Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Some more reasons,and some true feelings

    A crusade doesn't begin in a matter of minutes. The frustration long being held up in the chest oozes out after years of roiling inside. 5 long useless years, punctuated by brilliant friends that you will earn in your way. All of you being pieces in that tapestry of aimlessness and sarcasm. You will soon know that such places end up strengthening you. Ironing out the blue-eyed dreams of boyhood. It's that classic case of entry into the real world.

     Today, as I speak, rather write...I am not writing to one of you. I am addressing the people who will want to walk these dreary corridors one day. Perhaps blinded by that unknown hand that brings you to this seemingly wonderful place.That lure of money. That charm of being nurtured in a supposedly 'cool' and 'soon-great-to-be' place. Yeah, all of you, who will want to commit that mistake of wanting to belong to this hollow community.Some of you, the deaf ones, will read this today, feel indignant and join this place nevertheless, somewhere down the line.

I am writing this in the quiet of the night. Pretty different from the magical nights that one had during HR1 days.In fact, were it not for the darkness, it would be hard to tell a night from a day. Things were as chaotic and rushed during the night as they were in the evening.Now, when everything is really over, all those nights of the past look like photographs from an old album. You so wish you were there back again, for once. Perhaps,that's about the only good thing you should look forward to,if you are thinking of coming to IISER. But that shred of hope has been obliterated forever.From being an abode of Gods, immersed in pure joy and aimlessness, it bears a desolate look now. A God Forsaken world, in every sense of the word.The place where you would all put up is as bad as being in a solitary silo or a room full of  burly men with devious mindsets and unchecked libido on top of it!

      And then you will never have that luxury of being free. That sweet fear of being used as 'test subjects'. That benefit of seeping through a tough situation because laws are still not etched forever in the penal code.The benefit of being noisy and 'yourself' 24*7 without someone on your back all day with this sole aim of asserting himself on you. The worst thing about IISER is that it is a sinister black hole for all kinds of sadness and bondage in the world.It's a double whammy. Never in your life will your present and the future bear such stark and dreary semblance.We were a mad lot. We survived clinging to each other. Whenever we found that laws were proving to be excruciatingly stiff, we bent them by being united. I doubt you all will have that cohesiveness to effect such mutually beneficial infractions. Besides, a system evolves into a tougher niche with every passing minute. By the time you will arrive, the power mongers would have taken over. During our time, the maths department was in a shambles. I hope it will be extinct by 2012. Two days before the world  really comes to an end.

At any rate, Biology is the only field that is going to see the steady flux of worthless PhDs, baby-sitting and over-caffeinated professors, costly and trivial lab instruments.Chemistry was trying hard to follow suit by trying to breed and nurture this talent of forming warring factions whose job is to maneuver and gossip in that green place sipping some terrible tea and munching on the pathetic snacks to go with it.Physics will find itself in a swampy state. Brilliant guys will be left wondering why they were born into modest families or why they were not taught to arm themselves to teeth with wile and wit before entering academia.By the time you arrive, all the brilliant guys in Physics would have turned to poetry or rum or their wives. I wonder what would become of all those interdisciplinary areas that boast of a marriage between these fields in various permutations and combinations.A chaotic mixture with all its ingredients in a state of denial as well as real mess makes a perfect recipe for a disaster. It's like Titanic crashing into an iceberg with billion gallons of oil, tons of timber and a burning ember on board.Will you ever know whether you are going to drown or turn into ashes and dust?

     Thought hard of coming up with reasons to rationalize my own entree into this mad, uncertain world. Couldn't fathom any. Perhaps bad things are meant to happen. They are inevitable. By some conspiracy of the cosmos, you are destined to be a part of a place where you hardly fit but you have to play along.

                                                       Life is pretty much like that.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Summary.

Five years

     This document is not an official document by the Govt. of India or IISER. The reader is supposed to check the facts and figures before citing them.

      Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISERs) were started in 2006 to promote research at undergraduate level. They are autonomous institutions under the Ministry of Human Resources and Development under Government of India with a huge financial outlay of over Rs. 500 crore. IISERs were destined to take admissions after a few years of their establishments in order to avoid difficulties related to lack of infrastructural support. After the institute starts functioning with basic facilities in place, will the institutes start taking admissions at UG/ PG level. But IISERs started taking admissions from the date of their establishments, due to which the initial batches faced problems.

