Saturday, August 24, 2013

IITBNF Day - Testimonial Speech

I felt good, when Prof Anil asked me whether I could give a 2.5 mins testimonial on how my journey at IITBNF has been over the last four years. Without any hesitation, I said Yes. Here is the full text of the speech, which was delivered on 23-8-2013.

"My association with IITBNF started four years back, in June 2009. The last four years have been rewarding as a student, as every day in lab is a learning experience. IITBNF gave me the right platform to learn not only through experiments but also through discussion with peers. Not only did I learn the basic research methodology but was also introduced into the world of purchase orders, quotations, tender specifications and so on, which I am most certain would auger well for my future.
What stands out for me is the freedom given to a student to innovate and go ahead with experiments that may at times not be directly connected to the research topic. I believe such level of flexibility is hard to come by and I would like thank all the faculty members associated with IITBNF for giving this free hand to students. There have been many occasions, when I had to open up equipments and troubleshoot it with the help of staff members. The thrill of getting a tool up and running is fulfilling, and has left me contended. When I tell my mother about these exploits in lab, she tells me that she should probably warn the faculty members before they entrust me with any equipment, for she has a collection of radios and time pieces which i had damaged beyond repair in my pursuit to learn how it works.
For me, the lab has been a home away from home. The staff in lab has been very supportive and has always been there for me round the clock. I could spend a considerable amount of time with them during the course of which, I learned more about gas cylinders, regulators, vacuum pumps etc. My last four years in lab would not have been so productive in terms of learning had it not been for the relentless support of the staff in the lab. 
Over the last four years, I have witnessed a major transition in terms of streamlining the day to day functioning of the lab.  The efforts put in by all the faculty members and the HOD in this regard is commendable and I should thank them for making the lab operations more professional and user friendly.  Gone are those days of walking into the lab and booking a slot on a note book, after talking to the operator, gone are those days of having to wait for a slot for weeks. The changes are too many to enlist in a 2.5 mins speech. I most certainly believe the lab is moving in the right direction and almost every lab user would vouch for the same as well.
Before I wind up, I would like to highlight a conversation, I had with Prof. Nitin Samarth of Penn State. After I had given him a lab tour, he remarked, the students here are not only doing state of the art research but also are well trained in equipment handling and troubleshooting. He said, such level of competency is hard to come by in US. It was a casual statement, but made me realize how lucky I am for being able to be part of such a world class facility.

Thank you !!! "

Sunday, August 4, 2013

US Vice President Joe Biden at IITBNF

As I came out of the clean room, I saw this guy, tall, muscular, and wore a black suit. He looked like a special agent right out of a Hollywood movie. He was standing near the gas detector panel in lab, and was asking the facility staff about the various nitty gritty of the detector system. The facility staff looked at me in despair and asked me to help him out. I was told it was a safety audit, and hence I showed me around the lab. I briefed him about the various hazards in the lab, and gave him an overview of various exit and entry points to the lab. As he was about to leave, I asked him " The Vice President is Coming?". With a cold expression on his face, he nodded, and said "yeah".

Three days later, I received a phone call from the lab manager, who asked whether I would be available on 25th July. He informed me that they were looking for students to be part of the lab visit during the US VP's visit to IITBNF. I informed him that I would be more than happy to be a part of it, and I was told that I would be informed of other formalities. The very same evening, around 20 of us filled up the form for security verification, and we were told to be available at all times over phone and email. 

A meeting was convened on 23rd July, by Prof. Bipin, who briefed us about the visit, the potential do's and don'ts and informed us that we would be meeting people from the US consulate that afternoon. We met Liz, who introduced herself as a White House staff, along with three other people. She was in charge, and had a towering persona unlike her short stature. A rehearsal was arranged, four of us, including myself were supposed to meet the Vice President in the micro 2 lab. We were instructed to keep our lines short and simple, and specifically told us not to bother about the contingent of media personnel who would be right in front of us during the visit. The next evening we received our entry passes prepared by the Mumbai CID, and we are all gearing up for the big day. 

As we walked towards the corridor in front of CEN, we were stopped by the Mumbai police. After verifying our badges, we were let in and was escorted by the US consulate officials to VMCC, for a thorough security screening to be done by the US Secret Service. After a detailed screening like those in Airports, we were escorted back to the lab and was asked to take our positions inside the lab. Sanchar, Nehul, Rajul and myself were stationed in Micro 2 lab, which houses the two in house built systems, Hotwire CVD, and Plasma Immersion Ion Implanter (PIII), along with other systems. Rest of the members were inside Nano and AMAT labs. After a while, a huge contigent of media personnel were brought in by white house staff. There were members from PTI, Reuters, Doordarshan and the like, who were asking questions about various equipments present in the lab. We knew in a short while, he would be arriving.

