Friday, July 13, 2007


While offering the Information Theory and Coding course for the final year undergrads at GEC Barton Hill during Jun-Oct 2005, Google had taken me to a wonderful book titled "Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms" by Prof. David MacKay of Cambridge University, UK. I was so impressed by the book and even more by the author that I started harboring dreams about doing a PhD under his guidance.

The best way to get funding for higher studies in UK is the Common Wealth Scholarship. This is part three of the Statement of Purpose that I had crafted for the scholarship application in September 2006. It was later slightly edited by Joji for my future applications. This is the edited version.


Part III : Future plans/proposals after the study/research/training and its prospectus
[Max 8000 characters]

It is curiosity that drives me through all the aisles of learning. What has always fascinated me more than the laws of the cosmos or the mystery of quarks is the phenomenon of intelligence and knowledge; for which the laws discovered, if any, are far from comprehensive. I'm passionate to undertake any journey that will unveil before me even a glimpse of this phenomenon.

The quest to understand the structure and representation of knowledge with in the human brain started of as an interesting thought exercise. When I started pursuing it seriously, I was quick to realise that it is more than a lifetime's work and a few years of doctoral studies can at the maximum teach me one or two tools that might come handy in this journey. A bit of reading and conversation with peers and teachers convinced me that areas like Information Theory, Learning Theory, Complexity Theory, Mathematical Logic and Psychology might give new perspectives.

I wish to pursue my journey in search of the structure and representation of knowledge as far as it will take me. My wildest dream is to be able to design machines that represent the knowledge in the way humans do. With added feature of natural language processing, these machines would be "omniscient artificial scholars" who can answer any question to which answer is known to the human race. In the process, attempts towards quantifying knowledge as Information Theory does to Information or at least classifying it into various categories as Complexity Theory does to algorithms have to be made.

Though the pursuit of knowledge in itself is a journey worth spending all your life, I have realised with full conviction that true satisfaction lies in being able to carry more people with you on that journey. With brief exposures to research groups during post graduate studies at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and to the industry during work at Ittiam where I was involved in developing and implementing algorithms for video compression and coding, and to teaching during my present work, I'm convinced that my career should be one of team research and teaching. I wish to come back to India after the doctoral studies and continue my career in the academia, working in open ended research groups and classroom teaching. I'm sure that the learning and exposure that can be gained by undertaking a doctoral study in one of the knowledge centers in UK can help me unmeasurably in realizing this dream.

I also realise the lead role that knowledge is going to play in the further development of mankind. In the so designated "Information Age", knowledge needs to be in the public domain and not monopolised by a powerful few. I plan to practice and advocate the need for bringing and retaining all knowledge in public domain and actively support efforts like the Free Software movement and Open Access Initiative and also to promote knowledge sharing in any institution that I work.

Another materialistic dream that I cherish is to be part of an effort to build a university of international standards in Kerala. A university that will be committed to becoming the most sought after center for learning, the most conducive center for research, the most competent center to make use of knowledge for industrial and societal needs and the most proactive center for dissemination of knowledge to the larger public. An indispensable requisite for pursuing this dream is the wealth of experience and academic culture that can be imbibed only from an existing university of international standards. This reason too has worked in crowning Cambridge University and Prof. David Mackay's Inference group as my most sought after destination for doctoral studies.
PS: I was selected for the interview at Delhi, but didn't attend it partly due to lose of interest and partly because of the mess of official formalities involved. I have no count on how many freedoms you have to surrender when you enter government service.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thinking about Research

Dreamers :

  1. Mr. R. Deepak, Lecturer in EC Dept., GEC Bartonhill
  2. Prof. K. C. Raveendranathan, Head of EC Dept., GEC Bartonhill
Inspiration :

Four faculty from GECBH (Mr. Randhir, Ms. Manju, Mr. Alex Raj and Mr. Deepak (yours truly) had attended a 5-day short term course (June 18 to 22, 2007) at SCT College of Engineering. The first objective of the course was to create an awareness on Fuzzy Systems and Neural Networks. A second objective that was also running evident was to create an awareness about research. I don't know if that was intensional or accidental since most of the resource persons were from Kerala University Campus and RRL (all PhDs).

Back home, i started thinking of the possibility of a course with primary objective stated as creating a research interest.


