Q. Can you tell us a bit about your background? A. I am originally from Paraguay, and I moved to India in 2012. I wanted to do my undergraduate degree in mathematics, and Paraguay does not have good options for that. So I started looking for universities abroad, and India was a good choice because I had some contacts here who helped me move here. I did my undergraduate and my masters from St. Stephen’s College. I joined the PhD program of IITD in 2018.
Q. When did you realize that you wanted to do a PhD? Why IIT Delhi? A. There was no particular reason as such for doing a PhD. I had not really thought of what I should do after my masters, so I chose to do a PhD as a way to continue doing maths, which I liked very much. Technically, I did not select IITD. I was working with Dr Tripathy during my masters, and we managed to publish two papers during that time. So I decided to continue my work with him for my PhD. I think that IITD has met my expectations so far. While the courses here are good, I believe that the most impressive aspect of IITD is the people. The people here are really good and nice, especially undergraduate students. I have met a lot of remarkable people during my time here.
Q. Can you tell us about your research topic? A. I do not have one research topic in particular. I work on several topics in the field of Number Theory and Algebra. I mainly work on Numerical semigroups, which, in layman terms, are sets of numbers closed under addition. We are studying its properties and trying to discover new ideas related to it. We are also trying to solve several “small” problems in numerical semigroups. More specifically, we are trying to solve problems related to proportionally modular numerical semigroups and certain invariants of some numerical semigroups.
Q. How did you find PhD life different from UG and PG life? What was your experience as a TA? A. I would say that your PhD life is more up to you, as you have many more personal responsibilities than in UG or PG. Most of my bachelor's and master's life were spent “fighting” against exams. In a PhD, you have to “fight” more against yourself. I also got to interact with a lot of UG students as a TA. As I mentioned before, the students here are outstanding. They follow everything done in the class, and it was a great experience being a TA.
Q. How did you find India as compared to Paraguay? Any cultural shocks? A. India is a much bigger country than Paraguay with many more places to visit and more places to see. India also has a much richer history. Regarding the student mindset, I think the main difference is that Indians students tend to be more competitive than us. You have more opportunities in India than in Paraguay, but you also have to fight more for them. Paraguay has a minimal research culture as compared to India. One could say that it is because Paraguay has a much smaller population (~7 million). Still, I believe that it is mainly because the actual percentage of people who go into research is very tiny. One major cultural shock that I faced was people bargaining for prices in the market, with the autorickshaw guy, etc. This does not usually happen in Paraguay.
Q. Can you walk us through your typical weekdays and weekends at IIT? A. On weekdays, I would come to IIT at around 8 or 9 after having breakfast at my apartment. I start off with a discussion with my advisor. If I have to give a tutorial, I would also prepare for it. The rest of the day is spent reading research papers and working on my research. I usually leave around 5-6 PM, but when there are more classes/work, I remain there till 8 PM. On weekends, my brain doesn’t like to work (laughs), so I go out for a walk in the morning and also try to engage in some sport after coming back.
Q. What is your social life at IIT like? Did you find it tough to make friends here initially? A. I don't really have much of a social life at IIT. That is because I stay off-campus, so I just come for my work and leave in the evening. I haven’t explored or roamed around IIT very much. Back at my apartment, I do have a friend circle with whom I go for activities such as cycling or drinking tea. I wouldn’t say that it was tough making friends here. I am an introvert, so it was somewhat challenging due to that, but people are very open here and have always been kind to me. I have also visited some tourist places during my time here in India such as Manali. I personally liked the hill stations better than the other places.
Q. How has COVID affected your work and your family? How do you spend your time? A. It has not had a significant impact on my research since I can work remotely. I am currently staying in India and I am locked at home like most of us. But I have managed to continue research here at home, which has helped me keep going through the pandemic. Aside from this, I like to read books sometimes. Recently, I have started to go cycling or running because I do not have much else to do. My family is in Paraguay, and like all the other countries, they are also suffering due to the pandemic. They are safe but stuck at home due to lockdown.