"He has arrived, and will be here in 5 mins", said the lady from US consulate. I was anxious, and kept telling myself to stay calm and relaxed. Within a few minutes, he walked into the lab with a broad smile in his face. Mrs. Rajul Patkar, welcomed him to the lab, and guided him towards the Hot wire CVD. It was Sanchar's turn to speak. He said "This is a Hot wire CVD, and is used for depositing materials". As simple as it gets. The Vice President kept looking at Sanchar for a few seconds, and replied "well, it doesn't look all that simple". Sanchar probably amused replied, "we were told to summarize in a sentence", and went into the details of the system. It was Nehul's turn next. Rajul and Nehul, showed him the Cantilevers under a microscope,  and Nehul went on to explain the functioning of the explosive sensor, heart sensor, and sensor platforms for agriculture. The Vice President was impressed by the potential of the technology, and remarked, "This has huge potential, I am impressed". He turned around, shook his hands with all of us again, and turned to Sanchar, and told, "This looks right out of Star Wars". He asked Sanchar to join him for the photo, and he left the lab, with a huge smile on his face. Indeed Sanchar was the star of the show, and the poor thing had to shell out a hefty amount on treat.

It was truly a moment of pride for all of us in IITBNF, EE Department, and IIT Bombay. The icing on the cake was when he said, "IIT Bombay is one of the best in the world".

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Taste Buds

Born as a stereotypical Keralite with a big moustache, and a craving for non vegetarian food, I often chose to dine out to escape from the mundane mess food, which always lacked the zing in it. Over the course of past three and half years, I had the opportunity to dine at some interesting places in and around IIT, Powai. However, the prospect of writing about these places and the food there never crossed my mind until recently.

Sanchar, labelled encyclopaedia, for his innate ability to speak on any topic under the sun, gave me the idea of documenting these foodie experiences in my blog. He for one is a connoisseur of arts, movies, and of course food, was sharing his experiences with tastes. It all,began with his hunt for finding Karemeen (a fresh water fish found in the backwaters) fry in Mumbai. He approached me for recommendations, and my choices were obvious; taste of Kerala or Deluxe hotel in CST. However it amazed me to know that he had done enough recon missions but to no avail. So we started sharing notes about places to eat in Mumbai, and I was amused to know how much he knew about authentic food available across Mumbai. The fact that he maintains a diary wherein he scribbles about his experiments with tastes reinstated the fact that he is a real foodie. It then dawned on me, that I could start a whole new feature in my blog talking about the relentless pursuit for delicious food.

It was during one of those conversations with Sanchar that the name ' All Stir Fry ' popped up. I had been there once with a group of my friends and I loved the concept of the restaurant, and not to mention the food. Sanchar wanted to go there, and I agreed to join him. The restaurant located in Battery street in Colaba adjacent to the Leopold Cafe, is part of the Gordon House hotel. A Chinese restaurant, it boasts of the 'Wok', a buffet with a difference. All we were given was an empty bowl, and we were directed to a counter where from we could choose from a whole array of ingredients. For non-veggies, like us, we had chicken,fish, pork, lamb, beef, fish, squid, prawns to choose from apart from the whole host of veggie stuff like, onions, paneer, mushroom, tofu, bell pepper, broccoli, spring onion, carrots, cabbage, etc etc. There was also a wide variety of noodles and rice to choose from too. All I did was fill in our bowl with the ingredient of  my choice or combination of ingredients and moved to the chef. The chef asked us for my choice of sauce from a list of sauces. I tasted a few and chose the best that suited my taste buds. On handing over the bowl, he stir fried the whole stuff in a pan with the sauce of my choice. The smoking hot stir fry was transferred into a new bowl and handed over to me. I returned to the table gobbled up the whole stuff in few minutes. A new empty bowl was handed over to me again, and I was ready to go again on my refill mission. After refilling for about three times, we both called it quits, and asked for the bill. The total cost inclusive of all taxes came to about 750 per head. The cost though on the higher side for students like us, was indeed a rewarding experience.

For all my friends in Mumbai, I would certainly recommend this place. It is certainly a place worth dining out for its unique experience, and I am most certain that you would not be disappointed at all. However, a good heavy dinner is not complete without a dessert. The hunt for the dessert in the streets of CST would be unravelled in the upcoming article. 

