, rather than the theoretical ones that are prevalent in the institute currently and one must always try to think outside the box and look for solving problems which have not been looked upon till date.

Commenting on his role models, he quoted

 I would like to thank both of my supervisors, Prof HB Sahu from the department of Mining Engineering and Dr. Prasant Misra from TCS Innovation Labs, who continuously motivated me and allowed me to work as an independent researcher. I would also mention that my parents and elder brother also supported me a lot during the entire journey and supported me at each and every step.


The Pears of Wisdom

After sharing his entire experience, Alok gave a very small message for the viewers which quoted as:

Chase all your dreams. If you are targeting for some dreams, put your complete dedication towards it and work beyond your comfort zone to achieve them.

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