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How to: Research, publications, internships.
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amitashr Offline
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How to: Research, publications, internships.
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Disclaimer: I am not a senior and I am not admitted to grad schools yet. In fact I haven't even applied yet. These are my personal experiences when it comes to research and accounts from various seniors who are in great unis abroad

So you are planning to go to grad school. You have decent academic scores and you hear about the GRE. You prepare well for a couple of months, take up the test and get a good score. Now you finally browse the web to judge your profile and potential grad school choices. Maybe you post your profile on edulix and get it evaluated. BUT as you browse, you see numerous applicants with your EXACT same profile. Then you realize that there are probably thousands of people with profiles similar to yours and you have absolutely nothing that stands out. But by now it's too late.. You just have a couple of months to apply and there's probably nothing you can achieve in such a short time.

Now this is where research comes in. Grad schools are constantly looking for that X-factor in people. Most of them give a pretty good edge to applicants who show good research experience. The point of an academic university is to conduct good research so they obviously look for applicants who can support their purpose. Good research experience can suddenly turn all your dream uni's into a reality. Here's a short guide on how to get this experience., more particularly for a Computer Science background.

1. Start early:
I CANNOT impress upon this point enough. Research is NOT something done overnight. It is NOT a programming challenge or contest where there is a defined problem statement and an exact solution. You need to work on an unsolved problem, define the motivation behind it, it's applications, it's significance in today's world etc. All this cannot happen in a matter of 2 - 3 months. I would sternly advice Masters hopefulls to start as early as the day you join your undergrad college. You should atleast start latest by your 4th semester.

2. Seek out your interests:
I see many undergrad juniors entering college and don't have the first clue about their branch. Do research about your branch. See the current areas of interest in research and academia. In the end, fix on one interest. It may be Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Theory, Programming Languages, Networking, Operating Systems etc etc. Depending on your branch.

3. Gain the necessary skill set:
I can't speak for other branches but for CS:

3.1. Programming expertise is an absolute MUST. Fix on one programming language and get good at it. Amazing tutorials are available on youtube for you to watch and learn. software-carpentry.org is an invaluable resource for this. I would suggest Python for research purposes. It provides the best support and API's for research and it's very easy to learn and use. Learn to code all the most famous algorithms. There are plenty of resources for this online. Join "Top Coder Arena" (google for it). If you can solve all the level 1 and 2 practice questions, you are ready with your programming skills.

3.2. LATEX: learn to use latex. Latex is a kind of robust text editor which can help you write and manage beautiful research papers. Plenty of tutorials are available online.

3.3. JabREF and Citeulike: JabREF is a reference managing tool to handle all the references you are going to put on your paper. It is a simple, easy to use software. Citeulike is an invaluable source for papers. Create an account and you can search through thousands of papers on your topic of interest. You can even make notes on each paper!. (Don't worry too much about this step. You will probably use it much later.)

3.4. SVN: Research is a collaborative effort. SVN is the best way to collaborate with your co-authors and revise your paper several times. SVN tutorials are available on software-carpentry.org. Alternately, just install "tortoise svn" and you are good to go. Some of my papers have gone past 200 revisions which would have been impossible if not for SVN.


Intermediate step: Prepare your CV now. Highlight all your skills and your interests.

4. Choosing and contacting your mentor:
This is probably the most important step. Grad schools abroad don't recognize many Indian unis. Mainly only the IIT's, IISC, ISI, IIIT's and a few more are recognized. You will want to make sure you get into one of these places for your research. Don't worry, it's not that hard! Go through all the faculty pages and their research and choose the best few for your interests. Then write a polite and grammatically correct email to them highlighting your interests. It would be great if you read a couple of recent research papers written by these profs or any famous ones in your field and comment on them. Don't be too nervous or too over-confident. Request a meet with them to discuss possible research problems you could take up. Researchers are in general very friendly people. They love guiding students, especially if you show interests at a young age. Your collaboration with these profs and maybe a research project under them will open up research internship opportunities for you in top institutes! For example: I e-mailed a professor at IISC in my 3rd semester, he invited me for a coffee meet. I was able to satisfactorily impress him and thus obtained an internship at IISC. The same professor with his contacts was able to recommend me to profs in IIT and ISI and I did internships there as well. Internships in these places can add volumes to your CV. If you are unfortunate and do not get into any of these places, try doing some research in your own undergrad college under a faculty member. KEEP MEETING NEW PEOPLE. Always attend talks and workshops at top institutes. You may get picked up by profs there.

