Hi, my name is Mehul Mathur and this is a short narrative about my two-year escapade as a research student in PreCog. I will be starting my employed life with Endowus Hyderabad (SDE) soon as I say goodbye to IIIT-Hyderabad as a Computer Science graduate. With further hopes and ambitions for grad schools in the future, I carry the memories of some of the craziest, transformative, fun, and even humbling experiences I had in my undergrad life with PreCog and it’s culture and highlight some of them in this blog.
About Me and How I Found Precog
Once you enter IIIT-H you soon realize that there is no escaping the crushing workload that is assignments, quizzes, and projects. I kept myself sane with various other activities however like shooting hoops in the basketball court or pumping some iron at the gym. I also found myself involved pretty quickly with the music club which made me some of the best memories and got rid of a lot of stage fright. All of this eventually leads to the slow burner that is research (don’t worry, you come to like it a lot later). IIIT offers a multitude of research areas all of which are very involved in their own journeys and technologies, which makes their presentation and appeal to the students a very important part of their functioning. This is exactly what made me join PreCog. On January 2021, PK gave an orientation and introduction for his lab along with some of the already present students and talked about their various projects and goals. I recall immediately being impressed by the lab and wanting to apply as soon as possible. The projects that were presented struck me as unique and their simple ideology of being “practically beneficial for solving social issues” really stood out to me. After applying I was given a rather large assignment and some reading tasks, which included getting hands-on experience with social media APIs, python libraries, notebooks, and some critical paper reading which all formed a great starter pack to research. After that, I had some intuitive discussions with PK in my interviews which also made me realize that conversations with a research professor don’t always have to be mechanical and apprehensive. The onboarding process after that was another delight as it included summer school, more presentations, and casual interactions. All of this set this lab apart from other labs showcasing its ability to be student-friendly and transparent.
Exploring New Horizons: Captivating Projects in My PreCog Journey
One thing that PK promotes in the lab is the constant exploration of new ideas. You have to be dynamic and on your toes as any project team and their research might seem exciting to you at any time. So my first few months were spent in a little bit of wandering between the various PHD students (the overlords) and listening to their pitches and helping them out in their work. My first actual project was with two of my seniors Tanvi (currently studying MS in Datascience at Carnegie Mellon University, USA & interning at Tesla, San Francisco) and Avinash (currently studying MS in CS at Georgia Tech, USA & interning at Apple, San Francisco) along with two external international collaborators Hemank and Megha. PKs connections with external collaborators (both research and industrial) give you this really cool feeling of working in some high-end international junction of research rather than just a compter science lab. This project was about studying the inconsistent distribution of Covid vaccines accross india and correlating that to various factors like rural population , geographical area , language , religion etc. It had me handling and maintaining several APIs (both free and paid) and huge amounts of data. One hard to forget expereince was when I had accidentally let one of the scripts accessing a paid API run for too long resulting in a huge bill – which both me and a senior had to get rid of using clever customer complaints XD.
After this project, I had worked with another team of mixed IIIT-D and IIIT-H students on a project about correlating the prices of NFTs with their owner’s Twitter profiles. This was a successful project as it culminated with the acceptance of our paper at FinWeb. This one taught me a lot about paper writing as we continuously had to go through harsh reviews of our draft until finally crafting the best submission. The huge amounts of collaboration had me working late hours with sleepy Google meets and collective paper writing sessions lasting several hours – all building my research mindset slowly.
Adventures in the Lab: Unveiling the Fun-filled Activities of PreCog
PreCog had a lot of meetings and brainstorming sessions. One of the main ones is the WU (you probably know what this is) – Weekly Update. This for me took some time getting used to as you had to present and update the whole lab about your progress and spark discourse over the same. Once you start treating these not as a platform but as an opportunity to get support and hype about your research ideas, these prove to be really helpful. One more interaction session was the BM – Brainstorm Session, which I was a part of both in presenting and organizing. These in my opinion were a great way to keep everyone excited about a variety of research topics and papers as we collectively dissected a research paper.
PK also took us out for dinners and other activities. The most memorable one for me was when we all went bowling – mostly because I scored the most there :p – but it was a lot of fun interacting with everyone in a casual manner. The best part was wearing the PreCog T-shirt along with everyone else and marching in these places like an armed battalion!
Reflecting on the countless thrills and growth I experienced in PreCog, it was a symphony of data, collaboration, and personal development that resonated deeply within me. To my exceptional professor and the PreCog Research Group, I extend my heartfelt gratitude for providing me with a stage to harmonize my passions and expand my intellectual repertoire. So if you want to become a part of an exciting and dynamic research group, I suggest you give PreCog a shot and explore your ideas in a supportive and casual environment.