The Story Of A Well Planned Goal: Sayantan Samui's Success
Nothing makes a person happier than achieving his/her goals, one step at a time. Sayantan Samui, a Master’s student (Development Studies, Batch of 2020) from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, NIT Rourkela got selected for Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) at IIT Delhi in the Department of Civil Engineering. Having done a number of research internships in different IITs, Sayantan has proved that hard work and dedication can definitely bring you success and satisfaction, which ultimately fulfil your dreams.
Team Monday Morning caught up with Sayantan to know more about his journey. Read below to know more.
Monday Morning (MM): Walk us through your schooling days and your experience pursuing a bachelor's from Presidency University, Kolkata (Geography, Undergraduate).
Sayantan Samui (SS): I did my schooling up to class 10 in Bagnan High School, in my hometown, Bagnan, West Bengal. During my school-days, I was more interested in Humanities and Social Sciences subjects, and after class 10th, I decided to take the Social Sciences stream. I did my Higher Secondary (12th) from Howrah Zilla School. Then I took my admission (B.Sc in Geography) into Presidency University, Kolkata. Cracking the entrance exam and getting into Presidency University was like my dream. It is the country's oldest institution for higher studies and one of the prestigious institutes in Bengal. In the Presidency, Initially, I faced difficulties because of the medium of instruction, as I studied in Bengali medium, up to class 12, but later on, it was not an issue.
MM: Why did you choose NIT Rourkela to pursue your Master's? How would you judge your decision now?
SS: After my Graduation in Geography, I wanted to do my Master's in any interdisciplinary field of social sciences; and started to search for such interdisciplinary courses in the top institutes of the country. I got to know about a few IITs and NITs that offer MA in Development Studies and finally took admission at NIT Rourkela. I am fortunate that I decided to take admission at NIT Rourkela. During my Master's, I got the opportunity to explore the various Social sciences domain, from Gender studies to Environment Economics and Rural Development to Poverty, Inequality, and Human Development. I am also lucky that I got good research exposure during my Master's thesis work and Internships.
MM: How was the teaching, exposure, and environment at Presidency University, Kolkata different from that in NIT Rourkela?
SS: Presidency University, Kolkata, has a rich and glorious heritage. The Institute has many distinguished alumni from freedom fighters to Presidents, Nobel laureates to Oscar award winners, poets, and philosophers to pioneering scientists of the world. In Presidency, the campus environment is excellent, and there are many great, open-minded, forward-thinking people on the campus. Still, the academic exposure which I got at NIT Rourkela is better as compared to Presidency University. Based on my experience, the Faculties of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, NIT Rourkela, are nice, friendly, and helpful. Their room is always open for the students; whoever needs any help at any time. The quality of the lectures is also very good. I enjoyed every class. The classes are very much interactive.
I am also grateful to NIT Rourkela because of the Campus Environment and the extra-curricular activities. NIT Rourkela gave me that opportunity to showcase my extra-curricular activities and explore my talent. Since childhood, I have always wanted to join Rock Band and perform in front of a huge crowd. Euphony, the Rock band of NIT Rourkela, gave me the opportunity.
MM: What was your research/project work domain while pursuing your Master's at NIT Rourkela?
SS: After enrolling in MA in Development Studies, I decided to work in Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change. I should address such issues, which are currently very much essential. For my research/project-work, I have worked on the Social Vulnerability Assessment of the mountainous community of the Sikkim Himalayas. They lie under the threat of glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF), a significant climate change-induced disaster in the High-mountain regions. For my Project work, I went to North Sikkim to collect data during the winter semester break. It was one of the most remarkable experiences for me to work for nearly one month in the chilling cold of December in the Himalayas.
MM: You did quite a few research internships in some top IITs, how was your learning experience? Any tips for aspiring students to grab such internships?
SS: Before enrolling in Masters's, I had no work experience. I wanted to enhance my CV and utilise all the semester breaks and holidays by doing internships; to get a good opportunity immediately after my Masters. And I did that; I haven't been to my home for vacation in the semester breaks, every semester break I have utilised for doing Internship. In these two years of my Masters, I have joined three Internships and one Summer School from some top institutes of the country. I did internships from Indian Statistical Institutes (ISI), Kolkata, IIT Ropar, and IIT Kharagpur and one summer school at IIT Bombay. All my internships are related to the field of Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change. Those internships helped me a lot to get grassroots level, practical exposures.
For aspiring students, I can suggest that if you want to get a promising career in the development sector, the first thing is that you should get practical exposures through various Internships in reputed organizations, which will boost your CV in these two years of your Masters and the easiest step is to, first make your mind in which sector you want to work in (it may be Public Health /Environment /Tribal Studies or anything), and then ask the professors of the department. They are really helpful if they see you are genuinely interested in working, they will recommend you to a good Institute based on your interest area. You have to contact and write an email to the concerned Professor of the Institute for the Internship.