Update: Here's most of the e-mail I sent the prof for the first time.. Or atleast most of what I can remember.

Dear Sir,
Hi! I am a 3rd semester BE student studying at xxx college. I have a deep interest in the field of social network analysis and mining social network data. I have read a few papers describing Albert Barabasi's revolutionary power law networks and preferential attachment network structures and I think it opens up a whole new field of study /*(I had actually also seen a paper from this prof about some work relating to power law networks so I decided to mention it)*/. I see that your research deals extensively in this domain and I would love for an opportunity to work under your guidance. I have attached my CV. Hoping to hear from you soon. Thank you bla bla bla..

I didn't mention my skill set as that was specified in my CV.

5. Writing your research papers and it's advantages:
By now, you should be working under your chosen professor and he will guide you in detail about all the steps involved in writing a good research paper after you get some good results. Use the tools I mentioned above to add good quality to your paper. Research papers again add great value to your grad school application. They also immensely improve your writing skills and your verbal ability. Something that's tested on your GRE and TOEFL. This also helps you write a great SOP and understand RC questions on your GRE. A single research paper increases a lot of diverse skill sets in you! Also the professors you work under will give you shining LOR's which is again a key to grad school admissions.

I hope I have been helpful Very Happy.
Good Luck! Very HappyVery HappyVery Happy

(This post was last modified: 05-27-2012 12:10 AM by amitashr.)
05-26-2012 11:44 AM
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Kite Runner Offline
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RE: How to: Research, publications, internships.
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Excellent.
Waiting to read more such stuff from you. Keep up the good work Smile
Applause

To busy in grad life. Miss edulix :[
05-26-2012 03:47 PM
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studiousfellows Offline
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RE: How to: Research, publications, internships.
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(05-26-2012 11:44 AM)amitashr Wrote:  <SNIP>

3.1. Programming expertise is an absolute MUST. Fix on one programming language and get good at it. Amazing tutorials are available on youtube for you to watch and learn. software-carpentry.org is an invaluable resource for this. I would suggest Python for research purposes. It provides the best support and API's for research and it's very easy to learn and use. Learn to code all the most famous algorithms. There are plenty of resources for this online. Join "Top Coder Arena" (google for it). If you can solve all the level 1 and 2 practice questions, you are ready with your programming skills.

There are dozens of these contests. Codechef, spoj, codeforces, ACM's ICPC to list a few.

+1 for python and its extensive use in research.

<SNIP>

3.3. JabREF and Citeulike: JabREF is a reference managing tool to handle all the references you are going to put on your paper. It is a simple, easy to use software. Citeulike is an invaluable source for papers. Create an account and you can search through thousands of papers on your topic of interest. You can even make notes on each paper!. (Don't worry too much about this step. You will probably use it much later.)

Mendeley is another great resource. Some people use apps like Papers to manage their research.

3.4. SVN: Research is a collaborative effort. SVN is the best way to collaborate with your co-authors and revise your paper several times. SVN tutorials are available on software-carpentry.org. Alternately, just install "tortoise svn" and you are good to go. Some of my papers have gone past 200 revisions which would have been impossible if not for SVN.

Its a nice idea to learn git for its very very easy to learn. Most FOSS projects have migrated to git. So, popularity wise it might be a good idea to choose git over SVN.

<SNIP>

Adding to amitashr cool post, I think learning and using a linux distro is very important. Its certainly much easier to use compared to Windows and for software development. Thats my personal opinion anyway. Having the ability to use *nix is always a plus esp if you decide to get a software job.

