I joined Precog as an honours student at the end of my second year of college (summer 2020). I worked on Computational Social Science related research problems, under PK’s purview. My journey has been meaningful and rewarding in many ways! Through this blog, I will share my experiences and detail the aspects I valued the most. Here are some things I loved about being at Precog:
The research done at Precog is very applied and practical in nature. I worked on analysing the spread of Islamophobic hate-speech online and identifying malicious actors. I appreciated that we worked on a current-world problem which made the research timely and pertinent in nature. Much of the work at Precog deals with real-world problems and has a tangible impact. This makes the process rewarding as we use Computer Science to solve practical issues. I also valued that the research was at a confluence of Computer Science and Social Science as it dealt with societal problems.
Precog enabled me to explore a wide breadth of problems, from hate-speech analysis to characterization of social networks to detection of inappropriate content on streaming platforms. PK allows you to decide your own project so you can choose to work on a problem statement that echoes with you and one that you are passionate about. This ensures you see value in what you are doing and makes you more interested in your work.
I would be lying if I said it is easy to work with PK – he definitely expects commitment! There are innumerable meetings and slack messages that keep one on their toes! But it is a process I thoroughly enjoyed – the work is engaging and requires creative thinking. So all those meetings don’t feel like ‘work’, but just an interaction where you’re thinking deeply about interesting problems with your friends. The friends aspect ties into the next thing that I value about Precog: Community.
Precog is a well-connected and closely-knit lab. We have weekly WhatsUp (WU) sessions where we discuss what everyone has been working on and give each other feedback and advice on what we can do differently. This makes the lab atmosphere very collaborative and you don’t feel like you are working on your project in isolation. I really value WUs as that is how I made many friends at Precog and got to learn a whole lot of things from listening to others’ research! PK also ensures that the lab workspace Slack is always lively – the frequent communication and discussions make you feel closer to the group.
At Precog, we don’t just do research, we also spend a lot of time doing fun activities! We have many birthday celebrations, catch-up sessions, and lab-meetups. Even when everything was virtual, the lab was always active and energetic. When things finally switched to in-person in Spring 2022, we went for a lab-outing and bonded over bowling and a delicious buffet! 😛
My experience at PreCog has been one that I’ll cherish and carry with myself forever. And it is not just me who feels this way – the impact that PreCog has on folks is evident by how many alumni come to visit PK and attend various celebrations / information sessions.
Bond with PK
This is by far my most favourite part of PreCog. It is rare for one to connect so deeply with their advisor. In fact, I consider PK not just my research advisor, but also my life advisor 😛 We had a very open channel of communication and I could share with him everything from the good, the bad, and the ugly. One thing I really appreciate about PK is that he sees us as more than just his research students – he recognizes each of our character traits and quirks, and works with us to achieve our individual goals. In one of his #PKGyaans (snippets of wisdom from PK), he mentioned how his aim is to “help other people reach their goals” and he truly lives by the statement.
PK is your biggest supporter – he celebrates all your wins, whether big or small (evident from his hashtag #IIITHStudentsRock, haha)! He takes pride in his students’ work and widely flaunts any paper, award, or scholarship, making you feel valued. At the same time, PK is extremely understanding and cognizant of your personal space and time. I could have frank and open discussions with him when I was not getting the expected outputs or was facing some difficulties. He created an atmosphere where I could always speak my mind, even if it meant contradicting him at times! I have never felt more at ease talking to a professor because PK does not establish any ‘hierarchy’. He creates a safe space for students to talk (and joke) about work, life, and anything under the sun!
I am excited to share that I am joining the M.S. in Computer Science program at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I can positively say it would not have been possible without PK or Precog!
If you stuck around till the end of the blog, please consider applying to the lab! Being part of the team has been a transformative and pivotal experience for me and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to take a shot at research or just do cool things. The team is a set of extremely smart and talented folks who make you feel most welcome. I’m sure you too will love being a #Precogger!