Prasanth Tanikella, an alumnus of the batch of 2007, Department of Civil Engineering, pursued two consecutive MS programs from Purdue University. In an interview with Chennai36, he talks about life at Purdue, the application process, and fundaes on insti life.
Please tell us about your life at insti and how it facilitated your goal of pursuing higher studies abroad.
First and second years in insti are what they are- you learn about your field; you haven’t completely thought through what your future is about and you are relatively new to finding your field. So, sometime around the second year summer, some of us did a group research under a couple of professors. We did some lab work for masters and Ph.D. students. We also went ahead and did some exploring on our own, thus ending up pursuing that sub-field as an internship over the next summer. A lot of our professors are very well known across the globe, so one of my advisors recommended me to an internship in Spain, which again helped us gain a better insight into what we were learning at insti. We actually saw how our research was related to the industry, which gave us an amazing exposure.
How would you describe Purdue University in terms of student culture, resources, and facilities etc.?
It’s really amazing, a lot of people from IIT-M app to Purdue and make it there. I didn’t have much to worry about when I came to Purdue, for I met a bunch of my seniors who were already there and I was, in fact, living there with one of my Narmada wingmates! Many juniors from insti joined in later as well. Sometimes the experience may not begin really well if you don’t know many people in a foreign country; it might be difficult to adjust. The university itself is great, although somewhat in the middle of nowhere, about 3 hours from Chicago. There are professors from diverse backgrounds- one of my advisors was Polish and other was Turkish.
Could you give us an insight into the various phases of the application process like SoPs, CV, Recos, Projects, Papers and choosing courses?
From a university/recruiter standpoint, I would say that the aspirant won’t get a chance to talk to the professors face to face, but if that is somehow achieved by contacting the professors on your own, that would indeed be really helpful. There are GRE, TOEFL and CGPA cutoffs, but the professor too has to accept you to be admitted. If you’re interested in a Ph.D. program and want to do some research then you must peruse the university website, reach out to the professors and know how you can fit in. However, if you want to join a master’s program then it is different.
How relevant are CGPA and extracurricular activities in the process of applying?
CGPA definitely plays an important role wherever you go. At least until your master’s degree, CGPA is the first thing that people look at, because, with apps, they don’t get to talk to you, your competence is gauged all on the paper.
Extracurricular activities may be rated second from a strict application perspective, but they do uplift your personality so that is something one should definitely pursue.
You went for a second MS program in structural engineering after the first in materials engineering. Why did you feel the need for the second degree? Also, did this transition pose any problems?
It was a personal choice, seeing that the first degree that I had presented more of lab-related job opportunities and I wanted more of field related work. The transition was rather smooth because they are somewhat related fields. You do have to keep yourself motivated for another couple of years of studying. It wasn’t difficult to get a second master’s degree since I was getting it from the same university so I was able to talk to the professors there and they were glad to take me as their research student.
What is your advice to the students who want to follow the same path as you?
Firstly, it is important to keep yourself motivated all along. To be able to achieve what you want it is indeed necessary to know what you want. I myself was unaware of what I wanted for the first 3 years at IITM. If you are able to figure that out early on, then you do have a good headstart and an upper hand over the others.
Author: Ishan Buxy (BT-CE ’21)