Powered by Intellect, Driven by Instinct: Arindum Roy
From punching in computer codes to hitting the bull’s eye in the arena of data analysis, Arindum Roy, a final year student from the Department of Computer Science Engineering, bestowed himself with some serious acknowledgements during the summer. His recently-concluded internship in the University of New Brunswick, Canada is a proud thing to be proclaimed about. His journey from being a daily scholar to being the prodigy he is now, has been a fascinating story. Read on to know about his remarkably-candid responses.
Monday Morning: Tell us something about your childhood and schooling days. Are there any memories you cherish?
Arindum Roy: I was born and brought up in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. While many people confuse me with being an Odia, I am a Bengali by way of family culture. I did my matriculation in St.Joseph’s High School, Bhubaneswar and completed higher secondary education in Mother’s Public School located in the same city. I probably had the childhood with the least amount of stress and anxieties as my parents never imposed any decision on me; I was, therefore, free to choose my career options and interests, and they would offer their unwavering support to me.
I would like to credit my father to make me independent from my kindergarten days. During my childhood days, everyone around compared me with my sister because we did our schooling and under-graduation from the same place. She has been a genuinely influential and inspirational figure in my life. The couple of things I would always remember were that I was teased for being obese (chuckles) and was able to get into the good books of many people, thanks to my eloquence and social skills.
MM: How did NITR happen to you? Was Computer Science your preferred choice of branch?
AR: Soon after my board examinations, I had JEE Mains, JEE Advanced and a couple of other entrance tests lined up. But I felt that JEE Mains was the only entrance test where I had performed to my potential. So while I was browsing the portal to see my options after the results were out, I realised that I had a good chance of getting Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) in NIT Rourkela. Interestingly, I ran the risk and put NIT Rourkela, CSE as my only option in the JOSAA website. So CSE was my most preferred branch apart from Chemical Engineering (people advised me against it because of its elaborate syllabus).
MM: What clubs were you a part of? What has been your area of interest?
AR: I have been into numerous clubs right from the first year. I was the Editor-in-chief of D361 last year as well as the Secretary of Clarion. I am a dormant member of the Leo club, but I hold the club very dear to me. My interest and hobby is into quizzing, the reason why Inquizzitive was the first club I got into at NIT Rourkela.
MM: You did your summer research internship at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur in the second year. What was the research project about and how was your experience there?
AR: The second-year internship was an impromptu one because I mailed around seventy professors after getting through the selection process to allow me to work under them. My research project was about Recommendation Systems, a part of machine learning, under Professor Debashish Samanta, who is also a renowned author. I deem myself to be fortunate enough to land that internship that went on for about six weeks. I think besides the technical knowledge that was imparted to me, this internship made me realize that I am cut out for research-oriented work because of the independence it provides me.
MM: You also bagged the coveted internship at Mitacs Globalink in the University of New Brunswick. Walk us through the application procedure. What were their criteria for selection?
AR: The application procedure begins around late August to September. A portal is available for the same where the applicant needs to specify the details of his research interests, the reason for choosing that particular University, the specific field they want to work on and the names of seven Professors whose domains of project is suitable to them. Besides, they also need two letters of recommendation from professors in his Institute. Ideally, one should be from the professor under whom they have done some project. I filled in the details and attached all the quintessential documents. With that, the application procedure was successfully adhered to by me. The next phase is the waiting phase, and it entails a lot of anxiety as they publish the results in two waves. I was very much disappointed when I was not even shortlisted in the first round. But as faith would have it, I got through it in the second list and got calls from three out of the seven professors I was eager to work with.
So far as I reckon, the grade point bar was above eight last year. I think the one unsaid criteria that enhance the chances of selection of a student is that he should have done some project related to his field of interest before applying for the program.
MM: Was there any financial aid provided by Mitacs? If yes, what was the amount of stipend provided? Was the accommodation a problem?
AR: Mitacs Globalink is an organisation, so it entirely sponsors the selected students irrespective of the university he/she attends. Each of us was paid a sum of US$ 7000 which roughly amounts to INR 3,70,000 that catered to the expenses of travel, food and accommodation and some sightseeing around the country.
The accommodation was never a problem because the students can search for them online and can reserve it for themselves while payment can be made when we reach there. I had my accommodation inside the institute so I could easily commute to the classes and laboratories.
MM: Share your internship experience with us. What was your research about and what are the challenges you faced there?
AR: I was working in the Big Data System and Analytics Lab. The banks have a lot of intel about numerous individuals. However, it becomes too cumbersome when it comes to filtering the information to extract relevant data. Because they just maintain records of individuals irrespective of the pattern they hold. The records that are maintained is a domain of computer science and engineering called database management and making sense out of that data, making educated guesses, making approximations based on the data, analysing the behavioural pattern of that data is another branch called computer analytics. Mine dealt with something that had little of both database management and data analytics. I was involved in structuring the framework to inculcate database management into data analytics and use various functions of the former to be put in the latter along with the data analytics functions themselves. I was working with python and big data techniques like Hadoop and Dask library. I am still working on the same trying to complete it before the deadline so that I can get a paper published.
MM: How would you compare the research scenario, opportunities and scope in India and Canada?
AR: The biggest difference is probably in the mindset of the people. There’s a lot more freedom compared to anywhere in India. Something about the Indian institutes in contrast to the Canadian universities that startled me was the level of professional interaction the students had with their teachers. They pay heed to everybody’s ideas, and that's when I think there could be some significant development. We have a lot of opportunities so that’s never a good excuse for lagging behind in research field. What I feel is troublesome is the fact they even though a lot of professors have come from certified Universities abroad, they are still not willing to bridge the gap here.
MM: Has the curriculum in the department of CSE been helpful in bagging internships?
AR: The problem I found to be persisting is looking to a lot many subjects that are restricted to theoretical precincts. Practicality is always undermined. Everything that we look into is already answered hence that abates the productivity that’s expected. It did give me some knowledge to get through the interview, but the internship was very different from what I studied.
MM: What are your plans after you graduate? Where do you see yourself shortly?
AR: I plan to take up Masters abroad after graduating from NIT Rourkela and therefore am preparing for GRE and TOEFL examinations instead of paying heed to the placement prospects. Shortly, I see myself absorbed in the research world, leading an independent life.
MM: All said and done, what message would you like to give to the readers?
The most important thing I’ve understood is that no matter what people say pursue something that you believe in until and unless you have even one per cent doubt about it. Also if you do, you are the only person who can judge whether something you’re doing is worth all of it or not. It takes a lot of patience and must be gone through diligently. I want to be the sole reason for everything I’m about to go through. There will be times when you are willing to give up picturising all of it a myth, but you need to hold on to the patience and the trust your parents put on you.