      Setting up of institutes needs much more than huge financial outlays. IISER Pune has no permanent registrar even after five years of their establishment. The first brochure given to the students at the time of admission in 2006 mentioned that IISERs will come up with their own campus within two to three years of establishments having hostels with internet, gym facilities etc. The total number of students after five years, studying at IISER should be 2000. Other claims included world class faculty with a strong emphasis on understanding rather than learning. IISER Pune has less than 500 students (including PhDs) in 2011. There is a rudimentary sports infrastructure, with no gym or other recreational facilities. A new hostel has come up very recently, which can accommodate not more than 500 students.

      Teaching is a very crucial aspect for an academic institute. An institute of national importance is expected to have above average teaching standards. The standards of teaching vary according to departments, a detrimental aspect for a healthy growth of all the sciences. Biology department is seemingly having good teaching and research facilities. Mathematics and Physics departments have comparatively low teaching standards. Mathematics department is having three faculties, no Professor and no Head of the Department. Physics department is having one Professor and no Head of the Department to coordinate its activities. Most of the faculties at IISER Pune are young or they have joined IISER after working in CSIR/industrial labs. They have no teaching experience before joining IISER. Teaching at a college level demands knowledge and experience in addition to research, the latter being supplementary. The above has its consequences; teaching being not up to the mark at IISER. The first batch was used as a scapegoat for deciding the syllabus. A better way would have been to hire a mix of senior and junior faculties, to maintain the balance on teaching as well as active research. Pune is an educational hub, and it would not have been difficult to hire experienced faculties from in and around Pune. 25 students out of 45 from the first batch are preparing for CAT. 6 out of 9 students in Mathematics department are going to do an MBA after MS from IISER, a predictable figure. Some ten out of 45 are not sure what to do after an MS from IISER Pune. The students were among top 5000 ranks in 11 lakh students giving JEE every year, having a lot of expectations from their career. Most of the students at IISER Pune are now joining “Hey Maths” a private company at low packages, except a few students who plan to stay back in science and have offers from good universities in US and Europe. IISER might become a good institute but at the cost of 10 or 20 batches of students, whose lives are being, put into shambles by the shortsightedness of the policy makers. Although it may be noted here that IISER Pune has been successful in attracting relatively more talented faculty in terms of research/teaching than other IISERs/ NISER. Various reasons including good research environment at Pune created due to a number of leading research institutes are cited for this achievement.

        Another anomaly accompanying IISERs is the admission procedure. Since its inception IISERs have been taking admissions through IIT-JEE and a very few from KVPY and Olympiads. IIT-JEE aspirants have a different if not better mindset than those who aim for a science stream as their career. Blame it on the JEE or our system, a JEE aspirant is high on dreams and aspirations. He expects much more than an average student from his career. This makes most of them a slightly more anxious and an ambitious lot. On the other hand basic sciences are not as rewarding, at least in the early phases of the career. In fact IITs and IIMs-(indirectly), accompanied by the government apathy (directly), towards science has prevented the best lot from entering into science for the past many years. Opening of five IISERs in a short span of three years is like digging wells where there is no water. To observe, you can find very senior faculty in science, in good universities having an excellent track record, but the number of good faculty in their mid 40s or 50s dips drastically, and the last section comprises of young faculties who have to travel a long way to prove themselves. This lack of “middle age faculty” who has a teaching experience as well as a good and an active ongoing research is one of the root causes for a poor teaching performance at good institutes in India.

       In addition to this PhD students in India never become a role model for the undergraduates at IITs, IISERs (apologies for taking the names together). An undergraduate at IIT, IISER aspires to have a handsome salary after graduation, a call from an IIM or a top notch US university call letter for a MS/ PhD. Doing PhD in India is still not considered as an option by the graduates from good institutes. (Please note that this statement does not imply that PhDs from Indian Universities are not good). While doing PhD in India, you are paid a merge salary of 16-18000 per month (as compared to 2300$ pm in US), often till the age of 28-30, with no job security even after that. US, China might be producing large number of good PhDs but India should not be compared to their scenario (which is being done regularly now-a-days). India has a different kind of a social, cultural and economic scenario. India has poverty. People often look for legitimate salary levels at that age, especially if they are having peer pressure from their engineering counterparts who have similar academic track records. Private research based companies like GE and IBM Research have studied the scenario in the Asian countries and have removed “a PhD degree” for their scientific jobs, definitely PhD being a preferred one.

