Updated: Sep 30, 2020
Passionate about creating an impact on society through science and technology, Rama Devi is currently working in the R&D sector at Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL). She passed out in 2017 with a Dual Degree in Chemical Engineering. An introvert nerd by nature, she initially found it difficult to adjust with IIT life, but after finding a group of like-minded people and helpful professors, she gradually became accustomed to the journey, which she now refers to as the most marvelous phase in her life.
When asked about the time she realized R&D was her true calling:
I think it wasn’t one moment, but a set of experiences that nudged me towards R&D. My experience with the courses here in the Chemical department initially got me interested in exploring real-life applications. I, therefore, decided to do my first internship, at the end of the second year, at Shell. It was a very fruitful one, where I got to see chemical engineering principles live and working. I got to apply mass transfer and heat transfer concepts to solve some issues faced at the plant I was working in. In the third year, I got selected for an internship at HUL R&D (and later accepted my PPO) and finally, my master’s thesis involved the development of green photocatalysts for the splitting of visible light. After all this exposure to R&D in different setups, having enjoyed each of them, it was clear to me that research is something I would like to do in the future as well.
So, how would you describe R&D?
In one word? Expectations.
R&D is a very intellectually satisfying field if you enjoy science and technology. It involves a lot of basic understanding and development, hence is VERY time-gobbling. For some people, it can get frustrating but if one has the patience, the impact of research is huge. Compared to other functions like marketing, sales, finance and general management, the growth and pay is a little lower, however, within the same firm.
The demarcation between corporate research and academic research lies in the fact that corporate is based on products, kind of application-based research where you focus primarily on a product that will reach out to many people. In academic research, you complete your PhD fellowship and then you aim towards becoming a professor or a research scientist. If you really enjoy the pursuit of science, then you must go for a PhD. Also, for IIT students, it’s easy to do a PhD abroad.
Courses at IITD:
“I was more interested in knowing what different departments had to offer instead of focusing on one branch. I was particularly inclined to take up courses offered by the HSS and NRCVEE department. Hence, I ended up doing courses on literature, philosophy, ethics, social innovation and sustainable development. Much of my worldview has been shaped by these courses. As engineering students, we are wired to think in a very linear fashion, with the mindset of one problem one solution. Social science courses open up your mind to the world of subjectivity and ambiguity. Developing this mindset is challenging yet very valuable life skill to operate once you graduate. It helps you understand the world and the people around you better, something which engineering courses cannot teach you. So in a nutshell, one could use open electives as an opportunity to explore and expand the boundaries of their personal development.”
Was having a great CGPA crucial?
Yes and no. Honestly, it helps to have a CGPA above 8 in getting noticed in internships and placements. Companies use this as a primary filtering criterion to shortlist candidates. However, CGPA is not a reflection of a student’s potential and wherever I’ve been to or met, CGPA has never been a determinant.
But one shouldn’t use it as an excuse to not work hard. According to me, the objective of being in college is neither to get placed nor score a great CGPA but to learn how to learn and unlearn when required. It is to develop analytical capability, leadership, interpersonal and communication skills. One should hence focus on getting maximum learning from both the academic and non-academic setups in IIT.
Failure 101 and Life Fundae:
Success stories start by realizing that failures as they are, the stepping stones towards achieving something really big. We always talk about achievements but there’s a need to talk about failures also because that is when you’re really struggling and coming out of it requires motivation and strength. Discussing some of her failures, she mentioned that she couldn’t land a foreign internship in her second year at a time when many of her friends had. One should not be afraid of trying different ventures, as they provide learning experiences even if we fail in it. It’s more about evolving and growing. Also, the success criteria for foreign research internships are spamming :P.
Remember, that you go to college only once. You can always switch jobs and get a better job (really, that’s how it is in the market) but while in college you should make full use of the environment that you get and should get to know yourself better because there’s no other place where you have so much freedom to explore things. Once you’re in a job you won’t get time and space to breathe. Lastly, help is always given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it (HP intensifies) and the same applies at IITD.
Interviewed by Priyanshi