Decoding The Codes of Success- Jijnasa Nayak
It is rightly said, “Success comes to those who believe in themselves”. Graciously simple and elegant in her approach to life, Jijnasa Nayak has the world at her feet. Ladened with humility, determination, and dedication, she ensures that no stone is left unturned. Despite being hardly stricken by consistent failures, she found many reasons to hold herself strongly and keep going. On a cloudy Friday Evening, Jijnasa Nayak sat with Team MM to unveil the curtains of the secret to her success.
Monday Morning: Take us through your childhood memories. Could you recall any incident which you would mark as the inception of your interest in Computer Science?
Jijnasa Nayak: Hailing from Udala, Mayurbhanj, Odisha, I did my schooling in Balasore. Later on, I joined Mothers Public School, Bhubaneswar. My parents never pressurized me as far as academics are concerned. I was given the freedom to carry out whatever I wanted. I was good at painting and dancing back then. There was no specific interest in Computer Science back in my childhood. I was not inclined to pursue Biology after my tenth grade. We generally have a trend that after matriculation you have to choose either engineering or medical. Since I was more interested in maths, I made up my mind to take up engineering in the future. I chose Computer Science because it was a trend back then and people around me told that computer science is one of the best, and in-demand disciplines apart from presenting good job opportunities. I achieved a rank of 10041 in JEE Mains and luckily it was the closing rank in Computer Science that year.
MM: How did NITR happen to you?
JN: My parents did not want me to go out of Odisha for studies. Moreover, according to my rank, it was really difficult to get Computer Science in any better college. I had put Computer Science as my first choice at NIT, Rourkela which I eventually got owing to state quota. I did not have any basic knowledge about programming. As a result of which, I faced a lot of difficulties in my freshmen year. But later on, with the help of a few of my friends with a CS background, I finally accommodated myself to programming. In December, I even took an online course to strengthen my programming skills.
MM: What clubs were you a part of in NITR?
JN: In the first year I didn’t join any club. Studies were my first priority. In the second year, I joined cyborg and participated in a robotics competition at KSHITIJ, (Technical fest of IIT Kharagpur). I liked the exposure I got being a part of the club and it definitely helped me nurture a lot of my skills.
MM: You interned at IIT, Kharagpur and IIIT Delhi. Could you please share with us the procedure for application and your overall experience there?
JN: I did this internship after my sophomore year. I recall mailing many professors and getting a negative response from most of them. I could not make it to the Eklavya program by IIT, Bombay because they choose only the toppers of the branch and back then, I was ranked fourth in my class. Then I mailed professors from IIIT through their official portal which opens in February. I got an acceptance letter and it was a sponsored one by Professor Dr. Saurav Gupta. Like everyone, even I had the thought that IIITs are not at par with IITs. But after interning at IIIT, Delhi my perception changed remarkably. It is a wonderful place with an amazing work culture. My work was focused on how to detect forgery and fraudulence in hard copy documents. We wrote a paper about the work in those 2 months and sent it to a conference where it eventually got published. The conference was based on Applied Digital Forensics and Machine Algorithms called IFIP 11.9 WG International Conference on Digital Forensics, held in January 2018.
If you compare NIT with IIIT, the research environment is very good at IIIT. I did a short-term internship at IIT, Kharagpur in December 2017 under Prof.Rajiv Ranjan Sahay, Electrical Department. I worked on a computer vision problem named Occlusion aware depth estimation in Light Field Data.
MM: Share your experience interning at Academia Sinica.
JN: Before Academia Sinica happened, I underwent various rejections and disappointments. I interned there finally in the Summer of 2018. Since I had already presented a paper at a conference, everyone was confident enough that I would easily get into any of the foreign internship programs. But to their surprise as well as mine, I was rejected in both DAAD as well as MITACS. I had been selected for an internship at that time in MathWorks, IIT Kharagpur, and IIT Delhi. Since I wished to pursue MS after my BTech, I wanted to do a foreign internship. After the two rejections, one my seniors Asmita Poddar suggested that I apply for TIGP, an internship program based in Taiwan. I was interviewed by one of the professors, Dr. Lun Wei Ku, with whom I later worked with. I worked on the Unrestricted Hop Framework in Knowledge-Based Question Answering. The interview went quite well and the professor was satisfied with my performance. As per the official procedure, an aspirant is supposed to be interviewed by three professors, but owing to certain factors, the other two professors could not interview me. As a result of this, I did not qualify for TIGP. Later, Professor Ku mailed me asking whether I would go if she sponsored my internship. The amount of money I received was sufficient for my stay in Taiwan but I had to bear the airfare expenses from my own pocket. Academia Sinica holds an overall rank of 28th in the World Rankings for the Best University Rankings. So I was happy to go for the offer.
I submitted a paper on my work at AAAI International Conference in Artificial Intelligence, 2018. We also produced the results of the previous baselines and made a dataset for 3-hop questions which was not previously available.
MM: What Differences did you notice between NITR and abroad when it came to the availability of resources, work culture and environment?
JN: The best part of Academia Sinica was the availability of resources. GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) were always available. On the other hand at NITR there is only one GPU available. I recall this one time when we were stuck in one of our codes and the professor immediately installed a new GPU in no time. I was awe-struck by the helpful nature of people there.
My professor was very proactive, every Thursday she would make it a point to come and check my progress, she was always ready to help me when I was stuck in my codes. My labmates were very competent and they were all keen on learning as opposed to the scenario here, where students are more keen on just securing a job.
Communication with my professor and lab mates was a problem in the beginning, I had to speak slowly a couple of times to get my word through but with time I got used to it. Otherwise, the people were very friendly and helpful.
MM: What are your plans for the future?
JN: I am hoping to pursue Masters in US or Canada. I will be sitting for my GRE in September. Alternatively, I may also join Academia Sinica as a Research Assistant for 6 months and then go for my masters. I just recently submitted my paper on Artificial Intelligence (AI) which I worked on in Academia Sinica. After that, I would like to join a research and development company.
MM: What is your success Mantra?
I would say that never follow the crowd. Follow your dreams and passions. If you are someone hoping to follow the research line, things always don’t turn up as you expect, there will be many disappointments and let downs but you should ensure you never lose hope.
Team MM wishes her all the best in all her future endeavours.