National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli invited 30 aspirants for interview/counselling on 7th July 2017. They released this notification on 15th June 2017 on their website, with very limited information. It was not at all clear what will exactly happen on 7th July until we reached the campus.
I reached Trichy a day before, just to be on safer side. My brother was accompanying me and we had a booking in Breeze Residency, a hotel which was less than a kilometre away from TPJ (station code) railway station. However, later I learned that the retiring rooms of the station were equally good. You can make your pre-bookings of the retiring room from IRCTC website.
We decided to spend our day visiting tourist places in Trichy. We learned from the housekeeping staff that Trichy is full of places with religious significance. First, we visited Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam, which is the largest active Hindu temple in the world. Later, we visited Rockfort temple which was situated on huge rock mountain at a height from where the entire city was visible. We were done by late afternoon. For the rest of the day, I just relaxed and prepared myself for the next day.
The admit card released by NIT Trichy mentioned interview/counselling timings as 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm. However, the notification of shortlisted student said that the reporting time is 10:30 am. We decided to reached there before 10:30 am, again just to be on safer side. Later, it turned out to be a right decision. It takes roughly 45 mins to reach NIT Trichy Campus from railway station/bus stand. When I reached the department, they directed me towards the conference hall and asked me to wait there with others. Two persons from the Institute entered the room and asked all of us to show them our documents one by one. I was asked to be the first.
The objective of this phase was to award marks to students in different categories. Different categories include our score in undergraduate, GATE score, any award or research paper published and lastly the interview. They had predefined criteria, based on which they were awarding marks to each student in each category except for the Interview.
Later, we were taken to their meeting room for the interview. This time I was fourth in sequence. Finally, they called out for me. I entered the room, and my heart sank seeing more than 15 professors and associate professors in front of me. However, calmness of their face made me feel comfortable. HOD on the far end of the conference table asked me to take the seat. And the series of questions began.
HOD: What is your GATE Score?
HOD: Please introduce yourself.
Me: I wasn't expecting this question, but I tried to confidently introduce myself.
HOD: Have you got any offer of admission in M.Tech from any institute?
Me: No ma'am, not yet.
HOD: What is your research interest?
Me: Algorithms and Data Structures.
And just when those words came out of my mouth Dr K Viswanathan Iyer turned toward me and with a pause started to ask questions
K: Are your familiar with Graph Algorithms?
Me: Yes Sir.
K: Explain Depth First Search.
Me: Explained, in simple words without using any jargons.
K: Applications of DFS?
Me: We can use DFS to find the paths from point A to B in a graph.
K: Please be more specific.
Me: Finding all possible paths between two nodes in a graph.
I was disappointed by myself for giving such a simple and obvious application. I should have given a much better application that was a bit research oriented.
K: Explain Breadth First Search.
Me: Gave my explanation in a comparative style. Comparative to the explanation given for DFS.
He looked convinced.
K: It is given that there is a negative edge weight cycle in the path between two nodes. Why there cannot be a shortest path between these two nodes?
Me: Gave an argument that there will always be a shorter path between those two nodes by going around the negative edge weight cycle one more time.
He acknowledged my answer by nodding.
K: What is Dynamic Programming?
Me: Explained the crux of Dynamic Programming.
K: There exists a shortest path between two nodes 's' and 't'. There is a node in that path, say 'x'. The path from 's' to 'x' will be the shortest path or not.
I asked him to repeat the question for me, as I could not get it with clarity. He did it with patience. But I took time more than their expectation to understand the question. So they decided to move one. Had it been the case, I could understand the question a bit more quickly, I could have answered that as well.
HOD: What would you choose if you get an offer for both M.Tech and M.S (by research)
HOD: That would be all. Thank you, Prateek.
Me: Thank you, ma'am. Thank you, everyone.
It was a very short interview of 7-10 mins. When it was all done, they asked us to leave and said that they will update the result on the website in a week or so.
It was a really nice experience. Here are my takeaways from this experience.
- Learn about at least one important application of a theoretical concept. It should come out from the top of your head whenever asked for.
- Take your time to answer the questions but learn to understand questions as quickly as possible.
- Be very very clear with your explanation. We were not asked to explain our concepts on board. Thus, it has to be just what it is, nothing more nothing less.
- Lastly, do not be very hard on yourself. They very well understand the gap of knowledge between a teacher and a student. They never expect you to fill it, but just to bridge it.