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05-26-2012 08:59 PM
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nitin_tooteja Offline
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RE: How to: Research, publications, internships.
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Nice work dudeApplause

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05-26-2012 09:56 PM
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RE: How to: Research, publications, internships.
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(05-26-2012 08:59 PM)studiousfellows Wrote:  
(05-26-2012 11:44 AM)amitashr Wrote:  <SNIP>

3.1. Programming expertise is an absolute MUST. Fix on one programming language and get good at it. Amazing tutorials are available on youtube for you to watch and learn. software-carpentry.org is an invaluable resource for this. I would suggest Python for research purposes. It provides the best support and API's for research and it's very easy to learn and use. Learn to code all the most famous algorithms. There are plenty of resources for this online. Join "Top Coder Arena" (google for it). If you can solve all the level 1 and 2 practice questions, you are ready with your programming skills.

There are dozens of these contests. Codechef, spoj, codeforces, ACM's ICPC to list a few.

+1 for python and its extensive use in research.

<SNIP>

3.3. JabREF and Citeulike: JabREF is a reference managing tool to handle all the references you are going to put on your paper. It is a simple, easy to use software. Citeulike is an invaluable source for papers. Create an account and you can search through thousands of papers on your topic of interest. You can even make notes on each paper!. (Don't worry too much about this step. You will probably use it much later.)

Mendeley is another great resource. Some people use apps like Papers to manage their research.

3.4. SVN: Research is a collaborative effort. SVN is the best way to collaborate with your co-authors and revise your paper several times. SVN tutorials are available on software-carpentry.org. Alternately, just install "tortoise svn" and you are good to go. Some of my papers have gone past 200 revisions which would have been impossible if not for SVN.

Its a nice idea to learn git for its very very easy to learn. Most FOSS projects have migrated to git. So, popularity wise it might be a good idea to choose git over SVN.

<SNIP>

Adding to amitashr cool post, I think learning and using a linux distro is very important. Its certainly much easier to use compared to Windows and for software development. Thats my personal opinion anyway. Having the ability to use *nix is always a plus esp if you decide to get a software job.

I agree with studiousfellows, Linux experience is what many jobs are seeking these days; experience as in software development on *nix platform.

05-26-2012 10:46 PM
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amitashr Offline
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RE: How to: Research, publications, internships.
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studiousfellows Yea linux distros are a must! Much easier to use than windows for research and coding! I never thought to mention it as I've been using only linux for years and it's been second nature to me. Oh and the practice questions in top coder aren't like a contest. They are decently easy to solve and you learn alot as a beginner. In fact google recommend it before attending their job interview so I mentioned it here.

And yes GIT is another amazing resource! I just posted my experiences and what I use Razz.
Update: I tried to recall my email to the professor I work under and I wrote most of it. I have updated my first post.

(This post was last modified: 05-27-2012 12:07 AM by amitashr.)
05-26-2012 11:47 PM
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RE: How to: Research, publications, internships.
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(05-26-2012 11:47 PM)amitashr Wrote:  @[studiousfellows] Yea linux distros are a must! Much easier to use than windows for research and coding! I never thought to mention it as I've been using only linux for years and it's been second nature to me. Oh and the practice questions in top coder aren't like a contest. They are decently easy to solve and you learn alot as a beginner. In fact google recommend it before attending their job interview so I mentioned it here.

And yes GIT is another amazing resource! I just posted my experiences and what I use Razz.
Update: I tried to recall my email to the professor I work under and I wrote most of it. I have updated my first post.

amitashr Cool. Most other contest sites do have practice section. I mentioned git because of its popularity and nothing more. Most major projects are now managed using git and most are hosted on github. Nice email update!

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05-27-2012 02:27 AM
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RE: How to: Research, publications, internships.
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I would like to go into pedantic mode here and say a few things.

Firstly, I think this is a very good post. Secondly, here is a good algorithm for the average joe from a no-name Indian university (yes, this includes many of the NITs as well) to shoot for the stars. My comments are high level. Micro level strategies can be discussed later.

Basic assumption: The student is in CS or other similar field. (which is not restricted just to engineering)

1. Semester I: Study hard. Be the topper in your cohort. Learn how to code.

2. Semester II: Study hard. Be the topper in your cohort. Learn how to code. Start learning how to do proof based math. Also learn, that software engineering is NOT a research area and research in software engineering does not mean product development.