First Draft :

Tentative Title :
Thinking about Research

Tentative Contents :
  1. The Mathematical Language
    The Mathematical Alphabets, What is a proof, What is not a proof, ...
  2. The Computer Skills
    Octave, Maxima, LaTeX, ...
  3. The Research Attitude
    Why, When, How, How not, ...
  4. Research Ethics
    Social relevance, Open Access Publications.
  5. ....
Tentative Resource Persons :
  1. The Mathematical Language
    Dr. E. Krishnan, Namboodthiri Sir (Kerala University), Rajeev Sir,
  2. The Computer Skills
    In house - Raveendran Sir, Mr. Yours Truly.
  3. The Research Attitude
    Dr. Achuth Sankar (quantity), Dr. M.R. Baiju (quality), Dr. S. Chandrashekara Bhat, RRL (inspiration) , Dr. Ashok Rao (???)
  4. Research Ethics
    Dr. R.V.G. Menon (social relevance), Dr. V. Sasikumar CESS, (Open Access Initiatives)
  5. ....

Tentative Course Materials:
  1. How to Get A PhD
    By Estelle M. Phillips, D.S. Pugh (Indian Edition : Rs 165/-)
  2. ... [I'm searching for a good small book on Mathematical Language]
  3. Free Electron 2.0 CDs (Yet to be made) - With all tools for scientific computing and data visualizations.
  4. ...
Tentative Timings:
Nov/Dec 2007 [One week before university exams]

Dream University

Dreamers :

  1. Mr. K. Muralikrisnan, Lecturer in CS Dept., NIT, Calicut (Moderator)
  2. Dr. S. Ramkumar, Head of EC Dept, FISAT Angamaly. (During time of this discussion, he was Head of Instrumentation Dept, Rajagiri College of Engg, Ekm)
  3. Ms. Remdevi, Scientist, DRDO
  4. Mr. K. R. Ajayan, Asst. Prof., GEC Idukki
  5. Mr. Shibu Mathew, Scientist, ISRO
  6. Mr. C. V. Raghu, R&D Engineer, Tejas Networks, Bangalore
  7. Mr. A. Jishnu, R&D Engineer, Tejas Networks, Bangalore
  8. Mr. Nilesh Neelkanth Khude, PhD Student, UIUC. (During the time of discussion, he was Engineer at Beceem Communications, Bangalore)
  9. Mr. S. Ashok Kumar, Engineer, Sasken. (During the time of discussion, he was with L&T Infotech)
  10. Mr. R. Deepak, Lecturer, GEC Barton Hill.
Venue : NPOL Guest House, Kulamavu, Idukki Kerala
Time : 2200 hours, June 10, 2006


I. Proposal :

Vision of the University

The vision of the university is to become an international center of excellence for the assimilation, creation, application and dissemination of knowledge for aiding the progress towards a more developed and egalitarian society. The university will be committed to becoming the most sought after center for learning, the most conducive center for research, the most competent center to make use of knowledge for industrial and societal needs and the most proactive center for dissemination of knowledge to the larger public.

Why do we need such a University?

Knowledge is an indispensable asset that has the potential to accelerate social and economic progress. For this, it is important that new knowledge is created, existing knowledge is efficiently stored, actively distributed and judiciously applied.

A quick survey of the eminent institutes in India and abroad, indicates that a residential, autonomous, and flexible system is what has delivered so far. The “sense of belonging” and “academic ambiance” that a residential system offers is invaluable for the vision envisaged. The academic freedom and possibility of inter disciplinary interactions that an autonomous and flexible academic system ensures is also inevitable. A good faculty to student ratio and confinement to masters and doctoral level of studies is necessary to build and sustain an environment conducive for quality research. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore and The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi are evident examples for it. The JNU is also committed to ensuring that its campus is a microcosm of the Indian nation, drawing students from every nook and corner of the country and from every group and stratum of society. This has helped it to become a more inclusive, tolerant, and socially conscious campus.

We believe that, if the excellence in Science and Technology of IISc and the excellence in Social Sciences, Literature, Arts, Language, Culture Studies et cetera and social consciousness of JNU can be grown in one campus, it can serve not only to the creation and learning of knowledge but also to its application and dissemination for the betterment of society.

Unfortunately, Kerala cannot boast of any existing center of knowledge that can be easily upgraded to meet these requirements. The Cochin University of Science & Technology in Ernakulam has already undertaken the efforts to upgrade itself to an IIT. This will demand more stress on undergraduate teaching and focus on engineering and technology. The Kerala University Campus in Thiruvananthapuram, if de-linked from the administratively overloaded Kerala University, might be a possible center in Kerala that can upgrade itself to meet this vision. But unfortunately, it is not a residential campus, and hither to, it has failed to attract students and faculty from outside Kerala.