MM: Tell us in detail about your selection as JRF at IIT Delhi and the project you're going to work on.
SS: Recently, I have been selected as JRF at IIT Delhi in the Department of Civil Engineering. There were two-stage processes of my selection; first, my CV got shortlisted, and then I was selected for the Personal Interview round, which I got through and made my position as JRF. I will be working on a long-term project regarding water security and sustainability. My work deals with the economics of water systems and analysis of transboundary and local water conflicts, policies, and governance.
To tackle the challenges and barriers to water security and sustainable development, IIT Delhi has partnered in a £20-million-pound international collaboration to develop new approaches to provide solutions. The project is funded by United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) - which is a crucial component in delivering the UK AID strategy and puts UK-led research at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
MM: How have the internships you pursued during your tenure in NITR helped to get selected as a JRF?
SS: I want to let you know that I haven't qualified for UGC-NET. There was no requirement of UGC-NET qualification for the post. My CV played an essential role in the selection because of the Internships (in a similar field of study), which I did during my study at NIT Rourkela. The academic, technical, and practical things I have learned during my internships and research project work helped me get shortlisted and crack the interview round.
MM: How has your department helped you with your success?
SS: I never thought that I would be interested in research. I was a mediocre student since childhood. After getting selected for MA in Development Studies at NIT Rourkela, my interest in research gradually developed, and the department played a significant role in this. The professors' lectures helped me develop critical thinking, which helped to grow my interest in research. I am grateful to my supervisor Dr Narayan Sethi, who helped me and gave me the first hands-on exposure to research through my project work.
MM: There are various avenues to excel in Development Studies. Which sphere are you interested in exploring? Comment on the importance and opportunities under the field of your study.
SS: One good thing about studying Development studies is that you will get exposure to all the branches of Social Sciences. There are two advantages of getting exposed to all Social Sciences branches; firstly, there is an advantage while applying for jobs. You can apply for any vacancy related to any social science streams.
And secondly, as you are getting exposure to all the branches of social sciences, you can choose and decide how you are interested in working in the future. It's the same way I have decided to work on the issues related to Climate change and Adaptation. Today, the world needs to aggressively embrace sustainable solutions to minimise global climate change's harmful effect. That's why I found it essential to make my career in this field and address such issues.
MM: Currently, you are working at GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment. What is the project you are currently working on?
SS: Yes, Currently I am working at GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment, which is an autonomous research institute of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India. I am currently working in the North-East regional centre of the Institute, in Itanagar Arunachal Pradesh. I am working as a Junior Project Fellow in the In-House project entitled, "Fostering Climate-smart communities in the Indian Himalayan Region."
MM: How did Covid impact your professional plans post your post-graduation from NITR? How did you deal with those circumstances, if any?
SS: During my Post-graduation, I got selected in a company through Campus placement at NIT Rourkela, but lost it due to Covid situation. The company rejected all the offers because of its financial loss. Initially, I was disappointed about losing the offer. But I didn't give up, and I started hunting for jobs on different job-portals. I started applying to various research institutions. During the lockdown, I got selected for Research Positions in Environment and Climate Change to around 8-9 Research Institutes in the country.
The most important thing which made me self-sufficient for acquiring jobs is my internships and thesis/project work during my Master's at NITR.
MM: How can a student boost up his CV and grab an opportunity of JRF at reputed universities through ways alternative to UGC-NET or CSIR-NET? Are prior internships the only pre-requisites or are there any other aspects apart from internships a person needs to work upon to open doors to such remarkable opportunities?
SS: For doing research in premier institutions of the country, it is not mandatory to have UGC-NET/CSIR-NET. If you check various job portals, you can regularly see advertisements for the post of Research Staffs (Research Assistant/Research Associate/Project Fellow/JRF) in various premier research institutions, under the various externally funded projects. If you have the proper qualification, you can easily apply for those posts. Some institutes provide the opportunity to enrol in PhD as well. The fellowship during the PhD will be provided from the project fund itself. I think that is a good scope for a student who doesn't have UGC/CSIR-NET.
If you have prior relevant work experiences through some internships and good project/thesis work, it will give you an extra advantage for selection on such posts.
MM: What are your plans for the future? Are you willing to expand your domain?
SS: Of course, I want to expand my domain as I feel it is the most emerging and important issue. I want to work on Climate change, which is the big environmental problem that humanity will face over the next decade. I want to explore sustainable solutions to major global environmental issues and build a sustainable society for the future.
MM: What message would you like to give to our readers who aspire to follow their ambitions like yours?
SS: I feel having goals is very important, which will give you a long-term vision. Just set your goals and start working on them accordingly. Extract all the resources from the department and the Institute, work hard, and try to grab good internships and a good project/research/thesis work in the two crucial years of your Master's, and you will get a good opportunity immediately after your Masters.
Team Monday Morning congratulates Sayantan Samui for his success and wishes him good luck for all the future endeavours.