Welcome 2013

After all those talk about Mayan apocalypse coming to a naught, I had to gear up for an exciting year ahead. The last few months of 2012 was the most exciting and enthralling phase of my life. It threw up lot of surprises and lent a new direction to my life.  Cutting to the chase, the highlights of 2012 were
  • I converted my masters program to a dual degree MTech + Ph.D program, and could finish my first annual progress seminar. A small step towards my relentless pursuit for a doctorate.
  • I flew to US to take part in the 38th IEEE PVSC in Austin, TX. Was a memorable trip in all, met lot of people, and opened my eyes towards the global PV scenario. 
  • My niece turned one on 18th August, 2012, and the day was truly special as the entire family came together after quite a long time.
  • I could file two patents in the latter half of the year, thanks to the support from my guide. 
  • The year reinforced my faith in the almighty and his illustrious ways of testing all of us.
2012 was indeed a fruitful year in terms of career and personal life. I have nothing to crib about and thanks to divine grace, I could do pretty well. I pray to God, that 2013 brings in more happiness, and help me to bring smiles to more faces. I look forward to a bright and prosperous year ahead.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

That Cup of Coffee

An idyllic setting for a memorable evening would be a walk along a river side, or sitting atop a hill on a rainy evening watching the birds flying back to their nests. Audacious as it may seem, the prospect getting lost in my thoughts in sync with nourishes my muted senses. Living in a (much cliched) "concrete jungle", I yearn for such an evening. Too good to materialize !!!

Coffee shops, have indeed paned out to be the urban alternative for a relaxed evening. The emergence of coffee shops across cities is indeed a testimony to the growing culture among us. I used to be cynical about coffee shops, the rationale being obvious, money. It was not until late 2010, that I had visited a coffee shop. I was with a couple of friends, at Gloria Jeans in Hiranandani, Powai, Mumbai. It was a memorable evening where we ended up conversing about a whole host of issues, over a big cup of coffee. It was indeed one of those memorable conversations I had. Hence started my love affair with coffee shops. Costa Coffee, in Hiranandani is another favorite hang out, owing to its idyllic ambience. I frequented the shop usually in company of a friend, and we used to spent our time gossipping over a cup of cappucino and a blueberry muffin. This place has witnessed some of the most memorable and hilarious moments of my life in Mumbai. Coffee shack in campus was another favorite spot where I used to unwind after a long day at work, discussing on failed experiments or fantastic results or cribbing about the lab. However over the past year, my friend circle petered out, as they moved to different parts of the world in search of better career prospects. However my love for coffee shops remain. I take my cup of coffee at the coffee shack and introspect on my day at work, assessing and analysing the numerous possibilities. However, I miss those inspiring and hilarious conversations, but I have learned to live without it. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Contrasting Times

Contrasting times :

This year, being on the other side of the globe, I had my longest birthday. I can perhaps, say, it was one of the lousiest too. I missed talking to my parents,bro, aunt, cousin, grandma and all on my birthday. I missed being among my friends, and spent the whole day travelling from Austin to Albany via New York. 

This birthday was indeed one, where I realised the value of the people around me. My last two birthdays were memorable, thanks to my friends and relatives. I realised that I got used to people, and never realised their importance in my life. I am thankful to god, that I did not have to go through an arduous path to come to this realisation. 

Thank you all, my dear friends for being there whenever I needed you to be there.

With lots of love,

Sandeep S S

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Poetic Sojourn

I had decided to take a sabbatical from writing about personal experiences. I wanted to try out short stories and poems. However, my last post (apparently a short story, a pure work of fiction) drew lot of flak from my friends. It seemed too slow and lacked the personal touch. However, I decided to continue experimenting with new writing styles. My passion for writing was reinvigorated two weeks back while rummaging through chapters on phonons and Boltzmann transport equation. This time I placed my money on poems.Back in school, poems seemed so veiled and profound, as one could easily write a three page essay on 8 lines of a poem. I sometimes wonder, whether the poet actually meant so, or where we just cooking up a story?

Poem it was, and I tried jotting down the first word that came to my mind, it was 'peace'. Maybe the influence of reading too many articles on maoists and war, or maybe I was searching for inner peace, I know not. The next few words followed "was all he craved for". I took a pause and wondered, where I was headed. With a deep sigh, I wrote down the next two lines:
"plunging into the abyss of work,
the devils were kept at bay"

It has been two weeks now, and I tried adding to those lines. I wrote, rewrote but nothing seemed to fit the bill, and I knew that the poem ought to be scrapped. Looking back at those three lines, I knew, I could write an exhaustive essay on it. Poems are indeed profound, and I would need to go a long way before I actually write one beautiful poem. Until then I would keep writing and rewriting those verses.