Exciting times! Ph.D. Students, Collaborations, International teaching

I am probably feeling the most satisfied at this point in time after taking up a faculty job! The reasons are many, most importantly my Ph.D. students. As of now, I have 5 Ph.D. students, by the time I am drafting this post, all of them are outside India. Four of the five have traveled international for the first time in their life. If you would have asked me say around Sept. 2011 whether this is something I would have expected, I would have simply said NO. I was keen on trying to give this sort of exposure to students, but, was not aggressively pursuing it. Some time in Sept. 2011, I thought, “How cool will it be to have a research discussion with my students where the students are calling in from different parts of the world?” Even though, this thought seems very silly and funny at the first sight, it requires some important ingredients to make this work, i.e. finding / using the collaborations to send students, finding research ideas / problems that can excite the collaborator to invite the student, and most importantly finding funds for their travel, accommodation, visa, etc. These can be very time consuming, particularly, for somebody like me who is new to this game. Since I had the “stupid” idea, I wanted to sincerely give it a shot.

So, now the details of the visits: Aditi and Paridhi are visiting Prof. Anupam Joshi at Ebiquity, UMBC, USA. Niharika is visiting Prof. Nitesh Saxena at SPIES, UAB, USA. Prateek is visiting Prof. Maura Conway at DCU, Ireland. Anupama is visiting Prof. Virgilio Almeida at DCC, UFMG. The first call that I had with all my students where each and every one of them was sitting outside India was a satisfying feeling. All credits to my collaborators, well-wishers who have made this possible. This may not be a big feat for many, but, I feel very satisfied that my  ‘stupid’ thought has become a reality. Below is a pic of all five of them in their respective location of their visit (yes, they have fun too!!!). Top left to right: Aditi, Paridhi, Niharika. Bottom left to right: Prateek, Anupama.

Moving on to another exciting thing that was going on in the last 5 weeks, I was teaching the PSOSM course at DCC, UFMG. Students were amazing, they are so hands on and systems people. It is always fun teaching them.  Imagine a class where the Prof (me) speaks in Tamil accented English (with some influence from  American English) 🙂 and students speaking in Portuguese influenced English! The course was always going to be heavy with 4 papers to read every week and write summary for the same. But, the students did well and in particular, I felt the students’ quality of the summary improved as we progressed in the course. Since we read most of the papers published between summer 2011 and summer 2012, it was fun for me also to read the papers in detail and discuss with the students. The course made a wave among the DCC community when we decided to have a poster session; as some faculty were interested in the posters, I was worried about the quality of the posters and the projects. I managed to review the posters before the final day of presentation at least once, thanks to all students who put up with me about deadlines 🙂 Students really rocked on the final poster presentation day. Some pics from the poster session. There were about 30 people who attended the poster session. This was satisfying, I was worried about audience. Thanks to some faculty at DCC too who attended the poster session and gave critical feedback.

Hoping to have many more such posts on ‘Exciting times.’

Life @ISI..

It’s always big when you expect it the least..!!

The day I got selected for the Viterbi India Internship program, I was on cloud nine. It’s a different feeling to be amongst few students across the nation, selected for the prestigious program .

I am working under Dr. Kristina Lerman at Information Science Institute, University of Southern California. My office is located in the beautiful city of Marina del Rey.

My research problem is to compare and create different centrality matrices, to find influential people on social media.I am currently working on attention-limited page rank and attention limited alpha-centrality and their approximate versions. The idea is that non-conservative measures works well for social network, also a person will pay less attention to incoming message from a friend if he is connected to many friends in comparison to another person with less friend.

Global exposure!! It was tough in the beginning – new place, different culture, and different mix of people with different accent…but the mantra is “BE YOURSELF!!”, “DON’T LOOSE FOCUS”,”BE PERSISTENT” and everything will fall in place automatically..thanks to PK for being so supportive and guiding me all the way.

It’s different to work here, surrounded with smart and helpful people. People are curious about India – if people use smart phones in India and are they concerned about their privacy…and we had a long discussion. Got a chance to meet different people at ISI, always involved in different activities with great enthusiasm…people here are inspiring!

It’s rigorous in weekdays and complete fun in weekend…i.e. how ISI works!!

Well its almost been a month here and I am enjoying every bit of it…my work…place…people and even my cooking skills have improved…;):P

Stay tuned for more updates on my research.

Below is a pic of mine with my associations with USC / ISI.

NUS School of Computing trip… Wonderful experience of my life :)

15th March 2012, I was working in the lab, and suddenly got a mail that me and Vivekanand were nominated for a trip to Singapore for attending a workshop at NUS. It was beyond expectation, and I was delighted, ecstatic, overjoyed and excited all at the same time. It’s beyond description.

But then, there was one more hurdle to cross, and we had to wait for the final selection from NUS. I need to apply for this summer school and final selection was by NUS. The application asked my research interest, why NUS should select you and future plans. I filled the application with full enthusiasm. And there it was, got final confirmation from NUS on 4th of April that I got selected for summer school workshop on full scholarship basis, I couldn’t be more happier. Thinking about the things I’d see, things I’d do, all the planning, and my first flight experience made me really excited.