3. Summer I: Do some godforsaken internship where you code and utilize coding skills in real life. Meet women. (and vice versa). Learn how to speak, read and write English. Properly. Get rid of the obsequious nature that is inherent in Indian English. Read 2 classics in a month. Not the abridged versions.

4. Semester III: Study hard. Be the topper in your cohort. Enter coding competitions. Keep learning how to prove things. Think about a crappy research topic and a crappier ACM/IEEE conference 6 months down the line to which you think you can submit to. Start doing your crappy "research"

5. Semester IV: Study hard. Be the topper in your cohort. Keep learning how to prove things. Do said research and submit said research to aforementioned crappy conference. Get it published.

6. Summer II: On the basis of your crapass conference publication, write humble but not fawning emails to professors in the 6 real IITs, IISc, ISI and TIFR. Forget everything else. Get an internship, however unpaid it may be in these institutions. Do research and make sure you submit to conference/journal. Sometimes Indian professors can be douches regarding that. Remember to meet more women this summer.

7. Semester V: Study hard. Be the topper in your cohort. Keep learning how to prove things. Maintain research relationship with said professor.

8. Semester VI: Study hard. be the topper in your cohort. Keep learning how to prove things. Maintain research relationship with said professor. Apply to VSRP/IAS summer fellowships.

9. Summer III: Get VSRP/do second internship with previous professor. Make sure you get some publication out of it. Meet even more women. Lift weights . Make preparations to apply for MS programs in IIT/ISI/IISc/TIFR.

10. Semester VII: Look at Semester V

11. Semester VIII Look at Semester VI. Make sure you have a top Indian school acceptance. Rejoice. Meet some women.

12. Summer IV: Rejoice. Take a break. Lift weights, follow the paleo way. Meet women. In fall, you shall do a MS/MTech program

13. Semester I: Look at professors who publish prolifically. Join their group. Do not take no for an answer. Study hard and be in the top 3 in your cohort.

14. Semester II: Look at previous. Start preparations to apply abroad. Make sure that you are submitting to multiple conferences/journals. If you played your cards right and joined an appropriate professor, you shall have no such issues.

15. Summer: Work with your adviser. Make sure that you maintain research relationships with previous research people. Hound them for LORs. Get good GRE scores.

16. Semester III: Start application process. Remember to be in the top 3 in your cohort.

17. Semester IV: Enjoy. You should have your acceptance by now. Remember to keep living the paleo way and meeting more women. Work-life balance is very important.

Therefore, if you follow a pattern similar to the previous by the time you apply you will have all the necessary ingredients for a top school doctoral program.

1. Good GRE scores.
2. Good academic scores.
3. Published research and research experience.
4. Nicely padded non-DWIC LORs.
5. Meat and potatoes for your SOP.
6. Prestige of last academic institution.

This will invariably work out for the better. These are what professors in top schools and programs look for. Believe it, or not.

Ready to Rumble.

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(This post was last modified: 05-27-2012 03:33 AM by Ancalagon The Black.)
05-27-2012 03:32 AM
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Hahaha ApplauseApplauseApplauseApplause
Brilliant and humorously stated..
Quote:6. Summer II: On the basis of your crapass conference publication, write humble but not fawning emails to professors in the 6 real IITs, IISc, ISI and TIFR. Forget everything else. Get an internship, however unpaid it may be in these institutions. Do research and make sure you submit to conference/journal. Sometimes Indian professors can be douches regarding that. Remember to meet more women this summer.

Do you really already need a publication, however crappy just to approach these profs? As far as I have seen profs in these places, they are willing to give anyone who writes a decent e-mail and a decent CV a chance at a meet at least where said person can try to impress. Of course, some profs are big egoists who don't even bother replying but in general, they seem like the friendly sort.

(This post was last modified: 05-27-2012 09:33 AM by amitashr.)
05-27-2012 09:25 AM
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Some institutes/associations also have opportunities where you can apply for internships, particularly in the summer after 3rd year. A few that I have come across are:

IAS-NASI SRF, India
JNCASR SRFP, India
MITACS Globalink, Canada
SRP at EPFL, Switzerland
SRP at Weizmann Institute, Israel
Khorana Scholarship for SRP in US
NIG Internship for Genetics in Japan
Hiyoshi Corp for environmental engineering, Japan
NTU SRP, Singapore
DAAD sponsored internships in Germany
AISEC, India for social programmes.


