Getting funds to finance your postgraduate study abroad is a very hectic task. I have seen many talented bunches of students settling for lower ranked universities unable to afford the high cost of attendance. One of my seniors from Mechanical Engineering at IIT (BHU) had an exceptional profile with a GPA of 9.85 and received an admission offer from Stanford University to pursue Masters in Materials Science. However, he didn’t receive any scholarship and ultimately, he had to give up his plans.
In such a grim circumstance, J.N. Tata Endowment scheme is a ray of hope for many students who need the scholarship to finance their study. Although it is a loan scholarship, the rate of interest is just 2% and calculated at simple interest and doesn’t involve any processing fee. You can refer to the main website to get intricate details of the scholarship. I am here to share the selection process and my interview experience.
I was interviewed on 26 May 2018 over Skype. Let me tell you a little bit to help you feel relatable the questions follow next. I am a recent graduate in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Varanasi. Working on various projects at the crossroads of medicine and mechanical engineering brought my interest in biomedical engineering. I had mentioned about my summer internship project in France on exoskeletons in my ‘statement of purpose’.
There were two interviewers (M &F) and one of them is a professor of bioengineering at IIT Bombay, Dr. Neeta Kanekar. There was no long formal introduction from their side and it lasted for 29 minutes. As always, the J.N. Tata interviewers stress more on the clarity of the discipline you want to pursue.
M: So, where are you going?
Me: I would be pursuing postgraduate study in Bioengineering at Imperial College London.
M: You have mentioned about your research experience in biomechanics. What according to you is biomechanics? You don’t have to hurry.
Me (after a brief pause): Biomechanics is a field of science which involves the application of mechanical engineering principles like kinematics and dynamics to solve problems of medicine, say human gait analysis.
M: What are the four fundamental mechanical principles that govern biomechanics?
Me: You mean their applications like tissue engineering?
M: I will give you a hint. One of them is static. Can you tell the other 3?
Me: Dynamics, Kinematics, and Kinetics.
M (smilingly): You should have said that on your own.
(He asked Dr. Neeta to ask questions)
Dr. Neeta: You have worked on exoskeletons. What exactly you did and for how long did you work on it?
Me: I described the details like the biomechanical data collection and the design is supposed to aid in elderly mobility.
Dr. Neeta: Did you check the effectiveness? What was the outcome?
Me: Yes. I checked it computationally in OpenSim software. 4 months is too less time to fabricate it.
Dr. Neeta (she repeated): What was the outcome?
Me: The exoskeleton could decrease the torque required at the joints and the also the metabolic rates while walking on level ground.
Dr. Neeta: What are your core strengths in Mechanical Engineering? (You see they want to know how your undergraduate courses have prepared you for your graduate study)
Me: Solid Mechanics and Control Systems
Dr. Neeta: Tell me the difference between the closed loop and open loop control systems.
Me: (Thinking to myself, This is damn easy!!) I explained and she seemed satisfied.
Dr. Neeta: Tell me about your course structure.
Dr. Neeta: What are your future goals?
Me: I am keen to pursue Ph.D. and pursue a career in academia.
Dr. Neeta: Why didn’t you apply for a direct Ph.D.?
Me: I applied to some top-ranked US universities and some of them admitted me to the master’s program like Carnegie Mellon and Northwestern University. Since master in the USA is unaffordable, I am going with the European one. I applied only to the top schools.
Dr. Neeta: Getting to John Hopkins, Harvard or MIT is very tough. You should have applied to the state univerities. They are excellent in research in biomechanics. (She named a few universities like the University of Delaware and University of Illinois, Chicago. Later I found that she had completed her Ph.D. from University of Illinois, Chicago)
Me: I am keen to get to top universities of the world. I can find a Ph.D. position in the UK. I talked to my guide and another postdoc who happens to be from IIT Bombay. (Now, this was partly bluff because my Ph.D. wasn’t guaranteed there. It’s tough to get a Ph.D. at Imperial)
They wished me luck and told me to prepare beforehand for the course at Imperial could be really challenging due to its shorter duration. This is the best I could do. I am waiting for the results but I wouldn’t be surprised and wouldn’t be disappointed if I don’t get it as it’s a tough scholarship to get and this was the best I could give.
I hope my experience helps you.