ACM India has recently launched an initiative called PhD Clinic to materially improve the quality of Indian research in Computer Science. It is intended to improve the grassroots situation by facilitating CS PhD students from all over the country to obtain inputs and advice from expert mentors located in premier academic institutions and industry.
“Similar to the digital divide in the social world, there is a research divide in Indian academia, with many good teaching institutions hosting extremely talented students but finding it difficult to develop a visible research profile due to lack of mentorship, awareness and resources. As a first step towards addressing this long-standing lacuna, ACM India has initiated a novel “PhD Clinic”program with the intention of bringing talent and knowledge together in a synergistic coupling. We urge CS students from all over India to leverage this unique opportunity to obtain sustained advice from leading experts, and channel their research abilities and efforts to reach international standards,” says Prof Jayant Haritsa, President, ACM India and Professor, Indian Institute of Science about PhD Clinic.
Currently, about 30+ faculty from top-tier institutions, including IISc, IITs, IIITs, CMI, IMSc, Anna University, JNU & others, and including a few from outside India – Carnegie Mellon University, NorthWestern University, University of Northern Iowa, and Nottingham Trent University have joined as mentors. Mentors spend a few hours each month talking to students and giving concrete and constructive suggestions on their work. Each clinic session is a one-on-one engagement, and a student gets to choose a mentor who works in his/her area, from the available list of mentors. Having this third eye, in addition to the advisor(s), will give a great advantage to students’ research work, and can help get a different perspective to students. While signing up Mentors in the program, we get an explicit consent from them for “not disclosing specific research discussions with students [in Clinic] to others, and not poach the research ideas / students”. Students, while signing up for a slot, consent to “responsibility to inform the advisor/supervisor about attending the Clinic.”
A total of 100+ students have already attended a clinic and received inputs from experts in their areas. Some of their reactions capture the impact of this initiative very well. “I am really thankful to PhD Clinic to give me this opportunity to discuss with such an icon.” “The way she answered the questions was so good! She shared personal experiences as well and that made me connect to her.” “He guided me in such a nice way about how to find a research topic, what areas can be there and how I should align my research in a proper manner.” “It was a really good session. I got some concrete suggestions, and some abstract suggestions. Overall it will be helpful IMO.” All students who attended the clinic answered ‘Definitely’ to the question “Will you recommend the PhD Clinic to your Friends?”
Before the launch of this initiative, a survey was conducted to understand the students’ needs. Their responses suggested the following main concerns while pursuing a PhD and for which they needed help –
- Conducting literature review
- Narrowing down on research problems
- Cutting down expected risks and maximizing expected reward
- Time management
- Weaving a good story around the results
- Writing a paper & understanding reviews from conferences/journals
- Connecting with right people, other researchers, other students working in the domain
- Presentation skills
- Choosing an appropriate conference and journal to submit
Currently, PhD Clinics are available for a broad spectrum of areas, ranging from theoretical computer science to computational data science, computer networks, etc. Details are available on the PhD Clinic portal https://india.acm.org/
“I am super thrilled to be part of Ph.D. Clinics, I strongly believe that helping Ph.D. students can help improve the quality of research work, and thereby improve the impact of work done. If other faculty and students can participate in this socially relevant initiative by ACM India, it can have a lasting effect,” says Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, Professor at IIIT Delhi, & Member of ACM-India’s Research Facilitation Committee, which spear heads the program.
About the ACM India Council
The ACM India Council is an effort of ACM, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, aimed at increasing the level and visibility of ACM activities across India. The ACM India Council activities, involving both academia and industry in computing, include promoting research, advancing computing education, empowering women in computing, and awards to recognize achievement.
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.