Aditya Dash’s Victorious Voyage to Bagging The Prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship

Aditya Dash’s Victorious Voyage to Bagging The Prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship

A dream takes sweat, determination and hard work to become a reality.

With his sheer dedication and discipline, Aditya Dash, a final year student from the Department of Physics, recently bagged the renowned Marie Curie fellowship granted by the European Commission, which is considered as one of the most prestigious fellowships in the world as it is the highest-paid among all other fellowships in the world with a stipend of 4500 Euros along with a travelling allowance of 1800 Euros per month.

Team Monday Morning caught up with Aditya Dash in a candid interview to know more about this achievement, his academic journey and life at NIT Rourkela. Giving more insights on the fellowship, he told Monday Morning:                                                      

I applied to different foreign universities for PhD and I got acceptance from some of the universities in the USA, UK, Europe and Taiwan. My parent college is Heidelberg University that offered me the fellowship under which I will be working in six countries like Sweden, Italy, France, Switzerland and a few other European countries for a tenure of 6 months each. One gets to work under the guidance of multiple supervisors on a project. This gives an idea on both academic and non-academic aspects like working in the innovation lab where we are planning to produce electricity from waste heat energy using the thermo-electric concept.

Vivid Years At NIT Rourkela

While going down memory lane and recalling his days of JEE preparation and the decision of joining NIT Rourkela, he said:              

I was preparing for JEE in my eleventh and twelfth grades. Back then, I had an inclination towards computer science, which was why I chose to appear for the JEE in the first place. However, I couldn't get CS branch because of my rank. The reason why I chose physics is quite interesting. I opted for it because I wanted to learn about computational physics and do research in this field. So, this is how I entered this branch with the hope of diving into the area of computational physics.

Being an all-rounder, he is the topper of his department and has also aced his role as the sports secretary of HB Hall of Residence. When asked about the secret to maintaining this perfect balance between extra-curricular activities, he gave us a highlight of a typical day in his life at the campus:                                                                                                                         

I usually divide my time between academics and non-academic activities like playing because I am highly inclined to play games and sports and participate in sports competitions. I have been a part of the NIT Rourkela volleyball team as well. Generally, my day starts with attending regular classes. After 5:15 PM, I prefer to spend 1-2 hours playing volleyball or badminton. After that, I do my research work. I have done research internships right since my second year at NIT Rourkela and IIT Indore as well. I have to write the papers so that I could publish my work. I also have to communicate to my advisors at IIT Indore and NIT Rourkela for this purpose. After this, I again play some sports for around one hour. There is no great strategy that I follow for academics. Finally before going to bed, I go through whatever was taught during the day. This is how a typical day in my life looks like.

Remembering the enthralling hall election days and his tenure as the sports secretary, he shared his experience with MM:

Honestly speaking, I was very new to things like elections during my third year and I had never been a part of anything like that earlier. My seniors brought me into this and we just made a straightforward strategy that included a team of 5-6 members based on the number of seats. I was interested in sports and wanted to develop the sports complex of HB Hall, which was why I opted for the sports secretary position. It was, of course, a very happy moment for me when I was finally elected for this role. When you do sports, you communicate with many people who play with you and make friends easily. This makes competing in elections easier for you because you already know a lot of people.

During my tenure as the sports secretary of HB hall of residence, we developed a new volleyball court outside the premises of the hall, which will be open from the next academic session. We also renewed both the badminton courts that were already there. We also procured different equipment like a treadmill for the gym and renovated other sports-related areas in the hall.

The Marie Curie Fellowship

Aditya Dash shared with us his journey to bagging the prestigious fellowship and the application procedure in detail.

While doing a project in my final year of college, I used to read a lot of papers and that is how I came to know about the position available in this fellowship on a website. Then, I mailed the professor mentioned in the website after going through the advertisement. They asked me to provide a motivation letter, my CV and the score of TOEFL (more than 85 out of 100). After that, the procedure included three interviews to pass. After 15 days, I was informed through a mail about my eligibility for the interviews among a few other candidates.

When asked about the eligibility criteria, he informed:

The basic eligibility criteria required for the fellowship is English proficiency proof like the scores of the TOEFL exam and the project that I have applied for required a minimum CGPA of 8.  Usually, Marie Curie commission initiates 1-2 projects every year and this project had only 3 positions available leading to very high competition and lesser selection chances. So, the CGPA has to be more than the required such as around 8.5 to be selected. For the interview, some papers are required and most importantly, they ask questions based on your knowledge on computational subjects. A research background mentioned in the CV and in-depth knowledge on the papers published by you can greatly help you in the interview.

Sharing with us the selection procedure and his interview experience, he said:

In the first interview under the committee of 3 professors, I had to provide a presentation of my previous research experience like my work in the Cryogenics lab of NIT Rourkela where we developed the vibrating sample magnetometer under the budget of 1 lakh as well as 5 other papers published by me. Basically, experimental, theoretical and instrumental knowledge - all the three are required for the application. They asked me to give answers for hypothetical situations provided by them. After 2 days, they mailed me two papers of their publication and I was asked to explain those papers after a day in the next interview, where they tested my grasping capacity within a limited time. Following this, I was selected for the final round of the interview which was like an informal acceptance meeting where they told me about the method and procedure of working, countries to work in, and whether I would be comfortable to travel to different countries after every 6 months. Finally, I was informed about my formal acceptance through a mail.

Speaking of his future plans, he told:

The Marie Curie fellowship is a 36-month contract and it is a scientific PhD position. I have two career options: I can either go into academics after my post-doc or go into the industry. I will decide after the fellowship which direction suits me the most.

Looking Back With Nostalgia

Telling us about how NIT Rourkela shaped him as the person that he is today and contributed to his achievement, he said:

Whatever that I am today is because of NIT Rourkela. The kind of exposure that I got during the last five years has changed me completely. Specifically,the research exposure that I got at NIT Rourkela in my initial years motivated me to further pursue my career in research.The college environment played a significant role in making me an extrovert by providing me with the opportunity to take responsibilities like that of the sports secretary while staying at the campus. These five years have helped me a lot to develop my personality and get closer to my dreams.

Pearls Of Wisdom

Offering some tips to the students who wish to pursue a career in research, Aditya Dash advised:

Apply to as many universities as possible because the acceptance rate in the prestigious foreign universities has decreased significantly due to the Coronavirus pandemic. If you are applying to the USA universities, make sure to do it in the initial months of your final year because the application process for the USA universities usually ends by December. For the universities in other countries, you can apply in the second half of your final year. The other most crucial piece of advice I would like to give is to maintain a decent CGPA during undergrad because that will help you in your further research career.

As the final message to our readers, he said:

You should not focus on only academics. Every student should equally enjoy extra-curricular activities like sports, club activities and different opportunities that our institute provides. When you walk into your professional life, these activities will develop a positive character within you and help you significantly in life.

Hoping that his success story would inspire the batches to come, Team Monday Morning congratulates Aditya Dash on his achievement and wishes him the very best for all his future endeavours.

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