Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Meeting with the Faculty

Recently, there has been a great concern in the department about declining interest of students in research. Hence a meeting was convened to discuss the same. Quite a few faculty and almost all graduate students were there. The reason why I am posting this here is because I am not feeling too good after the meeting.

I raised the valid concern that Dual Degree (Bachelors + Masters - 5years) students are only interested in just completing their thesis on time and getting out. They are just looking for a good job after graduation. This did not go down too well with the faculty. Somehow I did not like the way the faculty reacted to this. We were there to discuss the issues and I felt this was one thing that needed to be addressed. But it seemed as if it hurt people on a personal level. A few people started talking as if what I was saying was blasphemous. But one needs to realize that a dual degree student is essentially an undergraduate rather than a postgraduate in attitude. They joined a course directly out of school and did not realize whether they actually wanted to do research or not.

The above issue apart, I was happy that a few other valid concerns were raised in the meeting as well. Lack of faculty was discussed as was the lack of special interest groups. A few first year m-tech students raised the issue that they felt overburdened but I personally feel that this is more about managing time than anything else.

After the meeting I was discussing with Ashish what is the real cause of lack of motivation in dual degree students. We were of the opinion that the atmosphere for research is not there. If somehow we can create such an atmosphere things might improve. Creation of special interest groups is one way. We realized that if such groups can be sustained successfully, a lot of people will take part in them. Even people looking for jobs will be interested in such groups. Lets see how things turn out.

I think the essence of the meeting was that finally we need to introspect what is wrong and why is the motivation not there. Taking my personal case, I was interested in doing computer science and even on campus scored better in comp science courses as compared to other courses. But somehow, I cannot imagine myself doing a PhD. I am not motivated enough to stick to academia. The 4+ years at IIT K have not really added to my zeal for computer science so that I can think of continuing in it for the rest of my life. Hence I started looking for other alternatives.


Vikas Gelara said...

The point which you made is absolutely right. lack of resources + no as such research oriented groups.. and even if there are groups... no motivation (from faculty members) in getting UG's (at their early 3rd year) into their groups;
Italso has to do with general atmosphere... like people are some howinterested in Finance jobs.. (even when they don't know a bit of kindof work) and they don't bother about core ones(even when they know/ ordon't know about work)...

Anonymous said...

haan wahin

chachi said...

after 4 years, I didn't really know what to do..I had interests in various fields, but probably I was not really very inclined on one specific topic. I applied for a PhD nevertheless, and got an offer. I had a choice between joining Oracle at Bangalore, or USC. To tell you the real truth, it was not academics which made my choice. Rather, the immediate attraction of going to a different country. My feelings were, I would still be doing something for the next five years, doesn't really make a difference if it's a phd or a job. Plus, the phd could give me the time I needed for making a fresh start.

After a month here, I'm still not sure if it was the correct decision, but it has mostly been positive.

Atashi said...

If you just add "demented mind" after your title "Random Thoughts" you will become cheater!!!!

Well a good start dear indeed!!!
Happy Blogging!!!

Priyendra said...

Arrey bhei - blog title mein unadulterated kyun? Blog ekdum bindaas adult-rated hona maangta hai :)

nitinag said...

I think the purpose of a Masters degree is not to generate State of the Art Research. Instead, it is to make people focused towards a field of interest and motivate them towards a PhD. The professor's role, here, is to make the student learn more about the field and excite him/her with the major open problems.

You would say, I'm blaming the teachers for everything. But, if the student is not motivated enough, don't you think that the teacher has failed in doing his job. And then, expecting a research output from just a year of work, that too from a person who has just started looking into the subject, is only too much expectation.

To improve on the situation, maybe the professors have to set their expectations right. Maybe the students need to come up with a way to motivate themselves (probably by forming a special interest group). Maybe there could be some faculty seminars about some exciting open problems in Computer Science. I remember there was this "Inflections in Computer Science" Lecture Series started by the department last December but sadly we have only one lecture till date in the series.