        India now has funds for science but it will take time for Indian researchers to perform original research. IISERs is a step in this regard, with the present scenario being unexciting if not grim.
A big chunk of the crème-de-la-crème is driven away by the B tech. IIT fashion, a few in the MBBS stream and the rest goes to the commerce, science and arts streams (Demographics may change in some regions, science gets equivalent or better talents in Bengal). Needless to say that choosing profession in India is largely driven by the parent’s dreams (which later becomes their children’s dreams), branding of institutes, pay packages after graduation and last and the least, interests which probably is never nurtured or explored. Going by the traditions it was believed that borrowing fuel from IIT-JEE to run the IISERs might help in this regard. A lucrative salary of 3000/- per month was added to maneuver the students in the beginning towards IISER. It is interesting to know that MHRD stopped the scholarship after two years. Although INSPIRE came as a boon for students doing BS-MS at IISER, which prevented the only truth from the first brochure of IISERs from becoming a lie.

        An undergraduate student at IISER feels that he deserves whatever he is getting and being in an Indian institute, he deserves much more because he has earned it by his hard work. On the other hand there is mixed response from “non-undergraduate members” at IISER Pune. While some think that there should be more facilities at IISER, some are of the thought that students are already getting a lot more than what they deserve. For example, this author asked for a bona fide certificate for buying a personal internet connection from an administrative staff. The administrative staff replied “Why do you need to work on a computer so much? Are you doing an MCA!!!”. The author not being an old man survived the shock. The difference in attitude is a big hindrance for the development of the institute. It is again recommended to have administrative staff, a blend of experienced professionals from good institutes and other well qualified persons. This is not a problem with the well established institutes since there the larger fraternity is aware about the standards of the institute while IISERs will take time to reach that maturity.

      IISER’s too have similar level of corruption as prevalent in our country. The institutes are not to be blamed directly for it since it is our system which is less effective in tackling corruption. The number of “relatives” holding positions is alarming. The “DEPARTMENT-RELATED PARLIAMENTARY STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-SIXTH REPORT ON THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF TECHNOLOGY (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2010” report states “ V. Admission Procedure for IISERs The Committee notes that for admission in the five-year integrated Master’s course at the IISERs, students have to qualify in IIT JEE or Kishore Vaigyanic Protsahan Yojana or have to be among top one per cent of students in 12th standard examination of CBSE and other Boards. The Committee is not aware about there being any quota prescribed for the three different eligibility criteria. If not, the Committee fails to understand as to what would be the mechanism for deciding the admissibility of number of students qualifying the different criteria. The Committee also has its reservations about performance level in CBSE Boards and other Boards having varying standards being fixed as the eligibility criteria. The Committee, therefore, recommends that eligibility criteria for admission in IISERs may be reviewed and revised accordingly.”

        It is important here to note that the concept “IISER” was formed to integrate undergraduate teaching with research. India already has institutes like IISc and several other CSIR/ DST laboratories hugely funded by the government. Yet it can be observed that the available research infrastructure is not attracting the best minds of the country towards science. Indian Institute of Science is a very well known institute in the international science fraternity, but might not attract the very best of the young talents from India towards it. IITs fair better in attracting talents at a younger level. Hence, it is the induction of the crèmes at the undergraduate level in the research framework in India which makes IISERs special. Undergraduates will be the defining element in IISER's science. The trademark yearlong 5th year research project at IISER for the undergraduate’s breaks the convention of “research in PhD” scenario. Advantages include the high risk taking ability of these projects, which a PhD candidate might be hesitant to undertake, since his work has to be more result oriented during his PhD.

Still the decision is yours .

The Story so far - For all those who want to join IISER,Pune.

Dear Students,

You are at a junction of life when one wrong step and you will feel you are going downhill with inline skates. Since you have prepared for IIT JEE entrance, I can safely assume that most of your friends will enroll themselves at some engineering schools, be it IITs, NITs or some Donation wala IT. So, when you will have one more year to graduate from IISER, most of your friends would have graduated and at least working in some desi company, if not MNC. That made me panic and I am sure given the situation, most of you will panic (for, like my case, who knows one of your friends would be offered a 40 Lakhs package from Facebook). Anyway, before jumping to the final year of the program, let me walk you through the first four years of the life at IISER.

Year 1 and 2
(The Neophyte Phase).

