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Being an RA
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a7x Offline
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Being an RA
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Hello fellas Smile ,

I have been an RA in IIITH now since a month. It has been an awesome experience. I lead a small 1 year project here and also work in another long term 9 year Govt of India project . Its been uphill from the first day. I will try to keep updating this page with my experiences so that people in the future can take up an RAship and benefit from it.

First thing is that all professors need some RAs ,atleast in IIIT. This is because the students,atleast here, have a lot of added responsibility and thus ,do haphazard and half-hearted work . These guys know a lot but that potential does not translate into any good result. So, moral of the story is that always apply for an RA position. The only pre-requisite is lots of interest in the subject and considerable amount of knowledge and a good project as well. Profs really do not expect much.

From what I have seen in IIIT and the way things work(the GoI project is with 8 other institutes of india including IISc,IITB,IITK etc) is that there is a lot of focus on using tools. I thought that there will be a lot of brainstorming everyday and then each one will implement something ,but,that is not exactly the case. There are open source tools for everything and all you have to do is change the code accordingly and make it work . They don care much if you do not know the algo. This is precisely why i got stuck because i thought knowing the internals of the algo is a pre-requisite but it is not. Algos are all blackboxes. Just learn the tool and get the work done.

Life in a research lab is different. (Seniors of ours already know this Smile ) . Nobody here gives a rat's ass to what you do everyday . And of course,nobody helps here. You can't ask people unless you are stuck like anything and don't see a way out. Generally, its each one for himself.

Be very good at navigating on the linux environment. There are no systems here with Windows on them. They are very very good at working on the command-line. So, do ensure that you are really really good at building things from source and changing stuff .

I cannot reveal the details of the project i am working on . So please do not ask about that. IIIT has more projects than the students who can do it. There is something for everyone. . All BTech students present papers at decent conferences. Best of luck to all the future applicants. Hope it helps people.

Some advice for people who want to work on Data Mining/IR/NLP:

I have been working in a few things since coming here. I thought some advice on that would help people.

1. Have a strong maths background : Now, this is true for i think all of comp science but you can't really go one step further if you are not solid in some branches of maths. Particularly ,Linear Algebra, Probability , some Graph Theory (getting more and more important with time) . I am struggling to keep pace with latest development because there is just so much maths that it takes time to come to that level . So, if you want to work on this area, be strong at maths. For linear algebra, you can start with the Gilbert Strang book . For probability, there are tons of options. Choose one according to your prior knowledge.

2. Be good at Machine Learning. : Really, goes without saying. Even if you feel that ML is just omni-present and barbarian and you want to do somethign different, you still have to understand it to find what's wrong with the approach and how can you do things differently. Machine Learning has got really important. Its applied like everywhere and to learn this, you gotta take care of step 1.

3. Be good at one scripting language : Data-driven approaches are getting more and more used . Earlier, getting data was the problem. Now,dealing with it is a problem. Be good at one scripting language ( python is the rage nowadays, but, you can take your pick. Awk is very very cool) as you have to deal with a lot of text and scripting languages come in very handy when doing low-level hacks. I personally use python and love it .

4. Publishing v/s learning: This is an important decision to make. I personally came here to learn as much as possible and never really thought about publishing. Also, IMHO, always aim higher . If you think small, you end up small. Others can differ in their opinions. Its just mine and doesn't necessarily reflect on anyone /anything else. But publications matter, like it or not, and one publication in a good conference can go a long way in getting you a great admit. But, in the process, don't sacrifice quality coz the Ad Comm can smell from a mile away , a paper with no research insight in it. I probably stand no chance of publishing but i am not panicking, not yet anyway, because learning is more important in my opinion. Once you learn the foundations, you can find whats wrong with the present approaches and then solve accordingly. But half-cooked knowledge is dangerous. This long route is really the shortcut if you ask me. And getting a strong foundation will, IMO, help in graduate school where you won't have to refresher courses to reach their level .

5. Sacrifices. : The money is less and the workload will be huge. Add to that the fact that you will want to learn quite a few things by your own. Add to all of that, your friends will be in either a random IT shop(borrowed from taro_curly Smile ) making decent money or better than that, in a good company making more money. I personally do not care about any of that because i knew all this before coming here. But take this up only if you don't suffer from any peer-pressure and also love doing what you want to . In my personal experience, i was laughed at by my friends and classmates , ridiculed by most. But, i am pretty thick-skinned and could not care less . I go by the regret minimization framework .

http://bijansabet.com/post/147533511/jef...-framework

So best of luck !

