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Mahesh Ramani

Mahesh Ramani is a senior content editor for the Hotcourses India- an IDP company.


13 Jun 2016 749 Book icon 3 mins Share

The Challenging Life of a Research Associate in the USA

Here’s a look at the challenging life that research associates lead in the USA!

13 Jun 2016 749 Book icon 3 mins Share
Mahesh Ramani

Mahesh Ramani is a senior content editor for the Hotcourses India- an IDP company.


Share this article
The Challenging Life of a Research Associate in the USA

This is based on an account sent by a student who is pursuing a research degree in the USA. I have not mentioned his name or the name of the university for security reasons.

Note - Hotcourses India or its employees do not subscribe to the thoughts or views expressed by the student.

Dear Diary,

It’s been a full five years since I landed here. Five years since I visited India. Crave for mom’s cooking and cracking jokes with dad. It was a conscious decision, I knew what I was getting into and I have no regrets. Skype and video-chats bridge distances but it is a harsh price of loneliness and solitude that I have paid to pursue my doctorate.

I finished my B.Tech in Computer Science in India. An MS in Computer Science with a brilliant academic score opened up opportunities for scholarships and on the advice of my professor, I ventured into a postgraduate research programme that focuses on AI and low-cost computing devices. Working as a research associate at the University; I also take classes for the undergrads and the money that comes in helps me a fair bit.

My research seems to be never ending. My schedule is chock-a-block full. The day starts at 6 AM. 9 AM to 11 AM I teach a class on programming. Then I head to the lab and at my work-station, I go back to my research project. We are lucky to be funded and our research progress has been slow but meaningful and steady. There are two more associates involved on this project. It’s a special project our aim is to break the ‘under $50 barrier’ for the device that we aim to create. We have worked on creating a customised Linux kernel and it has been mix and match with various hardware components.

My research partners are from Nigeria and Bhutan. All three of us are passionate about creating a device that will bridge the learning gap in schools in each of our countries. The aim - a robust device, which will make learning accessible and affordable.

1:30 PM to 2:30 PM is lunch. 3 to 4 PM I get to take one more class. After a quick coffee, we work on our research till about 7 PM or 8 PM. Nothing is fixed, on some days work goes late into the night, not necessarily just at the lab. Each of us has a prototype that we have created and we keep testing it, running various applications and ensure that it works properly and will serve the purpose. If all goes well the prototype will receive full clearance in February 2017. That will help me complete my research project. I am lucky to have a professor who is intelligent and guides me and my team. Not everyone is as lucky!

OK – it is time for me to end this entry, all I can say to those who will read this entry is that be confident, chase your dreams, be prepared to stay far away from family and friends, the final result the culmination of your academic dream will be worth every pain and effort!


Our two cents:

Research scholars have a tough time, from project approval, to actual sanction of funds and working on creating something new or discovering something afresh requires tremendous patience and courage. It is extremely challenging, the constant fear of failure, the shadow of a doubt that one is on the wrong track, can all lead to a lot of stress.

The recent shootout on the UCLA campus that led to the deaths of one senior professor and a research scholar are just one in growing instances of behavioural disorders and stress among research scholars.

We advise that you seek medical advice whenever you feel the slightest twinge of depression or stress. Stay connected with family and friends, make new friends, keep yourself occupied with hobbies even when you are working on your project. Learn to compartmentalise your life and stay focused on your goals. As we always say – a bit of yoga, a bit of music and jotting down your thoughts actually helps.

 Get in touch with us to find a university in the USA and apply to study there!

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