You will join IISER with all the enthusiasm, as you will be brainwashed during the counselling and you will feel YOU are the agent of change. At IISER you will learn science (Sca-yan-ce as it is pronounced here in pseudo American accent) by doing it. OK. You will sincerely attend the lectures, diligently perform practicals (under the supervision of under-qualified wannabe PhDs who will try to scare you) and return to your hostel to do what? There were no play grounds in our first year, there aren’t any as of now. Though they now have TT, basketball posts, for a guy like me, who grew up playing football, volleyball, games like basketball etc are something very alien and neither masculine nor feminine. We had this joke that these kinda games are for the effete... hah joking … nothing personal ;). Yet I managed and survived. Thanks to the attendance proxies and a multiplex near the Hall of Residence - 1 (HR1). Alas, that won’t be possible for you as you will be staying in HR4 and you will have lectures in HR4 and I guess some people are more interested in detecting proxies. I don’t blame those people. After-all, whoever you are, you need some fun in your monotonous life. Also, a capricious ‘someone’ who is self-proclaimed ‘some academic post in a university’ (I will use the forbidden name Voldemort) will come up a new rule to make your life pathetic.

Year 3 and 4 (The Major Phase).

So, after you have somehow maintained your mental-physical-psychological balance for the first two years, You will enter a phase where your cohesive batch will be broken into 5 parts. Biowala, Chemistrywala, Physicswala, Mathwala (Given the miserable condition of Mathematics major students, I won’t be surprised to find just 1 guy turning up for a math lecture and that too because s/he belongs to the most miserable lot of the entire institute … a PhDwala). The fifth group will comprise of those unfortunate people who will be awarded an yearback for the slightest of offences or they have not passed the required number of courses in first two years or those who have been thrown out and thus would no longer comprise your current batch. Our batch never had this fifth group, but all other batches had.

During this phase you will feel like your life has been sucked into a vacuum cleaner. No life, Nothing. You will feel like an automaton. Only fun you will ever have will be in a class where another PhDwala  will be taking the course with you. For me, they were the dumbest creature out there. They pretended that the stuff they are studying in the course is cakewalk and when the results were out I was amused to find that the professor lowered the passing marks to pass them HA HA :D. Everything will come and passé until one fine morning a friend of yours call you and informs about his 15 lakhs package with Microsoft.  This is the phase when the pressure will start mounting. By the end of fourth year your friends will be working for some company or the other and you will still be in your grad school. Unlike your friends at engineering colleges, your friends here will start looking for a back up, just in case nothing happens after passing out... in our parlance. Besides few really serious guys who want to go for research, there will be some who will prepare for CAT,some who will cram words for the GRE and then a professional degree from the west, some will prepare for the civil services. There will be some who will take a break and decide on their course of action, some will find some job in their final year and settle with that. And then there will be few who will resign to fate. Institute should not blame the students for their choices, for someone (I would not like to mention the name) in his message to the prospective students told that life of a scientist is enviable because they just do what they like to do. That is exactly what these students did.

Year 5 
(Agyatvaas and Coup de Grâce)

This is an year when most of you won’t be YOU. Most of you will be lost in oblivion and  will be sort of ‘slaves’ for an year. For us there wasn’t any campus placement as such. Couple of companies here and there, paying a third grade salary and/or work profile will come and hire you. For us there were 2 I guess. I each for math and  chemistry major guys. When you will complain that the salary these companies are not ‘good’, don’t be annoyed if someone says, “MSc ko 10000 se jyada thore hi milta hain” i.e. “A person with an MSc does not generally gets hired for a monthly salary of over 10,000”. (However, if you are smart enough, with this degree you can land up in a Real good job that pays you handsomely... some of us actually did that.) So, finally after working whole day for your MS supervisor, you will be working for yourself... Cramming words for GRE, solving DI and RC for CAT, writing SOPs for your applications to universities abroad etc. You won’t realise when and where this year started and how abruptly it ended. The institute might produce the placement statistics of the first batch (X no. of students placed in companies, Y no. of students for studies abroad etc. etc.), but the truth is that except for some sycophants and bootlickers, most of students have slogged out like hell to go where they are or will be going. In my opinion, institute’s contribution to the final placement of most of the successful cases is not more than 1%. There have been instances when a professor has declined to recommend a student for studies abroad, a professor has awarded a student an unsatisfactory grade in the project report evaluation, just because he felt the student was not satisfactory, despite the student’s quantum of work contradicting the professor's hunch. In the final year you would need consolidated transcripts.. lot of them.. and every time you need one, you need to make a formal request and pay a sum of Rs. 500 per transcript whereas IISER Kolkata charges Rs. 150 for the same. Every time you raise this question, you get hear some really funny answers ;).

