Sunday, June 24, 2007

Excerpts from the early days of PhD

Follows excerpts from a letter I wrote sometime in the second year of my PhD. The mood is that of pride, exuberance, hope, and a lot of inexperience. I had no idea yet what lay ahead of/for me. A lot has changed since then. Much that's written here would never have been written later, if not then. But, that proves it: This PhD has been worth its while!

letter 1
W Bhaai, hum abhee bhee IISc mein hee hain. PhD kar rahe. Aur kucch saal to lagenge hi. And what do
you want to hear of my experiences? I wonder if they will appear interesting to you at all. OK for your,
here're a few lines:
I am working under Prof. Y. N. Srikant (Chairman, CSA dept., I am working on automatic verification of theoretical models of
software, with emphasis on Software Architectural Models. So, it's mainly a combination
of Software Architecture, Compiler Design, Program Verification.

How do I do my research? I keep reading books and papers, with a view of finding out what remains to be
done. If I find something of that sort, I try more seriously to search out whatever is
available on that matter all over the world. Ideas start coming automatically.
Till now, I haven't hit an idea that's not been done by anybody else. Often
I have come up with brilliant looking ideas; worked on them for a few
days, and even for a few weeks; and then have found that they have already
been worked on before. So, it's a long journey. Like this, I keep learning
new things; and hopefully sooner or later, I will be so good in my subject that I will be
the first to come with some idea. That's generally about my research.
There're many
many other things I do here.

I am convenor of the IISc music team. That takes away around 25-35% of all my mental
activities. It's a large team consisting of nearly 30 people. Since, it's a
high talent zone, it suffers all the problems of a normal organisation.
Miscommunications, ego clashes, irregularity. and even people running away
and layoffs! Being a convenor of this team is quite a full-time job, I assure you!
I am also the official cartoonist of the IISc monthly newsletter. So, a
day a month has to be fully devoted to that. I am also a part of the Students' Support Network. A
team of 8-9 people trained in lay counselling to help students with
psychological problems (there're quite a few here, due to the stressful life). I underwent a
short course in providing lay counselling some time ago.

Apart from that I usually socialise a lot. I have a large circle of
friends. Almost everybody in the campus knows me. So, that's an overhead,
as well as an advantage.

After telling so much, all my well-wishers usually give me a worried look
asking: 'Sujit, hope your research is going on well!'
Well, I usually don't answer that question. Let time figure that out for everybody! :)

letter 2
Hey W, That letter of yours gives a lot of openings for the egotist within me to speak up.
Well, I will keep him quiet for now and try to be brief (I may not succeed!).

PhD life (for me, atleast) is vivid, active and exhausting
experience. I learn a lot lot more than an average man does any day.
Simply because I find this environment far more condusive to keeping your
senses alert and awake. It's a blessing not granted to many. Some never
get even a taste of it. And some unfortunates get it and never realise
what they're whiling away. I am fortunate, very fortunate!

Darker sides? Well! None really, if you're talking about me and my
life. I am just fine. I get a modest 6k/month. Much more than enough to
lead a perfectly splendid life in the campus. Anyways, it'd take quite a
rich man to be leading a life full of so many experiences, such greenery,
such great company, such facilities and simplicity. All my needs are more
than met.

Perhaps, you're talking about the lack of the 'feeling' of a
growing bank balance. Well, I was never good at deriving any pleasure from
the feeling that I must be having a large bank balance. This fulfilling
life more than compensates for whatever that means. I am already richer
than most, forever!

(One reason for this post is also is also to push that previous post down. It was more an experiment with that Hindi typing than making a point. I consider that experiment a failure.)

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