Rarely on Edulix. If you need AI/ML help, someone will help you reach out.

Good luck with your applications, and if you are ever in Vancouver, let me know.
(This post was last modified: 10-02-2010 06:17 PM by a7x.)
08-01-2010 10:21 AM
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ameykk Offline
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RE: Being an RA
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@a7x,
I am glad that you shared this info with us. Smile

All the Best for everything !

Very Busy. Might take time to respond.
08-02-2010 02:07 AM
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Good one Rohit, and thanks for the info! Smile

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 infobank if you want 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 univs 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

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08-02-2010 02:13 AM
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a7x Offline
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The pleasure is all mine Smile

Rarely on Edulix. If you need AI/ML help, someone will help you reach out.

Good luck with your applications, and if you are ever in Vancouver, let me know.
08-02-2010 09:12 AM
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iwish Offline
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@a7x

good post...will be a great help for people looking for RAs

08-02-2010 01:08 PM
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MadWiFi Offline
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The thread of mine "RAship in IITB" now contains only 5 posts (originally it was around 40 Sad )
still for all of ur reference:
http://www.edulix.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=74978

best of luck rohit Smile
now ur on my way!!! Laughing

Not active in edulix now-a-days. Please shoot me an email iff its extremely urgent. I am not doing any profile evaluation till Fall 12. Thanks
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08-02-2010 02:05 PM
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kiranchitturi Offline
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(08-01-2010 10:21 AM)a7x Wrote:  Hello fellas Smile ,

I have been an RA in IIITH now since a month. It has been an awesome experience. I lead a small 1 year project here and also work in another long term 9 year Govt of India project . Its been uphill from the first day. I will try to keep updating this page with my experiences so that people in the future can take up an RAship and benefit from it.

First thing is that all professors need some RAs ,atleast in IIIT. This is because the students,atleast here, have a lot of added responsibility and thus ,do haphazard and half-hearted work . These guys know a lot but that potential does not translate into any good result. So, moral of the story is that always apply for an RA position. The only pre-requisite is lots of interest in the subject and considerable amount of knowledge and a good project as well. Profs really do not expect much.

From what I have seen in IIIT and the way things work(the GoI project is with 8 other institutes of india including IISc,IITB,IITK etc) is that there is a lot of focus on using tools. I thought that there will be a lot of brainstorming everyday and then each one will implement something ,but,that is not exactly the case. There are open source tools for everything and all you have to do is change the code accordingly and make it work . They don care much if you do not know the algo. This is precisely why i got stuck because i thought knowing the internals of the algo is a pre-requisite but it is not. Algos are all blackboxes. Just learn the tool and get the work done.

Life in a research lab is different. (Seniors of ours already know this Smile ) . Nobody here gives a rat's ass to what you do everyday . And of course,nobody helps here. You can't ask people unless you are stuck like anything and don't see a way out. Generally, its each one for himself.

Be very good at navigating on the linux environment. There are no systems here with Windows on them. They are very very good at working on the command-line. So, do ensure that you are really really good at building things from source and changing stuff .

I cannot reveal the details of the project i am working on . So please do not ask about that. IIIT has more projects than the students who can do it. There is something for everyone. . All BTech students present papers at decent conferences. Best of luck to all the future applicants. Hope it helps people.

thanks for sharing your awesome experience .. can u tell me how to apply for RA positions?

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08-02-2010 02:06 PM
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a7x Offline
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Piyali , you were/are/will be an inspiration ( You gotta reply on gtalk more often though Sad ) . @above,there is no magic to it. Just search for a prof who works in an area you are interested in and mail them . Be very serious in mailing them . It is better you tell them an idea you have of exploring and not talking about what you have done (coz that is already there on your resume ) .

Rarely on Edulix. If you need AI/ML help, someone will help you reach out.

Good luck with your applications, and if you are ever in Vancouver, let me know.
08-02-2010 03:07 PM
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@rohit:
thanks man. der is nothing like that. (though am flattered Laughing:lolSmile
n regarding gtalk, i always remain busy to do some extra work on net (like now am busy wid seeing university websites), so hardly notice who is online. SadSad

but will ping u soon LaughingLaughing

Not active in edulix now-a-days. Please shoot me an email iff its extremely urgent. I am not doing any profile evaluation till Fall 12. Thanks
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08-02-2010 03:45 PM
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Looking forward to it Smile

Rarely on Edulix. If you need AI/ML help, someone will help you reach out.

