Do you aspire to be a researcher / academic?
Have you made up your mind that you would pursue PhD?
Heard about Integrated PhD (IPhD) Program? It combines Masters & PhD Program.
Here is a first-hand experience of a student currently pursuing IPhD in a renouned basic-sciences research institute located in Kolkata.
This is an article formatted in a series of Q&A as experientially reflected upon by Soham Saha who is enrolled and purusing an Integrated Doctor of Philosophy (IPhD) program and covers topics like the student / scholar life, course, admission, campus, scope for growth / future opportunities, and other details.
Soham Saha, an aspiring researcher is currently pursuing Integrated PhD program at SN Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences (SNBNCBS), Kolkata. He joined the course after completing BSc (Hons) in Physics from Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences, University of Delhi.
This is a special course for students genuinely interested in scientific research and experiments, that lead to new technologies and advancements. IPhD is basically a combination of MSc and PhD. The total duration is 7 years, 2 years for MSc and 5 for PhD.
The MSc course structure here is quite different from the conventional ones since there is a lot of project work and training, special focus and lectures by various Scientists on problem-solving are included in the curriculum along with the regular subjects. In a way, students get much exposure to the world of Science and Research, the technologies used and interesting experiments, which is a little hard to get in conventional MSc.
The experiences gathered during 2 years of MSc is a major help during PhD. It ensures smooth progress during research. Another vital point to note is that during MSc, you can talk with various professors and scientists to find your interests, work with them and select a good PhD guide, which is very important for research scholars unlike conventional PhD, where you may have no idea of your guide until you work with him or her. This is a major advantage. Sometimes people finish their PhD early too.
The central government provides fellowship for the whole course, which is another advantage. From the beginning of the course until the end, students receive a monthly stipend. The amount depends on the funding agency. For example, SNBNCBs is funded by DST (Department Of Science & Technology), Govt. of India. So, during MSc, students get about 10.5 K per month.
Similarly, MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development) funds IISERs (Indian Institutes of Science Education & Research), CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) also provides funding. IISc (Indian Institute of Science) and TIFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research) are some of the topmost institutes providing IPhD & PhD courses and research opportunities.
Entrance Exams- There are limited seats for such courses (depends annually, but not more than 300 all over the country), and hence the competition is brutal. The most important entrance exam for IPhD is JEST (Joint Entrance Screening Test), which is actually quite tough. Based on your rank, you can apply for various research institutes for this course. TIFR conducts its own entrance. JAM (Joint Admission Test for MSc) is also such an entrance, conducted by IITs. JAM is an online exam. JEST is pen paper-based. Both exams have MCQ types as their majority questions, and some NATs, i.e Numerical Answer Types, where you need to calculate and write the answer in numbers. The entrances are conducted around February. After clearing the exam with a decent rank, students have to apply for the institutes.
Interview- An interview is taken by the institutes, which can last for 10 minutes to as long as 3 hours. A panel of scientists, professors and scholars ask various subject related questions and their basic applications. No need to be afraid though! They usually stick to the basics.
I was encountered by a panel of 6 professors, who asked me about my strong subjects, and questioned me on various aspects of them. They interviewed me for an hour.
Preparation- There are various coaching centres for these entrances like Fiziks and Career Endeavour, which provide notes and tricks for such exams. Personally, I did not attend any coaching, since the concepts are what matter the most and cleared JEST with a rank of 150.
I can share my experience in a research institute, though I do not have much idea about life in IISERs having huge strength of students from various departments. I am in a batch with 12 other students in SNBNCBS. First-year is a little chilled out. Also, there are no projects or external lectures, only course studies. So we get to explore the campus, the library and also various educational and non-educational activities.
Educational Activities- Students usually work in various fields, like Astrophysics, Theoretical Sciences, Computational, Biological and Material Sciences. I myself am pursuing a project on Material Science hoping to continue in the same field. Great seminars and outreach programs are conducted with scientific demonstrations when various students from across the world visit to participate. I was fortunate enough to host such an outreach program once.
Extra-Curricular Activities- There are cultural groups like Music, Dance, Drama; performing on various occasions in the institute. I myself am part of the music band as the lead singer. Social Help Wing is one of the groups working for societal causes.
Campus- The campus is huge and beautiful with a garden of colourful flowers, which is very pleasant to walk around. There are well-built labs and high tech devices. We also have a ground where the students and scholars play games like cricket and football. There is a table tennis court, carrom board, a badminton court, and a gym. So, there are plenty of things to do in leisure apart from academics. Hostel and mess services are within the campus. Our hostel provides a single room for each student. The seniors are very friendly and helpful and we all live together as a family in the institute.
Since the course is pretty much skill-based, students will have an edge over others in research jobs. Also one can develop strong and powerful contacts as they attend and work with various scientists and researchers. Having better experience with apparatus and devices is another add-on.
If you genuinely want to be a scientist, this is a great opportunity.
Hope this article has helped you to understand what an Integrated PhD is like. Please do share your feedback, suggestions, and comments.
You can also reach out to Soham Saha @ Facebook