Oh god! I was finally going to Singapore!!

The flight was at 7 AM on 28th and I was very excited as this was my first experience in flight. All went well, and we reached Singapore around 3:30 local time and then took a taxi and within 30 minutes reached NUS.
We were given envelopes containing a card, some campus rules and other some papers. We were allocated rooms in Shreas hall. After that we went to our rooms. The rooms were awesome and well furnished, a study table, almirah, bed and the most importantly the outside scene was superb, breathtaking.

Then after freshening up we went to see the city, it was a really beautiful city, the lights, colors and the people gave it unique warmth. We took rides in the metro, went to malls and did some roaming here and there.

Finally it was the day of workshop, 29th May 2012. 

Breakfast was at 8:30, two PhD scholars came to take us to the workshop location. It was a 5 min walk from the hostel. Being a pure vegetarian, understandably I was very afraid of eating anything. But there was a lady analyzing me and she told that the food is purely vegetarian I can eat without any hesitation, but still I was having doubts, but eventually had the breakfast and went towards the workshop room. We did registration there and got a schedule, a nice water bottle, and some other items, including a laptop cleaning kit and a paper containing wi-fi access credentials.

The workshop started at 9 AM sharp. Starting within introductory speech by Dr. Oor Beng Chin, Dean, SoC. Next up, Dr. Tan Kian Lee, Vice Dean, gave an introduction of the research in NUS and the PhD program and its requirements. Than Dr. Tan Tiow Seng, Vice Dean (Graduate studies), gave a talk on the graduate studies at NUS. That concluded the introduction of the workshop.

Then there was the lunch. ‘Horrible‘ is the word which will most appropriately describe it. I couldn’t get anything proper to eat, some strange rice and some strange vegetable, which is hard to describe. The strangest thing is that for them, fish and Chicken were considered Vegetarian!!!

After the lunch, Dr. R.K. Shyamasundar, Senior Professor, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research gave a talk on ‘program analysis’ and ‘scheduling challenges’.

After some more talks the workshop ended for the day around 5:30 and a bus was waiting for us to take us to Night Safari. This opens at 8:00; before all that we had dinner at 7:00 and surprisingly the food was actually nice. We also had 2 PhD scholars to escort us and help us. There were some professors from NUS. They were personally talking to us, guiding us and encouraging us to pursue PhD. One of the goals of the workshop was to showcase to the students from different colleges the PhD program at NUS. The night safari was pretty nice, it involved going in a Zoo kind of place and exploring the animals, many of which I was seeing for the first time. The safari ended at around 9-45 and we reached NUS by around 10:30, that was the end of the first day.

The first day was Superb

The second day had the similar routine and the talks were primarily based on “Information Systems”, got to know the actual value of user studies and new methods of doing that. During the evening we went to ‘Little India’ a nice place with Indian food and nice shops, we did some shopping there.

The third day was primarily on “Graphical Media”, and there were many nice innovations like Zoomable Video which did automatic video compression by analyzing priority of frames and without involvement of users and the likes. There was one more talk by Dr. Terence Sim which I found very interesting that was faces, photos and fanciful things. This project do virtual make up on a simple face by maping it with existing data set. Existing data set contains some already makeup faces. At the end of the day we went to Marina Bay, where we had the laser show, and the place from where the whole of Singapore can be seen. We also had many other students from IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Mumbai, DCE and we enjoyed talking many things and new ideas, their research experience.

The fourth and the last day was on ‘Data Analytics’ which started with a talk Dr. Anirban Mondal at 9:00, on topic “Crowd Sourcing” it was a good one, many other talks followed and by 12:30 the workshop ended. Dr. Abhik Roy choudhary gave an ending speech and the workshop end with distribution of participation certificates.

Then we had a trip of the NUS campus, it’s pretty large and had various facilities, the library is pretty impressive containing books related to almost every topic. During the evening we went to Sentosa, it’s an island resort 1/2 kilometer from mainland Singapore. It has nice beaches and places to relax. We also visited the ‘Song of the Sea laser show’ and the ‘Underwater Park’, both of which were awesome.

We booked our tickets to give us 2 extra days to see the city. On 2nd we went to the Clarke Quay, and it was really beautiful, the night view of the Quay is superb, the multicolored lights fills up the night sky, it’s a treat to watch. The decorated buildings the food, the smells, the overall environment makes it so inviting. Then we went to some more malls and that was the end of the day.

Next day, the first thing on our minds was the “Universal Studios”. It was a real fun filled place, many rides and shows, the 3D rides, and 4D (Shrek 4D adventure) shows were really nice. The food was good and the roller-coaster was so much fun. The various sets and model cities inside were really beautiful and original.

That was it; our trip was at its end, a nice memorable experience for a lifetime.

The next day we were back to India after a great trip.

Finally, in the end of this blog, I want to thank all the professors who nominated me for this wonderful opportunity. Thank you for all your support because without this i could not achieve anything.

Below is a pic of mine standing in NUS!