Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering, Batch of 2019, College of Engineering, Guindy.
Completed Post-Graduation in University of Melbourne
Interviewer: Vidharshana Ravi (GT)
Interviewee: Rishwant Darun AS
GT: When did you decide to pursue a postgraduate degree in civil engineering?
Rishwanth: I had this idea right from the start of my first year, but it was only during the second and third years that this thought got stronger.
GT: Can you tell us about some of your college internships that were useful in the later stages?
Rishwanth: During my undergrad, I had three internships to my credit. Two of those were in IIT, one in Madras and one in Bombay. The third one was in RWTH Aachen University, Germany through DAAD, which proved to be the icing on the cake when I applied for my PG abroad. All three internships were in different areas. That helped me gain different perspectives on the varied fields. The abroad internship exposed me to how research proceeded outside India, and that was also a factor that sparked my interest.
GT: The University of Melbourne is ranked first in Australia and is one of the top universities in the world. Can you give us some tips and describe your application process to this and the other universities?
Rishwanth: I will say that building a good profile in your college days is very important. You need to take part in internships apart from your academic coursework. It is also necessary to participate in extracurricular activities, clubs, and department societies, to get familiar with organizing and planning. The University of Melbourne is renowned for its civil and structural engineering field, which was one of the reasons I had applied to it. However, this was not the only university I had applied to; it was one amongst many. I was looking at universities in Europe, Australia and Asia. By the end of the process, I got selected in three reputed universities for civil and structural engineering: namely, TU Munich Germany, NUS Singapore, and the University of Melbourne.
GT: For many students, the financial aspect of applying to a college abroad is one of the first blocks that comes to their mind when thinking about pursuing a postgraduate degree. Are there any suggestions regarding this?
Rishwanth: Yes, that is indeed something that has to be taken care of before the application process. To reduce the financial burden, you can mostly look for universities in Europe: specifically in countries like Germany. They generally have lower tuition fees than universities in America or the US. There are also a lot of attractive scholarships that you can try to claim. However, for this, you need to develop a good resume and SOP. You can take help from your faculty when applying for an external scholarship. You also have the option of working as a teaching or research assistant under a faculty in institutes in Europe and the US.
GT: Moving on to projects, what kind of projects did you choose, and how helpful were they?
Rishwanth: In my college years, we had mini-projects from the 3rd semester onwards. Combining two of these into a big project, we did a year-long project, conducting an experimental study on the rehabilitation of ungated dams using Piano Key Weir and Energy Dissipators, to put it briefly. Using past research as a reference, we published a conference paper at an international conference in Orissa which also boosted my application. So doing some publications outside of your curriculum will benefit you. Apart from this, we did another project. This time, it was an extensive study on manufactured sand as an alternative to river sand. This project had started in the 2nd year itself, with the aid of a good mentor. While ultimately, we could not publish it, we presented it in many competitions, even in Kurukshetra. Eventually, we got recognized with the best student innovative project from the CEG Alumni association, and we won a construction industry award given by the then governor Banwari Lal Purohit. So, hence I would encourage you to take up projects out of your interest and do the ones you take up with full passion.
GT: Can you tell us briefly about the internships/projects during post-grad?
Rishwanth: Since I was a coursework master’s student, I did not go much into the research side apart from my final year project, which was on structural health monitoring of cables on pedestrian bridges using radar. We also presented this project at an exhibit organized by our university. Another important thing I learnt during my PG years, which gave me good memories, was scheduling. In between the two lockdowns, we got to carry out field experiments and collect data, all of which required prior work and planning. I would say that this was one of the challenges that we got to address.
GT: Speaking of the lockdown, how has the pandemic impacted your education?
Rishwant: Most foreign universities made a smooth transition to the online mode of education, as they had a solid digital infrastructure. Hence the academic part was not compromised, and we had the online workshops and lecture recordings. But we were impacted by the events outside academics, as those events are where we forged new connections. But luckily, as I got to experience the initial months of college offline, I was able to adapt and sail through the online mode better.
GT: How was the process of shifting from India to another country?
Rishwanth: For me, the offline semester before the pandemic helped a lot with adjusting to the education and social culture there. However, some of my friends did not get much time with their offline semester did face some issues adapting to the social and academic culture abroad. During this transition, it is important to connect with people of different backgrounds outside your academic circle. You can do this by joining professional clubs and societies, volunteering for activities, and through your peer assignment groups; it can help keep you socially active along with improving your network.
GT: Can you tell us about some of the societies and professional clubs you were a part of?
Rishwanth: Back in CEG, I was part of the Society of Civil Engineers and the student chapter of the Indian Concrete Institute. Also, I used to be quite active apart from academics. Currently, I am a part of societies like Melbourne University Civil & Structural Society [MUCSS], Engineers Australia - University of Melbourne Chapter (EA-UMC) and The Institution of Structural Engineers.
GT: What are your plans for the future? And can you share some insights on what you are doing currently?
Rishwanth: In the future, I plan on going into the research and development area. So, to support that, I will be pursuing PhD in this field. The process is underway, and I am currently searching for the institutes with the right research group in a suitable location. Essentially the PhD is my long-term goal. So, before I got started with it, I thought of taking a break and came to Chennai. But to stay connected with the subject, I am working as a project officer at IIT Madras, under a faculty here. So that is my current situation and future goals.
GT: It was great having you here! Thank you for sharing with us your valuable tips and experiences! GT wishes you all the very best for your future endeavors! Thank you for your time.
Rishwanth: I wish all my fellow CEGians success. There are several avenues for moving ahead and building up your career, both in India and abroad, for doing your post-graduation studies, so choose wisely, and all the best once again!