Leaping the bounds: Abhratej Sahoo
“The starting point of all achievements is desire.”
This quote by Napolean Hill has been clearly justified by Abhratej Sahoo of Mechanical department, who with his sheer diligence, hardwork and desire for making a mark in the field of Aerodynamics has attained a coveted admittance to Delft University, Netherlands. Team MM caught up with Abhratej Sahoo for a candid conversation to know the tale behind the success. Following are the excerpts from the interview
Monday Morning: Tell us about your life before coming to NITR?
Abhratej Sahoo: I hail from Bhubaneswar and did my schooling there itself. During my childhood days, I used to travel a lot. As a schoolboy, I frequently changed schools, that helped a lot in developing my perspective and personality. Due to my keen interest in Aerospace and Aircraft, I always wanted to take up engineering. Therefore, all my choices in the list were Mechanical Engineering in various NITs.
MM: How did life at NITR treat you during your four years here?
AS: As a first-year student, I was an extremely explorative person and I joined Clarion as well as Inquizzitive. I took up debating, quizzing, met a lot of seniors and made a lot of friends as well. Initially I was an introvert but eventually, I learned to deal with people. I enjoyed being the Class Representative (CR) of my branch and this helped me develop a good relationship with my professors. Overall, it was an enriching experience for me.
MM: Tell us about your time in Clarion.
AS: I always had an interest in public speaking, so I thought of joining a debating club. Clarion’s orientation was the first orientation which I attended. Debating was something which I grew to love in all these 4 years. I met a lot of seniors, one of them was Swarup Panda. Our thought process really matched and he used to mentor me on life lessons in general, as well as issues pertaining to the club. I also got the opportunity to travel a lot because of Clarion as the debates are organized all over the country. Moreover, I got a very good team who motivated and encouraged me to debate. I made my mark in certain places yet there are not many accomplishments under my belt. I was also invited as the Adjudicator in the Indian Women’s Debating Championship, 2017 and I was the only male Adjudicator invited.
I was also the President of Clarion during 2016-17 and that was quite a learning experience for me. It was a challenge to make people work without sounding bossy but I enjoyed and learned a lot in the process.
MM: Tell us about the internships that you have done?
AS: I have done only one internship after my 3rd year which is the mandatory one in DRDO. I emailed the Director of DRDO and he decided to be my sponsor to vet my credentials.
I was given a project on Aerodynamics and thus, I worked on air inlets for cruise missiles. I had to design, analyze and compare it with the other designs available in the market. My project guide was K. Vijayanand.
The analysis took a long period of time to process, so I thought of speeding up the process. I figured out a method to change their pattern of analysis to enhance the processing speed. Fortunately, the method worked and the computational time was reduced by 50% which was a great achievement.
MM: Given that you got selected into many universities what led you to choose Delft University?
AS: I got acceptance from Purdue, Delft, KTH, and Linköping. But I chose Delft University because Delft aerospace program is ranked 13th in the world and they do a lot of interesting work in aerodynamics as well as hypersonic. One should not choose universities based on mere reputation but should take a look at the work being done by the universities. It’s about making an impact with your research and if some professor is working in your field of interest you can leverage your prior skills.
MM: What was the process of applying to Delft?
AS: One has to send an application including the TOEFL and GRE scores and after the SOP as well as the recommendations. I wrote about why I’m interested in Aerospace engineering (and my particular interest in Aerodynamics), the reason behind taking up Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and also my work in the internship. I leveraged my internship and wrote about the ongoing projects as well as facilities at Delft which would give me an exposure both academically and culturally.
MM: What resources did you use while preparing for the GRE?
AS: I followed a particular book called Manhattan 5LB. Their vocabulary section gives a detailed explanation with synonyms and examples. Detailed usage patterns in the context of a particular question not only helps with GRE but also in general with vocabulary. Some people use wordlists and mug those up but that didn’t work for me. It was fun learning new words and using them in conversations and writings since I write a lot. My writing also helped me improve my vocabulary. Lots of practice tests are required to thoroughly understand the GRE and it’s important to have ample practice. It goes on for about 4-5 hours and you’re allowed to have breaks, thus your mind gets accustomed to it.
MM: Any advice for a GRE applicant which you want to share?
AS: Like any other exam you’ve got to be honest. A lot of people underestimate and sometimes, overestimate their vocabulary skills. This inherent bias inhibits and indeed prevents them from making progress and improvement. So an honest assessment is important to improve.
MM: What are some challenges that you’ve faced whilst applying? What was the hardest?
AS: The most significant hurdle yet the most tasking process was figuring out which university to apply. GRE only allows to apply for 4 universities free of cost and since everything is in dollars, it became a question of meticulous planning along with research on various universities. Therefore, I spent a lot of time working on planning everything. I took up an entire week to figure out my application schedule.
MM: What are your future plans after MS?
AS: I want to do a job to know what is going on in the industry. People have a clarity when they want to do a Ph.D. but I’m confused whether to commit right now. I want to take it in slow steps.
MM: Any message you have for the people of NITR given that your story is quite idiosyncratic?
Keep your mind open. Not only in terms of your work and professional context but it will also help you in a personal context. A lot of people engage in xenophobia and are segregated into caste and religion. If you develop a mindset of keeping your mind open then that will help you in your research and life in general. Be open is the mantra!