Wednesday, 3 August 2016

My journey into Geotechnical Engineering

My journey into Geotechnical Engineering started some 22 years back when Soil Mechanics and Foundation engineering course was offered in my undergraduate third year at Bengal Engineering College. I immediately fell in love with the subject and even chose Geotechnical Engineering as my elective too. After getting my Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, I wrote the GATE exam and secured a percentile score good enough to get a seat in the revered Jadavpur University. And from here, my journey began with Geotechnical Engineering. MS program in Geotechnical Engineering educates and prepares individuals for careers as geotechnical engineers in the areas of soil mechanics, foundation engineering and environmental geotechnics. 

Let me take this opportunity to explain what this Geotechnical Engineering is all about. Every structure on earth, whether it be a building, bridge, dam, retaining wall, railway line, highway, canal, pipeline, landfill, or pavement is founded on soil and/or rock. Geotechnical Engineering is a branch of Civil Engineering that is concerned with studying the engineering properties of soil and rock and its behavior under the influence of proposed loading forces.
After receiving my Master’s degree with specialization in Geotechnical Engineering, I worked in the industry as a geotechnical engineer. Job prospects are excellent because every construction project involves foundation work. With increasing use of developed land many projects involve the challenge of building on difficult ground such as swamps, or hills. In these areas, specialists like geotechnical engineers and consultants are needed.

If you are wondering what the geotechnical professionals do, here you go. The geotechnical engineer is involved in field and laboratory investigations to determine the engineering properties of site soils. The basic responsibilities include obtaining soil and rock samples at different depths across sites, testing samples to determine their strength, compressibility and other factors that affect the behavior of soil and rock when a structure is built on top of it and determining the safe loading level for the soil. In short, the work of a geotechnical engineer includes five key activities: desk study or research into existing information, ground investigation (gathering new data), interpretation (understanding new data), analysis and design, and finally construction (or remediation).

After working in the industry for good 8 years, I decided to pursue a PhD in Geotechnical Engineering because by then, my thirst for the course had increased so much that I wanted to conduct research. Deep in my heart I cherished my wish to become a professor. I chose to do research on landfills. So, I looked up at all the prospective research areas in the US and UK universities. I got an offer from Cambridge University but financially I could not afford and so finally settled down on the work done by a professor at Michigan State University in US. I took guidance from Career Plan where iGradGlobal's Biruda Virkud worked earlier. With good GRE, TOEFL and TSE scores, recommendations from my professors and my notable work in Master’s thesis, I landed up at MSU with full scholarship. Within four years, I finished my PhD and after that I worked at a college as a Professor where I designed a brand new course on Geotechnical Engineering. My love for Geotechnical Engineering continues till today…..

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Should our students be groomed better to fit top global schools?

My nephew turns 3 this month, so is eligible to commence his formal schooling journey this year.  I was initially very excited to hear about this from my sister, only to later find out that this little toddler, who can't even frame sentences yet, had to actually qualify for this elite ICSE school seat in the hi-tech locality of Pune city, through an "exam".

As the kid progresses through his schooling years, so does the number of entrance exams he needs to take to stay competitive.

All along our academic life from the age of 3 to the age 21 and thereafter while securing a job /career, we have been conditioned to appear for and excel at entrance exams.You can't expect overnight transitions in the approach.  Students cannot be made to rethink or rewire this thinking when they start aspiring for that top global admit.

Being in the higher education counselling/mentoring space for about 15 years, I have tried in vain to make students see the point of how the admission in global universities is subjective and does not depend only on entrance tests alone. You can't blame them, when they repeatedly ask me, "Ma'am, I aspire to study at Stanford! Could you inform me what are the entrance test cut offs there?"

I am always lost on how to react when they say, "Let me first pass the GRE/GMAT/SAT exam and then approach you for admission counselling."

Here's a piece of advice to all those who are aspiring a seat in top universities like MIT (note that MIT does not even seek a GRE score): global university admissions are a very subjective selection process.

