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Alum Album #3: Prof. Rohan Jain, IITD

Updated: Sep 30, 2020

In this issue of Alum Album, we have someone who’s familiar with both sides of the line and addresses one of the most sought after and paramount questions of college life: doing a job vs pursuing research. We also try to delve deeper into how his decisions molded his life after college and post-grad school experiences.

Rohan Jain is amongst the youngest faculty member in our college. He graduated in 2008 and returned as an assistant professor 10 years later in 2018, as a faculty member.

Did you see yourself as a faculty member here at IITD, as a student? How does it feel to be on the other side of the line, as a faculty (chuckle)?

“I always wanted to be a big shot in an analyst or consult firm, being a professor wasn’t even in my wildest dreams, but I’m delighted I ended up here! One thing is for sure, I appreciate my professors a lot more now than I used to as a student (laughs). On a more serious note, the students now are much more motivated and clear about what they want to do although I’d also say you guys are entitled brats!”

“Nowadays everyone is trying to set up a startup at the age of what 23-25, but what I have come to believe is first settle down, refine your idea and then work towards launching it, maybe when you’re in your late thirties. Of course, you could start working on your startup idea in your early 20s but only if you’re honest with yourself and motivated enough to pursue it and go the distance.”

How would you describe your life as a student here? How have things evolved here over the years?

“I struggled a bit in my first year, you know there’s this whole shift in your life, the city changes and the lifestyle differences. I eventually settled down, and the next 4 years were the best in my life.”

“In my freshman year, the seniors used to force us to attend all the competitions, and if not participating we were supposed to cheer for our hostels. It seemed ridiculous to me in the beginning, but anyway me and my friends were ever-present in most of the matches, shouting “Jai Kumaon” at the top of our voices. The mess food was as bad as it could have been.”

“The Nescafe guy, he’s still the same, just grown a bit fat (laughs). There isn’t a decent eatery on the campus. If you have a visiting guest, you still have to take him over to SDA.  Although the new LHC is a welcome change.”

As an alumnus of the dual degree program at the DBEB department, he very fondly cherishes his memories of his last few months here, when his masters’ project advisor used to host dinners in his house for lab members. “Dr T.R. Sreekrishnan is a great person, he’s a world-class chef and the food was just phenomenal. ”

Tell us about your journey after college. 

“Right after my dual degree here at IIT- D in 2008, I had a decent placement in a biotech consultancy firm in Gurugram. The pay was good and the stay too was excellent. I worked there for a couple of years, but there was this question in the back of my head, ‘Can I do this for the rest of my life?’ I didn’t know for sure. This realisation would have been even late if I would have been placed at one of the top consulting firms. So I decided to go for a research internship in Paris to get a hold of what it’s like working in a lab.”

“The independence was nice (for a change). You could set your own deadlines and not have to follow a deadline set by a cocky boss to please a client. It was a top-notch experience and after these 11 months, I went for a Ph.D. from Delft University, working on environmental technologies. After this I was in Finland for 15 months then a couple of years in Germany. I loved the new work, the research domain, and also the scenic beauty of Europe. I could actually see the aurora from my balcony while I was in Finland. It was breathtaking.”

“After these experiences, I knew I had taken the right decision. Although I might’ve gathered more money while I was in the firm, what matters is the value of the money. What I think is you need to love your job, otherwise, your life becomes miserable.”

To finish up, what final message would you like to give to students?

“This is the best phase of your life. You won’t ever be again in this sort of a protective environment neither will you get such peers. You should never feel when you graduate that you missed out on something. If you want to do it, just do it.”

Journalist - Animesh Parihar

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