Jun 30, 2009

Growing big in Kolkata

Prof. Soumen Chakrabarti is a faculty member at IIT Bombay's Computer Science department (and one of the top researchers in his field in the world). Like several professors in such institutes, he gets emails from wannabe interns/project seekers. Perhaps some are of the 'academic hunger' type, but a few are just looking for CV embellishments & recommendations for higher studies.

Prof. Chakrabarti's webpage carries a prominent notice stating:

At the moment I am not offering short-term projects to students not enrolled in a regular program at IIT Bombay.
Despite that, he seems to receive correspondence hoping for the opposite, some of which is painfully delightful. He has a sample on his blog (here), under the heading: "Can't read but will apply". Such as:
[...]I am an International Rifle Shooter of India and I was a member of an INDIAN AIR RIFLE SHOOTING TEAM FOR YEAR 2006. I am a presently studding in a 7th semester of B.E. Information Technology at LLLL DDDD Engineering College, AAAA, GGGG. [...] I am sending my Resume with this. I am sure that you would kindly cooperate and oblige.
Soumen Chakrabarti comments:
How could I possibly refuse from the wrong end of a Remington?
It gets even more interesting. Quoting from the entry:
Then there is in-your-face dishonesty:
"I have gone through your research activities given on your homepage. I am looking for a challenging opportunity for summer internship for the period of May-July 2007."

When I pointed out that anyone reading my homepage would notice my statement (that I do not take external students), I got a response like this:
"it's fine if u donot want to work with me ,but such words don't suit a proff of ur standards"

Clearly there is no dearth of entitlement, just good sense.

The exchanges seem to have become more hostile in recent times, with Soumen Chakrabarti receiving email that criticises him for either his hiring policy or for making these instances public (see end of the post).

He ends with this statement that really pinches:

It's hard to overstress the liability of a nation of a billion people out of which 700 million are functionally illiterate and the rest have no wish to follow instructions, even when they are asking for a favor.
These accounts are both hilarious and depressing. We need to satisfy the demand for higher-quality education, get more good professors teaching, have fewer people attempting to bull-doze their way into cosmetic achievements on paper, and for someone to tell these people that the simplest way to stand out is to use the bits of grey matter bestowed by nature on them in a fit of pure chance.

Link to the post here


Mankutimma said...

I remember having read in Prof. Soumen's blog, that one of the "knowledge hungry" students also having challenged him to publish an e-mail addressed to him reviling his attitude and patriotism !

Ajay said...

I can't help but feel sympathy for the people who write to him :). So many people don't actually say what they do that trying your luck seems like the right thing to do.

That doesn't justify the typos or the entitlement issues though :)

Unknown said...

M: yes, he still has that linked from that page.

A: :-) Sadly, Indian higher education is as if Bombay has just two local trains for the whole day. Will take any shortcut or squeeze to jump in.

Ajay said...

Yikes. I meant "So many people actually don't do what they say" - meaning the applicants may be reasonable in assuming Prof. Soumen may be saying that just to discourage people from applying in the first place.

Sad state of things overall.

Unknown said...

Ajay: good thing you're not writing to him ;-)

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