All of these are funded and it does have a longer process, but they're great experiences.

Obviously there are more than this list, and feel free to add.

05-27-2012 09:46 AM
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(05-27-2012 09:46 AM)azalea Wrote:  Some institutes/associations also have opportunities where you can apply for internships, particularly in the summer after 3rd year. A few that I have come across are:

IAS-NASI SRF, India
JNCASR SRFP, India
MITACS Globalink, Canada
SRP at EPFL, Switzerland
SRP at Weizmann Institute, Israel
Khorana Scholarship for SRP in US
NIG Internship for Genetics in Japan
Hiyoshi Corp for environmental engineering, Japan
NTU SRP, Singapore
DAAD sponsored internships in Germany
AISEC, India for social programmes.


All of these are funded and it does have a longer process, but they're great experiences.

Obviously there are more than this list, and feel free to add.

One can add IAESTE to the list too.

Tag me to get a response.
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05-27-2012 09:55 AM
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(05-27-2012 09:25 AM)amitashr Wrote:  Hahaha ApplauseApplauseApplauseApplause
Brilliant and humorously stated..
Quote:6. Summer II: On the basis of your crapass conference publication, write humble but not fawning emails to professors in the 6 real IITs, IISc, ISI and TIFR. Forget everything else. Get an internship, however unpaid it may be in these institutions. Do research and make sure you submit to conference/journal. Sometimes Indian professors can be douches regarding that. Remember to meet more women this summer.

Do you really already need a publication, however crappy just to approach these profs? As far as I have seen profs in these places, they are willing to give anyone who writes a decent e-mail and a decent CV a chance at a meet at least where said person can try to impress. Of course, some profs are big egoists who don't even bother replying but in general, they seem like the friendly sort.

If you demonstrate some degree of ridiculous research they will definitely take you. Remember that you shall be competing with other hapless hobbits as well. I like to be sure of what I am doing. Hence, the requirement of a publication. This is a high risk, high reward environment.

Ready to Rumble.

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05-27-2012 04:24 PM
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RE: How to: Research, publications, internships.
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Wonderful! Smile If anyone's ready to contribute, I'm willing to sticky a consolidated how-to sorta post on this topic... any takers?

1) Please mention as many details as possible about your academics, research and work-ex, in terms of projects worked on, technologies used, roles/responsibilities handled, papers published/presented, awards/honors obtained, etc. All those have to be put in the misc details section of your UniSearch profile if you expect any help on Edulix.

2) Please take some time out to read this and this thread in their entirety. PLEASE do that before asking questions about universities from a comparison perspective, or jobs, or coursework, or H-1B visas, or "placements", irrespective of which univ/department/program/major you're applying to.

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05-31-2012 09:50 AM
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(05-31-2012 09:50 AM)The_Observer Wrote:  Wonderful! Smile If anyone's ready to contribute, I'm willing to sticky a consolidated how-to sorta post on this topic... any takers?

Ancalagon The Black's post was bloody awesome and please post yours too! Also, how about a HOWTO for MS student looking at a PhD program?

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05-31-2012 01:39 PM
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RE: How to: Research, publications, internships.
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Mine? I don't write on these topics. I am actually talking about consolidating this thread with one of Taro's. Anc Sire, what doth thou say?

1) Please mention as many details as possible about your academics, research and work-ex, in terms of projects worked on, technologies used, roles/responsibilities handled, papers published/presented, awards/honors obtained, etc. All those have to be put in the misc details section of your UniSearch profile if you expect any help on Edulix.

2) Please take some time out to read this and this thread in their entirety. PLEASE do that before asking questions about universities from a comparison perspective, or jobs, or coursework, or H-1B visas, or "placements", irrespective of which univ/department/program/major you're applying to.

"Don't be daft." - Ancalagon The Black

"With the exchange rate where it is now, it should be a strong deterrent against picking a slightly better program for a lot more tuition fees." - coolguru
05-31-2012 06:46 PM
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