My journey from engineering to PhD in math | Soumya Ranjan, IIT Madras


Btech Days and the start of a mathematical journey.
From my school days, I loved mathematics, getting selected in RMO/JMO, attending their math camps, solving challenging geometry problems; I liked all of it as a child. But eventually, after 12th I got into VSSUT, Burla, a govt engineering college in Odisha in the Computer Science department. As a state board student neither I was taught a subject related to computer science in school nor I was even familiar with the use of laptops or computers during the initial days of B.Tech. Again the practice in the college was to mug off and vomit. So very soon I realized computer science, mainly coding, was not my cup of tea. This resulted in poor grades and attendance shortages and backlogs. In four years of B.Tech, I had a total of 18 backlogs and in the final year during summer vacation I cleared 10 backlogs in one shot. So going back into the story in the second year my aim was to only get a job in the placement and get out of the college. But the plan of destiny was different. I was introduced to an independent student body, known as ”Sanskar Kendra ” of that college, who works towards social welfare through imparting complete education in the two slums near the college. I was a core member there for my entire B.Tech life. My primary job was to teach the students. My achievement there was that students who were not able to score a pass mark in maths got above 80percents of marks in math in board exams. With the due course, some were solving olympiad problems with great interests. Remember these were the students once who weren’t able to do basic arithmetic problems. So this is what encouraged me to pursue a career in mathematics.
So in the final year i.e around sept of 2016, I started studying NPTEL video lectures of analysis and linear algebra. But the problem with me was to sit and study because this was not a habit I have practiced for the last 3 years. I was completely on my own in this journey with no one to guide, complete randomness in choosing books to read. So with only covering real analysis and linear algebra I gave JAM in 2016 and got some poor ranks. Yes, this broke me but didn’t put a full stop to my dreams. I cleared my backlogs of engineering during the summer of 2016 and started preparing again. I came in contact with a friend of mine who was doing an MSc in math at DU. He helped me out with books and some notes from coaching centers. I studied, practiced, solved problems and got a good rank in JAM 2017, and got admitted to IIT Madras, MSc mathematics. In 2017 I qualified gate and also appeared for ISI Kolkata, CMI entrance exam for MSc, but didn’t qualify.

MSc in IIT Madras and getting into PhD

The opportunities I got both in academic and non-academic as a student in IITM was great.
The professors are awesome. On the first day itself, I got a chance to meet Prof SH Kulkarni, sir whom NPTEL lectures I was studying. For me, it was a feeling of meeting a person I admire most. In IIT gradually I developed a keen interest in analysis, a part of pure mathematics. But the problem with me during MSc was, I was good at solving problems and understanding theorems, but when it came to writing down the proof in detail with proper mathematical language I was a bit confused and made errors. This was overcome by practice, writing down proofs on my own. So in higher mathematics expressing your ideas in error-free mathematical language is as important as your analytical skills.

During my M.Sc. I made up my mind to do a Ph.D. in India, not to go abroad as I am still active in social works in the field of education with my team. So I appeared for GATE, CSIR-JRF in MSc and got good ranks and applied for Ph.D. in some IITs, went for interviews. Now I am in IIT Delhi, in my first year of Ph.D. IIT Delhi conducts Ph.D. interviews in two groups, one direct interview(those having CGPA above 8 in master and bachelor) and another one is written exam, then interview. I was in the second group and I was the only one selected from this group out of 180 students who appeared for the written test. So from my experience getting a Ph.D. in a good Indian institute(i.e. TIFR, IISC, ISI, CMI, IMSc, HRI, and old IITs) is quite a difficult task because of less number of seats in mathematics and rigorous selection procedure. The institutes mentioned above other than IITs admit 5-8 students per year and old IITs 10-18 students per year in Ph.D. maths. So the sum varies between 80-140 (approx.) and again this number will reduce if you want to get into a specific research area. So it’s better to have more than one option for the research field and prepare accordingly for a Ph.D. interview.

In my view, the crucial part of learning mathematics is solving problems on your own, mastering the fundamentals, and finding examples and counterexamples for theorems.
And to conclude I must say, success and failure are part of life. Sometimes we have to fight a battle more than once to win it. Many things will come as obstacles in your path, but belief in yourself, have confidence and follow your dreams. The only path that can lead you to your dream is your dedication.


About the author:


Mr. Soumya Ranjan Behera has Completed his MSc Mathematics from IIT Madras after Engineering and is currently pursuing Ph.D. at IIT Delhi.


Also, do visit all other similar posts and lot other extremely useful content of our blog Mathematics after Engineering.
Below is a page with the link for our WhatsApp group with 100+ members all of whom are engineers who actively discuss and help each other out in entering the Mathematics stream after engineering. 



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3 thoughts on “My journey from engineering to PhD in math | Soumya Ranjan, IIT Madras”

  1. I want to pursue my msc in mathematics… My story is same as mr soumya ranjan. I had interest in bse maths but due to some circumstances I got admitted into btech cse, now I want to do msc in maths but no college is accepting btech degree all needs bse degree. Help me from my situation (bangalore colleges)

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