Somebody mentioned absence of students from the regular meeting with their supervisors. What do you do then. Isn't this the responsibility of the professor to check up on the student. Or should the professor not concern himself and just get away by giving an X in the end of the semester. Instead of just giving up on the student, shouldn't one try to find out the cause (even if it is laziness of the student) and rectify it.

Regarding absence in seminars: I think the professors should ask their students to attend those seminars which they think would be useful for their work. It would seem like forcing the students but this is the least that should be done to motivate someone about the field of work. Now, the professor would also need to attend the same to set the example (and not sleep when in there).

And finally, the harsh comment: "I think it's time when the professors stop acting like a postdoc researcher and start acting like a professor!" Instead of just working for themselves they also need to look for student welfare.
PS: Please don't take the above comment in negative spirit. It is just an observation. I might be too naive in making this observation. Please forgive me if I'm wrong as I'm still new to this world.

rohitj said...

The first problem is that students are not motivated about CS when they come to CS department.
Second, stupid seniors make new comers think like, financial jobs are good. and thats the only good option.
Third, students are stupid to not think.
Fourth, why do they need to stick with networks or something like this. Finally in networks as well, you are gonna create some algorithm, or do some systems work. Why not use your interest in networking and use it with systems people or algorithm people. And also, what surprises me even more is that why networks? I somehow believe most of the networks interested people actually haven't explored much ( my areas of interest include networks). Because what is covered in courses is anyways different from today's research topics. I simply do not understand how come every second person is interested in networks. I don't see that many people in networks when I see PhD students at US univs.

Also, students are *not* excited about learning. They don't want to learn anything apart from what they need to know to get grades/pass. I mean how many of us actually went to a professor asking about few papers that students should read. Or how many students actually read faculty research papers. Algorithm for example, Prof. Baswana taught so well, and he was so much enthusiastic about talking with students, and all that, but I do not think many people approached him asking for current topics of research or with queries regarding faculty research fields.

Also, a major point. in MTech or PhD, the topic you choose doesn't have to be what you will pursue in future. The biggest advantage of MTech or PhD is that you learn how to do research. There are significant amount of people who work on different areas then what their PhD thesis topic was. So, I don't think what prof you got to work for your MTech thesis has "very much" to do with what your interests are. If you "really" have "interest" then you will be able to parsuade professors of other field to work. Ask Manjish Pal, that guy is working with Prof. Ganguly even when prof Ganguly clearly said him in the beginning that its not his area "per se". There is no proper professor "per se" working in his area, but then Manjish was "interested" in the field, so of course, professor will be excited about it. That is what is called interest.

If, MTech thesis can not excite you, nothing can excite you. MTech thesis is such a good opportunity to actually have free time for free thinking.

I know, there are problems are faculty level as such, and I know lack of faculty is also a problem, but thats not an excuse here.

(This is my pure general observations)

Udta majnu said...

-> Those who are genuinely interested wont care about resources, groups.
-> We can attract people towards one thing(eg. Finance) but we can't control their interests(many among those who are "interested" in doing something like "Financial consultancy" suffer there like a sold slave)
-> For many IITians a 3 month long internship, which most of them do outside India, is enough to let them decide whether they have interest in reading Papers, Journals, solving problems etc. provided they are living with resources and research oriented groups
-> Its not my problem if any of you or me is doing research, or doing something shitty like hatching eggs,....I am too busy thinking about my life and bringing it on a right track

Arpit said...

Other alternatives? Were you planning on getting into academia before?

abhinav said...

cheema it would be appreciated if you would use your identity and not leave the mortals in doubt about your identity.

abhinav said...

why do i need to be the greatbong? And as far as demented mind goes.. that I have. Just need to use if properly. :P

Thats a good idea. I should change the tagline of the blog to adult-rated. :P

abhinav said...

I possibly could have gone for a Phd (not really academia in the long run) had I really caught on to something during the 5 year. Alas!

abhinav said...

Coming back to the topic of the post - I think its time that people stopped playing the blame game and sat down to change a few things. What? That we need to decide. :-)

chachi said...

I think the issue o a small faculty certainly hits at USC you have important courses offered every iitk if u did not take a course that sem, u r basically cut off from that field (at least this is true of btechs).