IISER students go places! These grads bound for western varsities vouch

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For any student of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT)s, the very mention of ‘offer letter,’ would bring to mind the colourful spectrum of Multi National Companies (MNCs), but it’s a different take for the students of the even more prestigious Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER). ‘Offer Letter’ would mean, for them, not companies but top-notch Universities all over the world. The ‘Offer Letters,’ would be offering not a job, but research opportunities. And 37 students who have completed the Integrated BS – MS course at IISER, Thiruvananthapuram have received the offer for Ph.D. programmes at the premium universities of the world.

The IISER Thiruvananthapuram graduates are all set to fly to around 30 prestigious universities including Max Planck Institute and Julios – Maximilian University of Wurzburg, Germany, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, USA, University of Notre Dame, France, University of Texas, Austin and Rice University, Houston, Texas, US. Many other students will be continuing their research programmes at the country’s own prestigious institutes like Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.

The Last Word in Science Studies

The seven Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) are regarded as the last word in science education and research in the country that keeps up with the international standards. The professional profile of the alumni of IISER, Thiruvananthapuram range from teachers at the Faculties of leading international universities to expert positions at the Goldman Sachs.

The BS – MS programmes in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology at IISER have duration of five years. There are 120 seats for these four subjects. The courses in Data Science and Applied Science will be starting from the next academic year onwards.

IIT or IISER ?

Many candidates who qualify at the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) – Advanced are often confused about making a choice between the IIT and the IISER. For those who target a job immediately after completing the studies would do better to choose IIT, points out Dr. Mahesh Hariharan, associate professor, IISER, Thiruvananthapuram and Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry, adding that, if the candidate is inclined more towards research, with a passion for science could make IISER their option.

However, choosing a career in research has its cons as well, as shaping a successful career in research could be time-consuming. You also need to continuously prove your excellence. The possibilities of IISER are open for those who are ready for years of hard work. And it would not be an easy walk for those who have no inclination towards the research process.

Journal publications

The research paper by M.A. Niyas, a student of IISER had made it to the cover picture of the March issue of Journal of American Chemical Society. The cover picture was also drawn by Niyas himself. Most of the IISER students flaunt having published more than one essay in the leading international science journals. Even though these published articles do not win academic credits, they open up the path to international universities for most of the students.

Major, Minor and the Life in the Lab

During the first four semesters, classes are common for all batches. In the Fifth Semester, one Major subject and another Minor subject could be chosen. The IISER Thiruvananthapuram offers the Diffused Minor Programme under which the students can choose more than one Minor subjects, gaining credits from all of those topics. The students can also conduct Minor Research in any of these Minor topics during the 8th Semester. There are no regular lecture classes in the 9th and 10th semesters. The students spend all their time in the laboratories. At IISER, the students can also start using the laboratories from the First Semester onwards.

Internship Abroad

The IISER students are able to do their summer internships either at IISER itself or in any international institutes. International internship is accessible to students with excellent academic records through the support of fellowships like DAAD WISE (Working Internships in Science and Engineering) or S.N.Bose Fellowship, without spending their money. Many other scholarships and travel support fellowships are also available for the students. Most of the teachers at the IISERs have completed their researches in international universities. These teachers, with enough connections in the academic sector, offer support to their students, opening up the paths to international universities. The Statement of Purpose and Recommendation Letter from the premium institutions like IISER are quite valuable in the international academic circuit.

Pooja Sekhar, Thiruvananthapuram

IISER follows the same academic and research methodologies as followed in the countries like the USA. That helps a lot while going abroad for research. There is nothing to fear. The Summer Internship Programme is quite excellent. I was able to attend Max Planck Institute, Germany through the DAAD – WISE programme and to Caltech (California Institute of Technology, USA) through the LIGO – SURF Programme (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory - Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) programme) offered by Caltech and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). During the first two years, I could go to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai.

(Pooja Sekhar is this year’s topper at IISER, Thiruvananthapuram, going to pursue her Ph.D. at University of Colorado Boulder, USA).

M.A. Niyas, Chemistry, Nedunkadam, Idukki

The IIT student will be thinking about making a solar cell and marketing it. But, at IISER will be taking place the original research work for determining what all should go into a solar cell. Many support programmes are available for students showing academic excellence. The international Ph.D. programmes are also through Fellowships. I’d participated in a Photochemistry Conference in Ireland while doing my course, with the Department of Science and Technology bearing my expenses.

(Niyas has won the Award for the Best Under Graduate Researcher through four international publications. Now, he will be pursuing his Ph.D. in Julios – Maximilian University of Wurzburg, Germany.)

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