Dear student,

When it comes to meta courses (for example, a seminar, a mini project, or a dissertation), the relationship between a student and a faculty member needs to be addressed especially in the Indian context. This document is about choosing guides.

First of all, remember that both of us work together, and so it is important for the match to be a mutual consent.

In an ideal situation, only the student with the right (whatever that means) background will approach me, and that will exactly be equal to the number of students I can handle. And this will happen to every potential guide. However, as we all know, the world is not ideal. And you have limited time.

So what are the practical realities and how should you choose your advisor? After thinking about this over various periods of time, when it comes to working with me, I have come to the conclusion that you must make your decision ABOUT MTP+seminar SOONER rather than later (i.e., in the FIRST semester). I will not be able to be your MTP guide if you come in the second semester, especially if you haven't taken classes in the ViGIL area.

As a second level degree seeker, you should know what area you want to work in. But I don't know what I am interested in, you say. I don't know the professor's interests and whether it will all work out. Right. Nobody can argue that you should not do your homework; that you just plunge in. In fact M.Tech's who are not TAs (viz. RA) have exactly this luxury (so why not think 3 year program is the flagship program).

The key problem is that there are limited resources. Let's say you figured out after a semester, many courses, and halfway through the next (2nd) semester that Area Z is what you want to spend time. Great. You might have done this on various considerations. How tough the area is. What the job prospects are. How bad the prof in Area X is. And so on.

Now ask yourself. What's the chance that your friend will not have come to the same conclusion? Is he or she likely to be too different from you in terms of job prospects, good/bad prof and so on. Since both of you came through GATE with marginal difference in quality, the chances are that you will think alike on this topic rather than differently

And your friend might have done a course or a seminar in Area Z. Who do you think the prof in Area Z will pick?

Or you might have done in Area Z and she might not have :-)

Look at it this way. If you have a decent but not great GATE score, you can apply to various IITs and grab IITB if you get it, but pick up IITK if you don't. But I think you are fooling (cheating) yourself if you think that you are more free if you make the decision of project in semester two. In semester two you might not have a choice anyway, because the Professor concerned would have picked the student he worked with anyway.

Of course individual skills, interests might differ. So do the homework but remember that changing next semester might be too late. There is of course the risk that you might not have enough time to do the homework AND you made a bad choice. You could of course opt out (in the 1st sem!) in this case. Note: If you take a seminar in the first semester, you can do one less course in the first semester, and take a R&D project in the second semester. This is an excellent way to do your masters (research) work.