Academics scores +  Entrance test scores + relevant profile (it's a sum total)

So, its in the student's best interest to gain more practical skills relevant to his/her subject of interest which will help boost their overall candidature.

Remember, high test scores are just 1/3rd the battle won in the admission process, success lies in presenting a winning application strategy supported by a strong relevant profile.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Recommendations (LORs) - the long and short of it ...

How do letters of recommendation add to the storyline that your application creates?

Did you know that the way you're perceived by your professors or boss has a direct impact on your application? Not for nothing that you're always hearing the sage advice to better be in their good books.

Let's understand the WHO, WHAT and HOW of these letters.

People who know you technically/professionally. Not peers, uncles and friends please! Identify 3 such people who can vouch for you.

Should not contain just a list of adjectives, but rather an endorsement of your soft skills which are otherwise not reflected in your mark sheets. Desirable qualities might include good research and/or leadership skills, elucidated through examples and incidences.

These are sent mostly online through application forms by providing their official ids and receiving a link and updating the content.


  • These are confidential letters not to be seen by the applicant.
  • The designation and qualification of the person providing the recommendation does not matter as much the content and relevance.

A bad reference can turn an admission decision. After all, it is other people's opinion about you that also matters in securing that coveted ADMIT!!

Friday, 19 February 2016

Financing your Global Masters - It's all about money management

Just yesterday, we were at the UVCE College conducting a seminar.

In an attempt to get started, I asked the students, "What is first thing that comes to your mind when you think of study abroad?". Pat came the reply, "Money".

I was happy to get this unison answer thinking that they were thinking of the immense earning potential after pursuing MS, but soon realized the look of concern on their faces was about the affordability of the program.

Most students who aspire to get an admit into top global universities have the potential do so, yet dread the costs that accompany this.

How to work on a plan that is easy on your parents' pockets and yet helps you bag a dream admit?

The first word of advice would be to look at pursuing a GLOBAL MS as a long term investment in terms of money, time and benefit. 

Here are some sources and ways that could help you fund your cost of education:
  • Scholarships – Scholarships from universities for international students is always merit-based not need-based.
  • Scholarships from India like BPCL, Tata endowment etc.
  • Part-time work options on campus: Up to 20 hours per week.
  • Student Loans – Banks provide loan up to Rs. 20 lakhs.
  • Personal funds like sponsor’s PF, savings, FD’s etc.
Let’s look at the payback scenario after MS program:
  • Typical cost of MS: Rs. 20-30 lakhs
  • With internship: Save ~Rs. 5 lakhs
  • Assistantships reduce tuition to  1/3rd
  • Starting salary in US:
    • Graduate from (say in top 50): US $75k to 110k per year
    • Average starting package in US: Around US$ 65k per year
Considering the living expenses, you will be able to repay your loan in a year.

Thus what matters here is the considering this as a well spent effort in terms of time, money and effort and thus becoming a well groomed global resource.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Its raining admits @ iGradGlobal - Persistence is the key to Success

Here are the recent success stories at iGrad  for Fall 2016:

  • UG - PURDUE - COMP Science
  • MBA -  TEPPER- Carneige Mellon and ISB , Southern Methodist Univ -  COX school of business 
  • MIS - SUNY BUFFALO - waitlist
  • MS Computer Science - Santa Clara Univ , Univ of Texas -Dallas

As I pen down these thoughts, I am wondering what has made our students make it to TOP Universities 

While traversing through this time consuming journey, some call  us as rude, some call us aggressive , but if that makes them succeed and get the best  , then so be it .
Whether it is a fresher or someone with even 15 years work experience ,all are treated alike with the same  belonging  and accountability and responsibility  as one big family and this relation goes a long way .

 Practice persistence - Most people give up when they are about to achieve success - they quit on the one yard touch down line  Remember Persistence is the single most common quality of all achievers across the globe.
These  students have achieved success through persistence  and hard work , you too can be one of them...

Looking forward to sharing  more SUCCESS STORIES  
​in the coming days ...​