LIFE IN A RESEARCH INSTITUTE, A PERSONAL VIEW OF JRD AND BHABHA'S LEGACY, TIFR
Good points: Exceptional faculty and environment World-class research facility Modern coursework and brilliant exposure Stipend and zero fee Academic, cultural and social variety and a harmonious unity amidst all these diversities ZERO politics Bad points: Lack of accommodation space, and food All in all: 'Ao kabhi TIFR mein!' :) My conclusion: Its a privilege to be a part of this legacy.
TIFR conducts its very own rigorous entrance examination. I, like many other aspirants, took the exam and qualified for Integrated M.Sc.-PhD course. As TIFR doesn't disclose the student's marks, and no merit list is assigned based on ranks, I don't know my score. However, in general one may assume that one needs to get at least more than 50% in order to qualify. TIFR is one of the premiere institutes for basic science research in India. As someone aspiring to be a physicist, TIFR was a natural choice for me.
FEE STRUCTURE AND FACILITIES
TIFR is financed by Department of Atomic Energy of the Government of India. Not only the students don't have to pay any fee at all, they are provided with a monthly stipend, the amount of which has been set nationally (rs. 16000/25000/28000 per month, depending on the course level), as well as accommodation. So yes, it indeed feasible!
Being a research institute, providing a placement is not a fundamental aim of TIFR. However, the research guides usually put active effort to find and recommend the students for good placement (for further research, I mean). The TIFR graduates are spread all over the world, and are faculty members in top tier institutes all over the world.
TIFR has its own, rigorous entrance procedure. The forms are online from late August (depends on the subject). The round of written examinations (consisting of MCQ) are usually held in early December (again, depends). It's generally regarded as one of India's toughest Master's exam (in basic sciences) to crack. The qualifying candidates (the number varies, depending on the subject of choice, but nowadays around 40-70 people per subject make it pass the written test) are then called for a round of interviews at the Mumbai campus (with the train fares provided). TIFR has a stringent qualification criteria, where quality is emphasized over quantity. So the number of student's accepted for the Int. PhD and PhD programs vary, and some candidates even have to go through multiple rounds of interviews. After successful completion of the interviews, the selected student's are offered the positions via email. TIFR also invites a few selected candidates in the JEST and GATE merit list directly for the interviews.
This perhaps the only point in which TIFR falls short of excellence. TIFR, situated in a comfortable and well-connected locality in Navy Nagar, has been going through rapid space crunch in the recent years, due to the lack of available free space (while not destroying the diverse flora and fauna of the surroundings). This affects the students, who have to wait more than a year to get on-campus accommodation (they are provided flats about 20-30 kms away). Nonetheless, the hostels rooms (single and shared) are well furnished, with community bathrooms and drinking water supplies. The mess food is not great, but palatable enough. One can always go to the numerous restaurants nearby to satisfy their foodie desires..
Scientists are gentle and helpful in nature. At least that is true for the extended TIFR-family. Everyone knows almost all of their immediate seniors, and the seniors are less like local boss and more like brothers/sisters to their juniors. The malady called 'ragging' doesn't exist here. The alumni association network is vast, and very helpful in general.
Since all of the faculty members are active researchers, they may or may not prove to be a great course instructor. That said, TIFR boasts some of the finest professors in the country, whose knowledge, skill, expertise and enthusiasm are about the best India has to offer. Apart from the courses from the stalwarts of the subjects (like the likes of Ramakrishna Hosur, Mahan Maharaj and Shiraz Minhwala), all the courses are delivered with utmost sincerity Emphasis is also given on the enjoyable aspects of the subjects. After all, we aren't an institute of 'Fun'damental research for nothing!
This is a point worth mentioning and emphasizing. TIFR boasts a hassle-free, liberal and apolitical environment, optimum for upbringing of rational and scientific temper. Gender ratio: Sadly, reflects the nationwide situation. Female participation in the research is encouraged, though. Student parties: TIFR has a small but close-knitted family, where everyone knows each other by first-name basis, and no hierarchy and abuse of position are encouraged (even among the students and professors). And parties are a regular must for such a close family. Not only are there numerous student parties, but there are also 'official' social get-together for student-teacher interactions. Sports: Cricket, Football, Lawn Tennis, Table tennis, Frisbee, Vollyball, Chess, Treasure hunt - and many more. A healthy mind needs a healthy body, after all! Cultural societies: dance and musical classes are hosted regularly, taught by great teachers (we even have a Padma Shri winner among us!) Student diversity: Any part of this country, and any social and religious background - you name it, we have them here! Tolerance with regards to gender, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation and economic status: Science doesn't care about these, nor does it show bias towards one and shun the other. And so do we. We are a family, boasting unity amidst diversity. Politics: TIFR remains unapologetically apolitical. Politics creates division, bias - which may cause more harm than good. Science is above all these - and so are we (even though we are well aware of whats happening everywhere, we don't let our ideologies interfere with our pursuit of academic and scientific excellence).
The weights of the exams depend solely upon the instructors. Some courses are chilled out, mostly comprising of assignments and may be a final exam; while the others are quite hectic, comprising of plethora of exams and interwoven assignments. Some of the exams are written in nature (closed/open book), while the others may consist of presentations/reading projects.
COURSE CURRICULUM OVERVIEW
The curriculum at TIFR are on par with the Master's courses in different IIT's. Being a research institute, equal amount of emphasis is given to semester coursework and active research (through projects). A very good thing about the course structure is that it is very much modern, and the student's are updated about the ongoing research in the particular field. Apart from the compulsory master's level courses, we have an option to choose elective courses ( total 7 have to be taken, but one can take as many as he/she wants). Courses can be either credited or audited, and the compulsory courses have the option of drop test (whereby qualifying an additional exam for the topic one can receive the full credit without going through the course, a fairly tough one to crack though). The elective courses are very advanced, and are taught sometimes by some of the most well known researchers in the country (the likes of Ramakrishna Hosur and Shiraz Minhwala). One point of caution is that the coursework is heavily centered around theory, and there is very little scope (apart from the projects) to explore experimental works. Most of the research done here are experimental in nature, so that kind of makes up for it.
Being a research institute, providing internships is not a fundamental aim of TIFR. However, it encourages its student to take up internships frequently (without hampering their own research) in different renowned places all around the globe, so that the students can gain exposure and experience on their field of pursuit. It is, however, the duty of the students and their research guides to find out and apply to these internships. TIFR has an internship of its own, the Visiting Student's Research Program, offered to the undergrads and grad students across the country and beyond. The students are provided with the travel cost and accommodation. They are also given a nominal stipend (about 7000 rs./month).
Very few festivals are hosted in the campus (because of its non-religious nature): among which are diwali, saraswati puja, dahi handi, onam, gudi padwa etc. Among the cultural events, there are: the founder's day, different open days, Frontiers of science and other scienctific outreach programs, independence day, republic day etc. Worth mentioning are also the outreach programs held off-campus, and the cultural events hosted by renowned groups and artists in the huge Homi Bhabha auditorium throughout the year.
LOAN/ SCHOLARSHIP PROVISIONS
As mentioned earlier, TIFR is financed by Department of Atomic Energy of the Government of India. Not only the students don't have to pay any fee at all, they are provided with a monthly stipend, the amount of which has been set nationally (rs. 16000/25000/28000 per month, depending on the course level), as well as accommodation.