As a small child I remember trying to make a pyramid of cards and failing repeatedly. What I had always been missing those days was the need to focus on creating a strong base rather than abruptly rushing on to reach the top. With my undergraduate study at an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the best technological institutes in India with inarguably the toughest selection ratio (~2%) in the world I am sure that the strong base required to build the pyramid is laid and the next level to reach my goals would be to do my graduate studies at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Born in an era of technological revolutions, witnessing the advent of cell phones, mp3 players, digital cameras, computers, laptops, internet, DVDs to name a few, I developed a strong liking for technology from my childhood. It was clear that Mathematics and Science were the subjects which fascinated me and my accomplishments in various quizzes and competitions in school fuelled my exploration of these subjects. It was in my eleventh standard when I got 12th rank in the Regional Mathematics Olympiad, conducted by NHBM, Govt. f India that I got exposed to elements of Discrete Mathematics, particularly Combinatory and Graph Theory, outside the regular school curriculum at an early stage.
The intensive training programs we were put through for the Olympiads gave me a lot of confidence in dealing with abstract mathematical problems. I represented my region among around 200 students from all over India in the National Mathematics Olympiad. Next year my dedication towards my work got rewarded when I cleared the various prestigious national level examinations of India which made it further clear what I was meant to do in life.
It began when I cleared the KVPY Examination, which is one of the highest valued and most competitive scholarship examinations conducted by Govt. of India and received a call letter from IISER Pune (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research) for admission to their BSc course with the KVPY Fellowship. Next I secured a rank of 290 in National Entrance Screening Test making me eligible for admissions to NISER (National Institute of Science Education and Research) whereby the selection rate is only 0. 325 %.
But finally I choose to pursue Electrical Engineering from IIT Bhubaneswar after envisaging the broad range of research areas this field would provide me like control and automation, telecommunications, signal processing, analogue and digital electronics and Power systems. The undergraduate study at IIT Bhubaneswar has been a defining step in giving shape to my dreams. The cut throat competition among the best of students in India demanded sincere efforts and meticulous planning. I honed my analytical skills, technical prowess and aptitude for innovation.
Moreover, I learnt the significance of proper planning and resilience to prevail over hard times, thus helping me mature as an individual. It was just a few months in my undergraduate studies, that I realized that the true charm of engineering existed in its application and to gain an insight into the wider domains of Electrical Engineering I pursued internships every year during the summer vacations. The excitement to explore new things and learn new concepts kept me busy during the off college hours.
At the end of first year I choose to explore the area of embedded systems and took an internship in DOEACC, a Govt. of India Center, which not only offered me an insight to microcontrollers but made me realize the grandness of the field, motivating me to explore even more. I developed a snake game using 8051 series of controller as a small project in the internship. Returning back to college after the vacations my first task became to join the Robotics Society of the Institute and to share my experiences and to motivate juniors and fellow students to enjoy and discover the aspects this field had to offer.
I became the core member of the Robotics Team and offered various seminars and made various robots including line follower, glider etc. as a part of the team. This fascination for robotics was widened in next semester when I learnt new topics in class and in topics like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Digital Signal Processing (DSP) I found my particular interest. Thereby I choose to do my second internship in IIT Delhi where I did work on Artificial Intelligence based Biometric Authentication. This period of 3 months led me to get insights into topics which I haven’t explored till then .
Here I not only got the idea of various image processing techniques but also about various classifiers and soft computing techniques like Neural Networks and Evolutionary Algorithms which proved handy throughout my undergraduate studies. Here I coauthored my first research paper which was published in Springer LNCS as a part of proceedings of international conference SEMCCO’11. Unable to resist my immaculate desire to learn even new things and filled with the inspiration to make something useful for the people I kept researching and this time speech processing caught my eye.
I was selected for internship in Deutsche Telekom laboratories- TU Berlin (The R&D Center of the largest telecommunications company in Europe). These 3 months of internship in a technologically advanced country gave me an international exposure. My continued interaction with scientists, professors and students from all around the world working in the lab filled me with extreme motivation and broadened my thinking. I worked on emotion recognition from speech and we extracted a new set of features which helped in improvement of accuracy and my paper got accepted in International conference ICECIT 2012, India and will be published by Elsevier.
The interest in speech processing I developed in Berlin was to be further intensified as I choose to work on making a novel speaker and emotion recognition system in my final year B. Tech project under the supervision of an eminent professor in the field of Digital Signal Processing Prof. Ganapati Panda, Deputy Director and Head of school of Electrical Sciences, IIT Bhubaneswar. Realizing the fact that Indian languages have not been studied much with the aspects of emotional speech, my first task became to create an Indian language database for the study.
I experimented and found out that the traditional speaker recognition system failed in an emotional environment and needed to be modified to take emotions into account and I am working on it. To supplement and strengthen my domain knowledge, I am taking up course on Biomedical Signal Processing in my final year at IIT. Looking back and introspecting I have figured out the true meaning of the quote late Mr. Steve Jobs said in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.
Connecting the dots I have realized my true ambition to do research work oriented towards the areas of machine learning, signal processing and pattern recognition aiming towards development of something useful for the mankind and a Masters course in Electrical Engineering would provide me an excellent platform for achieving the same. From the development of Intelligent Robots with the ability to learn natural language, understand emotions, having an improved vision system to the use of signal processing in medical applications all these have considerably motivated me to choose my future in this field.
With the Mars Rover Curiosity marking a technological triumph, imagining a world in future where robots would be assisting humans in their daily work, where technology would be providing the cure for the differently abled people, where there will be an ceaseless growth of automation and where human computer interaction will reach to newer domains has not just remained a dream. I believe that my ambitions, academic excellence, research work are all in unison with what UCSB MS program in Electrical Engineering expects.
In the research activities going on in various labs and research groups like Advanced Graphics Lab, Vision Research Lab, System Bio Imaging Lab I have found a marvelous synchronization of my ongoing research work. The amazing research work by Prof. Pradeep Sen in the field of computer graphics such as development of augmented reality based systems, the work by Prof Manjunath on image processing, the work by Prof. L. Rabiner on speech processing and many other works going on in an interdisciplinary environment such as in IGERT program have not only motivated me to join UCSB Electrical Engineering Dept. ut has left a deep influence on my mind to be a part of the change towards a better future.
The intellectually rich, vibrant and multi-cultural student community at UCSB will manifold my process of learning and exploring the unexplored. It is said – “Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan”. Here I am standing at an important path of my career and connecting all the dots I am sure about my goal, my future and sure about the perfect master’s program which will help me achieve my dreams.