By the end of my first year, I knew that I wanted to pursue a Masters from a prestigious university like CMU. This meant I needed to build a stellar profile with adequate research experience and strong recommendation letters to have a chance at achieving such a goal. Thus began my research into the various labs and professors of IIIT and this is when I came across Precog. I had heard great things about PK from my seniors at Precog like how he not only looked after your research progress but also concerned himself with your personal growth and development. Moreover, Precog provided a unique opportunity to work on academic and industrial research, serving as a platform to collaborate with giants at the forefront of their fields from academia as well as the industry. This made Precog the obvious choice to pursue an Honors and gain invaluable research experience. Unfortunately, I was rejected when I applied for an Honors in Precog as I was not a suitable candidate at the time. However, this did not stop me from applying again the following year when I finally got the opportunity to pursue a year-long Independent Study in Precog. Looking back, I can say with absolute certainty that Precog helped me develop personally and professionally, providing me with indispensable insights and skills that will help me for the rest of my life.
You realize Precog is unique from other labs right from the get-go. For instance, Precog’s recruitment process is very distinctive where I had to read a research paper and present it from the perspective of various different roles. I found this process to be quite enriching and eye-opening as it proved to be one of my first experiences actually reading and analyzing a research paper in depth. Once I was admitted to the lab, I found a similar practice in place in the form of weekly BMs. These sessions proved to be very informative, stimulating, and fun as they were often characterized by lively and thought-provoking discussions on the papers under discussion and potential research threads. These sessions with the role-based presentations helped me better understand the nuances of the research in question that I don’t think would have been possible by merely reading the paper and now I personally try to follow this practice whenever perusing papers.
I also found the frequency of updates a unique aspect of Precog and it served as an effective check on my progress while also ensuring the quick resolution of issues. Regular communication is of paramount importance in Precog. The weekly WUs helped everyone stay in touch with all the other projects in the lab and fostered the exchange of ideas and suggestions. I remember one particular instance when it also helped me get in touch with another member from the lab whose project aligned with one of my threads and we were able to exchange information that helped both our projects. The freedom one is given in the lab from choosing your projects to deciding what direction to pursue within a project is another refreshing feature that I really enjoyed. However, this freedom does come with some responsibility on your part to ensure you remain sincere in your work and do what’s best for the lab and the collaborators. I was able to join two threads in collaboration with Infosys which was my first real foray into the world of industrial research. These threads exposed me to working with big data and taught me the importance of aspects such as scalability and efficiency when working on products to be deployed in the real world. The day one of our Infosys threads was deployed as a part of the Infosys Enterprise Data Privacy Suite (iEDPS) remains etched in my mind. The satisfaction remains unparalleled.
Eventually, I joined another thread in collaboration with Factly during the summer. Again, I was given the freedom to join this project at my will and I was particularly eager to join this thread as it aligned with my interests in Computer Vision. This project gave me a different taste of industrial research where we were trying to further improve a given system instead of developing a solution from scratch. However, during the Monsoon 2022 semester, I had a relatively heavy workload which meant I had to drop this thread in the middle of the semester. What made this decision easier was PK’s understanding and support when we had a one-on-one to discuss this matter. This is when I got a glimpse into his helpful and humane nature where he genuinely tries to see things from your perspective and tries to alleviate the situation to the extent he can.
Throughout my journey, I always felt PK had a more personal touch, irrespective of whether you are an undergrad, Masters, or Ph.D. student. This was particularly surprising to me as a single-degree student who was not even doing Honors under him. If I ever had a problem or needed advice, I could arrange a one-on-one with him and he would take out time from his busy schedule to hear me out and help me find a solution. I recall when he had taken us out to celebrate Precog’s birthday, he went to each and every table in the restaurant and had a heartfelt conversation with almost every student. The general atmosphere in the lab is very casual and fun where you can easily approach anyone at any time. It is my opinion that all these small things add up to make Precog different from other labs and why it is where it is today. Not to mention, the incredibly strong network the lab has, not just in the form of its collaborators but also its alumni. I am happy to say that I, Shaurya Dewan, am a Precog alum who will be pursuing a Master of Science in Computer Vision (MSCV) from CMU all thanks to the incredible support I received from Precog and PK along my journey.