Life after Death.

Our degree is still hanging in balance. We are not sure when will we have our convocation.

Personal experience of another Ex student.

Well I would like to say about my experiences. I too am from the first batch of IISER Pune. Before joining IISER I had other options too, like I had already got a seat in a NIT, I had also got a seat in the most prestigious engineering college in my state, and that the in electronics and communications. But still I chose IISER (just because it had an " Indian Institute" tag attached to it, plus I was getting paid to study, a bribe which I regret taking)

Well the story now, I am left with no job, am presently searching jobs in every field (BPO, selling Loans, teaching in coaching centres, IT, etc) thanks to the no placement policy followed by IISER. I still haven't found one though, as people outside dont yet know about IISER, and just consider me as an MSc graduate from an ordinary collge.

The only good thing is it has made me realize I have to complete Phd (another 5 years) till I am respected or looked at in the scientific community. So I sometimes think why the hell did I join this field? even after struggling all my life I again have to struggle for another 5 years to have any monetary gains.

all my friends who had just done their engineering or even BSc from little known colleges are well placed and are earning well, but here I am, with a MS degree from IISER, with a decent grade of 7/10, and still searching for jobs.

The jobs I was offered (for which I had to struggle myself to get from off campus interviews) after majoring in biology were for project assistant, business advisor, etc that would pay me 11000-17000 per month, in good companies. even those jobs are rare as there are thousands of university graduates eager to work for even less.

So in whole, 5 years of efforts put in here I have end up with nothing! I have to start my life from scratch.

Before you join IISER, I would suggest you to think hundred times (not twice), as there isnt money in this field, and you have to do a PhD later, so another 10 years of efforts after your 12th standard.

Think before you take the step.

What can one say about a prolific career in the field of Research and Development in India (i.e. PhD in India)? The sarcasm in the latter part of that sentences is self explanatory. But on a pragmatic note, I would like to discuss this topic here, with all of you. After completing 12th, most of you aspire to join IISER Pune. Which is a good decisions for some of you? But for those who have some other offers as well, i would implore you to stop a minute and think about on a situation 5 years down the line. Most of us from the first ever batch of IISER Pune, are deeply indebted to our Alma mater, for providing us with quality education and teaching us a proper skill set, to tackle the world and all its amazing challenges (Full-blown sarcasm here, by the way).

If you are self-reliant and have no expectations from your college academically and socially, this is the next best thing to heaven you can ever manage for on this earth. After spending five years, almost everyone has to fend for their own and make a living. One thing that this place does for you, is that: after your 5 years here, it will leave you cut and dry and you will quickly learn to adapt and in the end find a calling of your own (read no placement scenario). So, for those who believe that you will end up with a job and a fat pay-check, FORGET ABOUT IT. Be ready to start life from the scratch.

If you want an honest piece of advice from my side, if you have an option of doing engineering or science or whatever, from any college which has a proven track-record (more than 7 years into existence), I implore to take that opportunity, than coming to IISER Pune. Don't be those people who crave for doing something different. You have your whole life ahead of you. Get a conventional formal education and then do something adventurous, because after that your world will be your oyster.

Also before taking that fatal step, there are a few numbers at the end of this page, that I would personally recommend you to call up and talk to a few people who have a different different opinions and can share a different view on the matter. As no one size fits all, I would recommend you call at least three people from the 1st batch of IISER Pune (Class of 2011), which have graduated, and take their view on the exact scenario of IISER Pune. All of us (Class of 2011) are fully committed to the cause of helping all those who are about to make to make a life (threatening) decision.

We are there for you, throughout this whole process, and we wish you have a good and meaningful college life (cause that is the most important part of one's life). We are not here to discourage anyone, but to shine a beacon on the exact state of affairs of the college and the ideology of the institution.

Best of Luck for all your life.

P.S. : If you are one of those who do not ever plan to take up research, please do not waste our and your time. RUN FOR THE HILLS. Because this place is strictly not for you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Hi everyone this is a platform to find details about Indian Institute Of Science Education and Research .
The editors of this blog belong to the first ever batch of IISER and from the only batch that has passed out of this Institute.Please feel free to contact us with your queries.

Each of the above blogs has been posted by a member of the Alumni ,i.e. a student of first batch of IISER,Pune for any details post comment on the blog.