Life@Pre and Post APS

“I’m going to the temple for special puja, don’t worry, your APS will go well”, Minu/Ganesh’s mom informed her/him over phone on the morning of the APS day. Minu/Ganesh did well in the APS and is quite motivated now for her/his future research. It was just like a war of survival for her/him, has to win at any cost. That was a single isolated case out of some hundreds of PhD candidates/Research Scholars in every semester. Not all are that lucky or happy like Minu/Ganesh (interestingly some people around her/him are not that happy to see her/him in happiness 😦 ). Some are de-motivated, some are frustrated and some are happy after their APS. The peer-effect rules in some cases. Does not matter whether the APS was good or bad, it is certainly a party time for all of us. Time to celebrate after one year’s re-search and hard (!!??) work 🙂

Lots of discussion/gossiping happens in the Mess/Canteen Table over tea/break-fast/dinner/lunch (some time) on various topics related to APS. “My RPC members stripped me off in front of all, my guide asked most of the questions, the panel was just another nightmare for me…” are a few of the statements one can hear during the post APS gossiping/discussions. Most of the discussions are on the next step of APS; like when to go for pre-syn, some discussions are meant to be critiques; “he/she should have answered to a particular query in this way or that” or some queries in general, etc. Activities of life suddenly changes after APS – from extra-busyness to idleness (not for all). “Arre, bahut kaam kaiya, thoda to rest le le…”, “I need a break”, are the usual time pass statements and official excuses 🙂

For most of the people, the APS fever starts 2/3 months before the deadline. “What to present?”, “how to defend?” are the main concerns. Writing a report both in quantity (in terms of number of pages !!) and quality are very important. Some people are fascinated with the number of pages which creates panic buttons among their peers. In most of the cases reports are written at the last moment – at the eleventh hour. Few of them submit in time and most of them submit at the last moment (A few even submit just before the presentation). In many cases, reports are submitted as a matter of formality since it is required to be submitted; not complete in any respect neither by the student nor even glanced through by the guide(s) and the pannel members. Guide(s) as well as the panel members usually give their suggestions/comments on the report while going through it during the presentation. Some of the comments/suggestions are critical for the improvement and some are personal.

For those who have published many papers and are regular throughout the year – APS fever is not that high for them; for others the temperature is very high. Some times APS fever affects the brain resulting in depression and psychiatric problems. Suddenly life become very busy, even don’t have time to receive a call. Missing lunches/dinners are very common (of course eating Pizzas and visiting Gulmohar/Laxmi increases). Activities in the Labs get increased in many fold (if you want to get hold of some one in the APS season, then you should visit his/her lab post dinner 🙂 ), night-outs become regular events, serious(!) discussions with guide(s) become a part of daily routine, queues at the Xerox/Photocopy shops become unbounded 🙂 Getting ready for the APS day!

The most important and crucial time is the presentation time on the APS day. Some get bowled, some score six, some are cut-behind and some score a couple. Guide(s) usually help his/her student during the presentation. In most of the cases they give hints to the queries raised by the panel members and clarify a lot of issues. But, in some cases they just come in an attacking mood and instead of helping the student, they create most of the problems. Like discouraging the student at the time of presentation, asking some vague questions, raising doubts on some technical issues, finding faults with the method of work, etc.; as if venting out their frustrations on the student and become personal 😦 . Some time the panel members come in the rescue mode and step into the fight between the student and the guide. As the outcome of the presentation “a few get extension and repeat APS and most of them get go ahead signal”. Some cry, some defend and some accept with a pinch of salt.

Though in the ideal case both the student and guide(s) are responsible for the outcome of the APS, student gets the banging often. Of-course in some cases students are responsible for the poor performance, but it is not true in all. As usual guide(s) are very busy with so many activities, both in professional and personal fronts. It is obvious that they do not have that much time to spend like the student on a particular topic. But, the amount of experience and maturity level they have must be of use for the benefit of the students (which does not happen). In some cases they hardly spend time with their students on technical matters. But, that is not an excuse for the student. It is the student’s PhD and he/she is fully responsible for that; starting from choosing the guide and topic to publishing papers and defending the thesis.

Life goes on; in a different way for some days after APS, then one gets used to it and the (fear of ) preparation for next APS or Pre-syn starts. The thick (thin?) line between pre- and post-APS disappears and the joy/eagerness to complete (!) PhD increases.

aamjunta… how is your life in the pre- and post- APS? Must be enjoying 🙂 Do share.

PS: This article is dedicated to all Research Scholars of IIT Bombay. For the benefit of the reader, APS stands for Annual Progress Seminar. It is an annual event and each Research Scholar (PhD Candidate) has to appear for the APS once in a year. Monthly scholarship/fellowship gets renewed only after the successful completion of the APS. Similar activities can be observed in MTP/DDP/BTP presentations also.

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10 Responses

  1. I’ve just faced all these things for my 3rd stage MTP presentation…but it’s all fun and to work at the 11th hour make us more strong and give more confidence. Can’t say about others but i really enjoyed all those last moment corrections and mammoth task of report writing up to last moment …..i think one should enjoy all these night-outs in lab with rock/pop loud music…..one more thing that life is much more tough outside on job, so take all these things as your preparation to step in to the wild world of hard competition…..

  2. A nice article. Enjoyed reading it.
    True picture of the APS days in Research Scholars life.

  3. The thought process and pressure buildup/release around APS time is quite stimulating. I have observed that often one gets a heap of ideas (some good ones, some junk) while preparing for APS. This is a critical step in the research journey.

    You have captured the chaos well!

    PS: Why the ‘gandhigiri’ tag for this post? 🙂

  4. Thanks Rohit, Rajendra and Vipul.
    Vipul: Why the ‘gandhigiri’ tag for this post?
    aamjunta: Gandhigiri… for reminding the guides to give some time to the PhD student.

  5. Good blog. I had been following it since quite a few months.

    By the way, I may be on the top in category of last minutes presentation,reports and preparations.

    My record breaking moment was when I was making correction in my final MTP defence presentation slides, sitting on the computer in front of one examiner while we two were waiting for the other examiner.
    And I wont say that is something to proud, if the other examiner was on time, I could not have implemented my guide’s recommended corrections in the slides.
    Anyway, 11th hour may be tensed, but its memorable……….

  6. Thanks Madhur for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

  7. Nice post with the mental turmoil during the research period…Thanks.

  8. True; picture (captured) perfect. This is common for all age groups and these days very common with the parents during their kids’ exams. Coming to other part ‘teacher’ – these days the student-teacher relationship is considered as client-corporate relationship. This has to be changed.

  9. I’m certainly happy I found this post and the blog. I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

  10. Thanks very interesting blog!

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