Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Graduate Student Dilemma: Part1

This is an interesting phase in every graduate students' life I guess. When we apply to universities for grad studies in the US we have no clue what we will be getting into. What we learn in the process of getting our prestigious degree named Btech or BE or BE(Hons.) we feel we have every possible knowledge of the respective field. Then we look at our projects and we mention that field in our SOP in which our maximum projects lie and quote names of some professors and a couple of their research papers (which sound interesting by reading their name!!). We get an admit, we feel we have conquered the world.. and we come to the US!

After coming here, everything is different! Professors are big shots in their field and batch mates range from people like us to married people having few years of industrial experience (in short Uncles). Seeing the variety of courses offered we get confused as to what to take and what not. Mostly in first sem we take courses that have funky names.. advanced powertrain controls, mechatronics and what not. During the course we get to know its nothing but math, only math: matrices, numbers and differential equations and ex tensive use of MATLAB!

Towards the end of first sem, we are in a process of selecting our next semester courses, and unknowinly we get our nam
es: controls guy, fluids guy, design guy etc. I am a controls guy! According to what kind of guy we are (which has nothing to do with bachelor's education ..gone are those days.. move on!) we start taking courses and start searching for internships for summers. Grad education suddenly feels expensive when we have to pay second sems tuition and we realise the fact that we got admit so that PhD students would get funded!! The "conquering the world" state of mind slowly fades away.We take up independent study projects with the sole hope of getting money some day!

Up till now we hardly know what we want to do. Seniors say, if you want to do a PhD, its better to stay and work for a prof in summers. If you want a job, get an internship and convert it. We say.. I don't know.. Let me keep my options open!

We fight, we attend career fairs, we apply to companies on the job portal and finally sooner or later we secure internship. Some profs tell their students to do a PhD and they will pay them.. such get converted into a doctoral student. Others fly to their respective company towns. (Some face a problem in their background/ DNA checks due to insufficient sample of hair etc, but even they fly one day! :P)

We say after internship, after getting some experience in the company/in a university lab, "I will be in a good position to decide what to do" and with this notion we start our third sem. Many people turn their heads off the PhD option as they either have converted their internships to full times or do not consider themselves as "PhD Materials", or have a greater vision of "starting up" something, or the sole reason is monetory. Some people like me are still confused and say.. PhD karni hai yaar, agar accha project mila to! Job as a back up to rakhunga! Ghanta backup! Excuse for having no vision in life!!
Coming next..... This decision / confusion phase comes from intense discussions on telephones during the summers! What happens next.. Stay tuned!
(*pics taken from PhD comics)

Friday, January 29, 2010

I have your Eclipse secured!!

Being an Automotive guy, being 20 miles away from Detroit and not going to the North American Auto show would the the dumbest thing on earth that i could ever think of! Everything was planned and me, Prasad with three other gals, Krutikka, Avani and Sofia decided to drive down to Detroit in Prasad's Coupe. Coupe is basically a two door 4 seater car where the people sitting on rear seats have to sneak in through a minute gap between the front seat and B pillar... Design doesn't make sense but the car looks sexy!

So after lunch we drove down to Detroit. GPS is a necessity while driving on US roads (There is no one on the road to ask for the way.. if you take a wrong turn.. so following the GPS lady is the most wise thing you can do!! ). We fixed the GPS holder on the windshield put the GPS into it, typed in the destination and got going. At the destination crowd was huge (in American sense.. don't compare it with crowd in Dadar Kurla local!!). We did not get space to park the car in closed parking (Mistake 1.. lack of patience shown in waiting for parking space.. ob.. we are mechites.. cute cars were waiting for us!!). We drove down a couple of miles form the destination and got a parking space on the road (anologous to P1, P2 in India) where we parked (Mistake 2!!.. never park on open roads in Detroit!). We were in a hurry, all excited, and made our third and final mistake.. took the GPS out, kept it in the glove box.. but forgot the holder on the windshield itself. (Mistake 3!!)

The exhibition was interesting, but what happened after that was more exciting. It was 6pm, pitch dark outside and chilling cold. After seeing all the models, satisfied and excited about the progress made by the auto industry, we started walking towards our car. Prasad and Sofia went ahead while me, Avani and Krutikka were a bit behind. It was foggy and we could only see the blinking headlights of the coupe. I was wondering why Prasad was not bringing the car ahead and picking us up rather than waiting at the parking spot for us to arrive. We din't know something was waiting for us there!!

As we reached I realised.. it was worse than I had thought. Up till now I had only heard "When you go to Detroit you HAVE to get mugged, not CAN or May Be.. but HAVE TO!!" Today I experienced it. The front window was shattered and our GPS and MP3 Player was gone!! And there was a note on the wind shield with a name and number on it. It said..

"I have your Eclipse secured"

We had no clue what it meant and we called on that number. A voice replied that he was a cop and was waiting for us at the spot. He has our MP3 player and called us at a lodge on M10 highway from where he would direct us to the police station. We decided that I and Prasad would head to him while the gals should take a taxi and go home. But as we reasiled that the taxi would charge $150 from Detroit to Ann Arbor it was a chorus.. GM!! chup chap peeche baitho!! :P

As Prasad was ready to head to that place, a second thought came to my mind.. what if he is not a cop and what if he wants to mug us?? Its risky! I proposed calling 911. Poora filmy hai na.. mein bhi waisa hi soch raha tha when Prasad was calling 911. Things got more interesting. We mentioned about the note to the police and even they had no clue what it meant nor they knew the name of the person mentioned. Further 911 told that there is no lodge or police station on M10!!! Now it was but natural to call them at the spot for investigation but we hardly had any clue where we were and hence we called them near the Auto Show building.

In the mean time that "eclipse"guy called thrice. Maine kaha.. koi cop itna to free aur concerned nahi hoga ki teen teen baar phone karega!! (Indian Mentality.. kya karu!) So we concluded that he is not a cop and started avoiding his phone.

We waited for long before the cops arrived. I got down the car so that they would notice me when Prasad made me realise that getting out of the car on the crime scene is not advised. They can straight away shoot me!! kya country hai bhai!! Exaclty as shown in movies they came sneeking from behind, ensuring we were not armored. After taking their permission, we two stepped out.

I handed the note to the cops. They had a look at it with fullest suspicion.. and to make it worse the saw blood stains on it!! They asked whose blood was it, I was speechless!! Bhai muze koi idea nahi tha!! Itne me Prasad came there and told them that it was his blood as he had cut himself while cleaning the broken glass. Furiously the reciprocated "Do you have any clue what it means to give a blood stained chit into a cop's hand!!!" Hamari to poori phat gayi thi.. Pahile se itne problems n now the cops are firing us!! WTF!!.

We apologised. They investigated, registered a report and told us to follow them. I thought there would be some formalities that are needed to be done at the police station untill I realised that we had reached an accident scene. Ab ye kya naya panga!! A cop got out of a car and approached us.... We were quietly staring at him as he was walking towards us. He came and.... handed me our MP3 Player!! Dude.. I realised.. this is not India bhai!! Cops are actually so much caring!! Before I got a chance to thank him he disappeared at the crime scene!!!! I was looking at the MP3 Player in my hands and then suddenly saw the words "Eclipse" carved on it!! It was its make!! :D :D

All of us laughed. We finally decoded what did that note meant! Driving back home on a highway at a speed of 70 miles/hr, with a window broken and -15 deg centigrade outside was in itself a different experience!

And above all that we were fortunate that the cops didn't realise that we were 5 ppl in a 4 seater car!!