Taking these into account, it might be expedient for the Government of Kerala to initiate on its own or persuade the Central Government to initiate the institution of the “Dream University” in Kerala.

II. Some points to ponder up on further :

To become the most sought after center for learning ...

The University must ensure highest academic freedom, least administrative overheads and sufficient financial support so that it can attract and retain eminent teachers and researches. Invited lectures and short term courses from visiting faculty can enhance the exposure offered to students. Flexibility of the curriculum and opportunities to diversify ones areas of research will allure promising students to join the institute. The University must provide adequate infrastructure in terms of connectivity, libraries, laboratories, hostels, messes, recreation facilities et cetera.

To become the most conducive center for research ...

The role of a residential system in ensuring a promotive ambiance for research is long proved. A pool of eminent faculty with healthful peer evaluation and 1:10 faculty to student ratio is necessary to ensure quality research takes place in the University. There should be periodic performance evaluation of the departments, which will factor in while deciding future fund allocations.

  1. Residential system

  2. A system that can attract and retain the best faculty

  3. Faculty Student ratio

  4. Peer evaluation among faculty

  5. Performance based funding of departments

  6. Inter-disciplinary collaborations

  7. No undergraduates (Open labs, More responsible student of community)

  8. Diversity of student community

  9. Hosting international conferences

To become the most competent center to make use of knowledge for industrial and societal needs ...

  1. Diversity of student community

  2. Two way Faculty-Industry interaction cells

  3. Two way Faculty-Society/NGO interaction.

  4. The existence of a technological competence and social consciousness in the same campus,

To become the most proactive center for dissemination of knowledge to the larger public ...

(How do we ensure the dessimination of knowledge to public?)

  1. Archiving lectures, coursewares and invited lectures and making them available to public

  2. Periodic seminars for the larger public

  3. Joint initiatives with socially committed organizations

  4. University-run Kiosks to promote free lance research

  5. Periodicals

  6. FM channel

  7. Local/Specific Knowledge portal

Why can't we improve the present university system to meet this vision?

  1. We cannot upgrade the existing system to a residential system.

  2. Faculty recruitment process and norms.

  3. Faculty evaluation.

  4. Facilitating inter-disciplinory interaction.

  5. Faculty student ratio

  6. An exclusive PG and PhD campus is needed to ensure a research focus.

  7. [Arun] It is difficult to transform a culture

Is it a socially justifiable investment?

Tangible outputs from the university.

  1. Citation index count per faculty

  2. Student destinations

  3. Socially relevant projects undertaken per year

  4. Revenue generated through industry interaction

  5. Conversion ratio (Applicants/Seat)

What are the weaknesses and strengths of the existing higher education system?


  1. Lack of social consciousness

  2. Lack of research focus

  3. Lack of peer evaluation

  4. Lack of accountability

  5. Lack of proactive measures to disseminate knowledge

  6. Lack of proper knowledge management

  7. Lack of industry interaction

  8. Lack of academic freedom

  9. Too many layers of administrative overhead

  10. Failure to attract competent faculty.

  11. Failure to make effective use of new educational technolgy

  12. The knowledge created is not always available in the public domain.


  1. Diversity of student community

  2. Good library facility

  3. Fairness of enrollment process

  4. Infrastructure

  5. Quality Improvement programmes (atleast in engineering)


  1. Democratic control

  1. Affordability

  2. Effort to attract students from rural areas

How do we ensure the dessimination of knowledge to public?

  1. Archiving lectures, coursewares and invited lectures and making them available to public

  2. Periodic seminars for the larger public

  3. Joint initiatives with socially committed organizations

  4. University-run Kiosks to promote free lance research

  5. Periodicals

  6. FM channel

How do we ensure the accountability in the proposed university?

What will be the academic structure of the university?

What will be the administrative structure of the university?

  1. supporting facility should be accountable

How will we evolve into the proposed academic structure?

  1. Start with masters and PhD level research.

How will we ensure financial sustainability of the system?

  1. Revenue generation through industry interaction

  2. Government funding

  3. Sponsored courses

How can we avoid a new university?

  1. How is it different from CUSAT? - Only science and technolgy.

  2. How is it different from Kerala University Campus?

Models to study.

  1. Faculty recruitment in IISc.

  2. Structure of Kerala University Campus.