MTech Research @ CSA, IISc

This post is nothing but a rehash of whatever is present on the department website, but with some additional perspective from my side:

Q1. What is the course structure?

As part of the MTech Research programme, you have to mandatorily complete 12 credits of coursework. This is called Research Training Programme (or RTP) and has to be completed within the first two semesters of the programme. Each course in the CSA department is usually of 4 credits, so a total of three courses would be the minimum, out of which one has to be a “mathematical” course mandatorily. (It usually means courses from either Pool A, or other math-y courses)

Each course that you take can either be taken as RTP or non-RTP. This is because there is also a requirement that your RTP GPA should not fall below 7, else a probabtion happens where you are assigned a faculty and they look into what has happened (or something like this, I am not sure about the details. But point being - don’t let it fall below 7). Your RTP GPA is calculated at the end of your first year and as a best of three among the RTP subjects you have chosen. So for example if at the start of the first semester you take three courses and all of them are RTP and later on realise that your performance in them is not as good as you want it to be, then you can change that course from RTP to non-RTP so that you can make up your RTP GPA next semester by taking some other course. Other than the three minimum courses, nothing is mandatory. Your advisor may ask you to take some courses or you might be interested in some courses, but there is no department requirement.

Also, you can take courses from any department as long as you meet the credit requirements. I’ve seen people take courses from EE, ECE, Maths, CDS department.

Q2. When do you choose an advisor?

You get the entire first semester to choose an advisor. Soon afer you join, you’ll be sent a list of professors among whom you can choose your advisor. In my case, it was Prof Vinod, Arkaprava, Vijay, Govindarajan and Raghavan. Your job is to talk to all of them, see what work they are doing, what requirements do they have to choose a student etc and finally make a decision. The semester-end deadline is not very strict, so even if you delay it a bit, it’s okay. But I would advise against it - do your due research and settle on an advisor by the end of the semester so that you can get started with your research second semester onwards.

Q3: How do you choose an advisor?

Talk to students from their labs. That’s the best way to learn whether you’ll be a good fit in there or not. Not just one, but multiple students so that you get different perspectives. Better done in person or over call. Here are some questions that you should definitely ask (and then more questions of your own) - how often do you meet your advisor, what do they expect from you for graduation, how accessible are they over e-mail/Teams, how happy are the students in the lab, how happy are students who have graduated from the lab, what are the positives of working in this lab, what are the negatives of working in this lab, has there been anyone who’s had a negative experience and if so, why?

Q4: What if nobody wants to advise me/no labs have any vacancy?

When you join IISc, you’ll be given a default advisor. He’ll be your point of contact for any queries that you might have academically. If nobody choose to take you, he’ll take you in.

Q5. How do advisors usually choose students?

Each advisor has a different way of choosing. Majority of them would ask you to read their recent works and then have a discussion on those papers (at least that’s how it happened in the Systems pool - I am not sure about other pools). Some of them might even ask you to show some coding proficiency. But here are some general guidelines I would suggest - be active during classes while asking doubts or queries, maintain a decent performance in class tests/midterms, read up on the work your prospective advisor is doing and have some insightful questions regarding the same. This should be enough.

Q6. Is a publication necessary to graduate?

Most professors don’t have an explicit rule that you need a publication to graduate. But your work should be of the quality that you should be able to submit it at a top-tier conference. That’s the quality all professors expect, rest everything depends on the equation you and your advisor share. Do ask them before joining or students in the lab what your advisor would expect.

Q7. When will placements happen?

You will sit with your juniors. So, in your fifth semester.

Q8: Are we allowed to go for internships?

Usually not. Ask your advisor for permission. They’ll most probably say no and ask you to focus on your thesis work.

Q9: Are placements for MTech and MTech Research people the same?

Yes. Most recruiters don’t even bother asking you questions about your research work unless they’ve also worked in the same field. So, it’s the same old data structures and algorithms.

Q10: Are there special RnD jobs for MTech Research people?

Sometimes, yes. But mostly they prefer PhD people. So don’t have high expectations.

Written on June 20, 2021