In Conversation with Rahul Paul


He was a part of Buffered Reader. And even after all this time, his connection with Buffered Reader remains strong as ever. Mr. Rahul Paul, M.Tech Class of 2015, who is a PhD Scholar at University of South Florida, had a conversation with Buffered writers Lokendra and Sudha Shanker.

Lokendra: How does it feel like to be interviewed by the magazine of which you were such an integral part?

Rahul Paul: It feels great, actually (pauses) nostalgic. I was a part of the magazine since its inception. I can still remember the first edition of the magazine, in fact the first meeting too. Particularly, I would like to thank Sukomal Pal Sir, Shweta Malwe Ma’am and Chiranjeev Kumar Sir for giving me the opportunity. I will never forget the team behind the success of our magazine. I would like to thank the past and present members and wish good luck to the future members of this magazine. I would support the magazine and its team anytime in the future.

Sudha Shanker:Why did you prefer PhD over other options available to you?

Rahul Paul: Money is not really something that I want. I have always wanted to learn something new and discover new things. Plus it helps you improve your abilities to understand and solve problems, develops your confidence and makes you a better communicator.

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Lokendra:Was the decision teaching or research oriented or something else? What are the options after PhD?

Rahul Paul:For now, at least, it is research oriented. After attaining the degree, I want to do something research oriented. I personally believe I am better in research than teaching. And talking about options, there are several like research jobs in R&D companies like Google, Microsoft and IBM, teaching and even entrepreneurship.

Sudha Shanker:Why did you opt for the USA, and not any other country, say, India?

Rahul Paul:Well, study in India is quite academic oriented while in the USA it is research as well as academic oriented. Lots of projects and assignments are there as a part of every course here, which is generally not the case with India. Moreover good lab facilities and research opportunities, which are quite necessary for some subjects, like Image Processing and Computer Vision, are not available in India apart from a very few universities like IISC, IITs, etc. However, it’s not a very big issue. In fact, people like Dr. Ramesh Jain (PhD, IIT Kharagpur), one of the most renowned professors in Computer Science, Dr. Manindra Agarwal (PhD, IIT Kanpur), a renowned professor in Mathematics and CSE, who won several prizes like the Godel prize and the Padma Shri, Dr. E. Balagurusamy (PhD, IIT Roorkee), the famous author of several popular books about C and C++, pursued their studies in India.

Lokendra:In terms of the academic culture, what is difference between the USA and India?

Rahul Paul:Frankly speaking, securing marks in India is quite difficult compared to that in the USA, but obviously, it varies from subject to subject and professor to professor. Here, owing to the sheer number of assignments and projects in each subject, you need to study for the whole semester consistently otherwise your grades will not be good.

Sudha Shanker:Compared to India, how different is the role of a Teaching Assistant in the USA?

Rahul Paul:In India, we need to organize lab sessions and exams. But here, you have to assist the professor who is taking the course. A TA's work here is to check assignments, projects, prepare questions for assignments, projects and exams, and check exam copies, if the professor asks you to do. Sometimes you have to take classes if the professor is out of the station. Most importantly, TA's here have their own office hours. The students can come to clear their doubts regarding assignments, coursework and projects. If you are very senior TA, you may be assigned to take classes for undergrads mostly in summer and sometimes even in the fall or the spring semester.

Lokendra:Is there any short path to a PhD, apart from the whole B. Tech, then M. Tech and then PhD routine?

Rahul Paul:In the USA, you can directly apply for PhD immediately after your B. Tech, but you need a good research profile to get into a good university.

Sudha Shanker:Comparing it to an average Indian package in CSE, can we call the system in the USA ‘earn while you learn?

Rahul Paul:Yes, you may call it so, but you get a nice stipend while pursuing PhD in India too. Here, it is also similar but then, it depends on location and the cost of living, which is much lower in India.

Lokendra:What about the stipend you get here?

Rahul Paul:Now I am getting around 1400 dollars per month. It is more than enough for a comfortable lifestyle. As I had said earlier, stipends vary from state to state. Stipends in Floridian universities are quite lower than those in universities in New York or California, as the cost of living in Florida is comparatively lower.

Sudha Shanker:Is getting a good GRE score enough for a PhD?

Rahul Paul:No, just getting a good GRE score is not enough for a PhD. For MS, good GRE Score, TOEFL score, decent GPA, good projects and internships are enough. But if a PhD has to be added to your qualifications, your research topic, research experience and good papers matter. Again, you need to find a professor under whom you will do your research, which is not the case for a MS unless you are doing a Master’s thesis, which very few actually do.

Lokendra:Sir I have seen many pictures of you on Facebook. You surely are fulfilling your dreams like “Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara” but are you really studying?

Rahul Paul:(laughs) Oh yes, I am. Actually, now that I am really far away from home, I am quite free to hang around in the weekends, not regularly but at least once in a month. And basically I have lots of dream to fulfill, which I can fulfill here. So, though, studying is obviously the main priority, hanging around is also needed, when you are away from home.

Sudha Shanker:(smiles) So is that the message you want to convey to your juniors?

Rahul Paul:See, I believe in a simple phrase, “Study Hard but Party Harder”. And I am getting a notion that you want to wrap up the conversation now (laughs). So goodbye and best of luck for your future.

Lokendra:The boss is always right (smiles), however with you the conversation is always cumulative.Goodbye Sir and wish you good luck for your studies and, of course, we hope that you fulfil your dreams.