Good luck with your applications, and if you are ever in Vancouver, let me know.
08-02-2010 04:23 PM
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@a7x,

Dude, I have been admitted in the analog VLSI stream. But my research papers and an international conf publication paper corresponds to a diff field. How do i convince the professors regarding RA?...

I am looking forward for your valuable help.


Cheers mate,
Sharath

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08-02-2010 09:17 PM
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a7x Offline
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I do not have much idea about that(vlsi and stuff) but what generally profs look for is research potential. It is not necessary (from what i have seen) to have a paper in an exact same area . YOu have a paper, which tranlates to you have research potential which makes him/her convinced that you can get something done , which is publishable. They want just that. Of course , in case you are admitted into a field like ECE and you have a publication in environmental engineering, then,its tough. BUt as long as its under pretty much the same field (like both are under electronics or both are under CS ) ,then, it should not be much of a problem .

Rarely on Edulix. If you need AI/ML help, someone will help you reach out.

Good luck with your applications, and if you are ever in Vancouver, let me know.
08-03-2010 02:09 PM
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a7x Offline
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Guys, please don mail me regarding this. Keep all your doubts in the thread. Do not feel shy to ask . I will not mock you or scold you publicly or anything like that Smile . No nOOb bashing ,atleast by me, in this thread. So ask anything.

I again got a mail asking how to apply. Seriously yaar there is no special way of doing it. You just have to mail the profs and have something meaningful to say in it. Just don't spam their inboxes and don't say " i need an RA". You have to justify why you need it. In my case, i had just explained a little about the project i was doing that time and i had explained what i wanted to do . Only in the last line of the mail did i say that i want to be an RA here. had a telephonic interview and then done. So, there really is no special thing to it. You have to keep trying. In my case, i liked only this prof and so i did not mail anyone else. Hope that helps.

Rarely on Edulix. If you need AI/ML help, someone will help you reach out.

Good luck with your applications, and if you are ever in Vancouver, let me know.
08-04-2010 03:12 PM
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a very informative thread there, a7x. I have a few doubts though.

Generally, when does one start writing to professors, around which time of the year? Is it always better to mail them during some particular time of the year, when they recruit RAs or is there no specific time to do so? (i am clueless about this, hence asking Smile)

I am a final year Btech student, with no published papers to my credit yet, just projects. Do professors consider you at all, knowing the fact that you have no previous research experience but have a potential for it? In my case, My interest is towards signal processing, in which i have no vast experience, but have certain projects that are currently going on and a keen interest. i wanted to know whether research experience is a criterion sought after by the profs.

How long do projects generally last for?

Lastly, the idea of doing some research as an RA and then going for an MS seems to be plausible, what are your two cents on it?(it would definitely strengthen one's profile wouldn't it) Also, how different is it from being an intern at an organisation? Do the two greatly differ?

It would be great if you could answer these queries. thanx Smile

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08-06-2010 08:28 PM
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There is no specific time in which they hire RAs . Atleast here it ain't . And projects do help . You have projects ,i only had one project. You can start emailing them as soon as you have some idea of what you want to do in the mentioned area. Also ,you need to decide which prof to mail right Smile . From signal processing, i remember that there are some GOD profs here in IIITH itself. Do check it. One guy worked on it for his project and he got into UWash,Seattle PhD . Direct after btech. Being an RA does help.

Project duration can be anything. The project i lead here is only for an year while the other one is for 9 years. So , that is absolutely random. Being an intern and being here differ by a lot i think. I have not been to an organisation , so i cant exactly say what goes on . But there, you are responsible for something that is not important for the organisation . Here, you write production code. And plus you are left on your own . I think it is vastly different. But someone who has had a taste of both may be able to tell you better Smile

Research criterion being sought by profs, again its relative. Some want it, most do not expect it. Profs also know , infact know it better than us , how bad most colleges are. Let me know if you want to have any further questions.

Rarely on Edulix. If you need AI/ML help, someone will help you reach out.

Good luck with your applications, and if you are ever in Vancouver, let me know.
08-07-2010 09:45 AM
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