During my term as the IIT Delhi director, I noticed that some students often feel overwhelmed by campus life and the freedom it offers. As the new academic session has just kicked off across IITs, here are a few things I often suggest students should keep in mind to make their campus life more enriching.
Explore, slow down, enjoy engineering
Students should explore the options available on campus. Students in an IIT are treated as adults from the first day. There is emphasis on self-learning as opposed to spoon-feeding. Coaching teaches you tricks to solve a problem in the shortest amount of time. Coaching makes you an expert at answering questions. When it comes to academics, it doesn’t matter whether you’re able to answer a question in 10 or 20 seconds. Engineering is all about finding solutions to problems with a certain methodology – and that will be taught as a part of your course. So, slow down and enjoy the study of engineering.
The shelf life of whatever we teach in the classroom ends within 5 years after a student enters the industry. In 10 years, new technologies will emerge. Hence, it’s important to acquire the skill of self-learning. A college curriculum makes your basics clear and builds the required foundation for this. Even if something changes later on, students can use these foundation courses and the fundamentals for their self-learning. This will stand them in good stead.
Did not get Computer Science? That’s okay
A common refrain of 80 per cent of students in IITs is not getting the Computer Science branch. But engineering is about finding optimal and sustainable solutions for problems.
And for that to happen, all disciplines need to come together. Problems tend to become multi-disciplinary and don’t come with the tag of a discipline associated with them. Multiple departments and people with different expertise need to come together to work on something. I often give students the example of my own research. Most of the technologies we have been able to commercialise from my group have as many as six different department faculty and students involved in it.
Try new things
Most of the students in IIT are good academically but struggle when it comes to adapting to new things. The Emotional and the Adaptability Quotients (EQ and AQ) are as important as the Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Very often, students who enter the campus have already made up their minds about their life plans. I encourage students to get involved in research activities and projects, get associated with faculty members and discover their interests.
I think students should explore all the options that are available to them instead of making up their mind in the very first year about what they want to do based on limited information. Minds are like parachutes, they function only when open.
Attend all the lectures you can
Students who get into an IIT can pass exams even if they put in minimum effort. However, I have noticed that there is peer pressure to not attend classes. You are considered cool if you don’t attend classes. But it becomes detrimental to your career as there are many good teachers in the IIT system. What you can learn in that one hour of class lecture, you will have to spend hours learning on your own. So, whether attendance is compulsory or not, attend the classes. I always tell students that as an engineer you should always think about optimisation. If you can learn something in one hour in the classroom, why would you want to spend three hours of your personal time learning on your own?
Get associated with faculty members
Faculty members at many IITs are usually working on research projects. At any point in time, there are 300 to 400 sponsored projects going on in any IIT. If you get associated with any of these projects in the beginning of college, you can eventually contribute to them and open yourself up to research. You might even decide to pursue it as a career later.
BTech is not the end
Less than 5% of students at the IITs stop studying after BTech and take up a job. However, technology innovations require students to pursue certain areas to a deeper level, whether it is quantum computation, biotechnology, or Nanotechnology. To proceed further in that regard, a bachelor’s degree is not enough. You will have to pursue higher studies or work for a company that works in that area. Working for a company can also help you understand some of these concepts by practice. There are several innovation opportunities in some of these deep-technology areas. This will also help you get into areas where there is a higher barrier for entry.
Hence, I encourage students to pursue higher studies and not stop with a BTech degree. With a BTech degree, what you can do as an innovator is limited. You can start an e-commerce company, you can get into some Fintech company, but you cannot really get into the deep technology innovations because they all require much deeper understanding which cannot be gained at the undergraduate level.
India is ranked third in research and 46th when it comes to innovation, and innovation is often measured in terms of patents. We’re not protecting our ideas. Whenever you get good ideas, try to patent those ideas. Even if you develop technology and if you don’t own the patent, no investor will invest in such a company.
Participate in co-curricular activities
Each IIT has an average of 25 clubs including dance, drama, and reading. If you look at the webpage of the board of student affairs at IIT Delhi, you will find a large number of clubs listed and you can become a part of some of these clubs. Many of these co-curricular activities require you to work in teams. I often notice that individual excellence is available in abundance amongst IIT students, but they don’t work well in a team. When you leave the campus, group effort and collaborative efforts always come in handy. Participating in co-curricular activities helps build that spirit of collaboration.
Courtesy : The Indian Express