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Tathagata Kar pursued an M.Sc.- Ph.D. (2010 batch) in the Department of Energy Science and Engineering in IIT Bombay, and he graduated in 2018. Currently, he is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Tel Aviv University, Israel.
What was your Motivation in going for an MS/Ph.D. over a career in the industry?
After my bachelor’s in Chemistry (Major), I was interested to study the science that has a more practical approach. In the current global scenario, energy is the most discussed topic. I had chosen this stream because I wanted to learn a subject that is of extreme practical importance in one hand and have a lot of research scope on the other.
What was the motivation for doing a post-doc, and what were some other options that you thought of?
The primary motivation was to do some independent research in the area which I haven’t explored before but are aligned with my interests. I didn’t really think about any option other than a postdoc. To be in academia, I believe it is necessary for a person holding a Ph.D. to have research experience in a different lab/university.
If the answer to the above question is engaging in research, then why not jobs in RnD?
A postdoctoral position offers you an excellent opportunity to work on fundamental science.
In my opinion, jobs in R&D are equally challenging but are product-specific. You cannot really compare them, it is like comparing apples with oranges.
Did you have any specific motivation for choosing Israel over some other places like in Asia, Australia, and Europe?
The current scenario of getting a postdoc position is extremely competitive. Very few lucky Ph.D. graduates have multiple postdoc offers. To be true, there is very little room for a choice.
A question that the students should ask themselves before applying for a post-doc under a specific guide and institute
Am I really interested in doing further research after Ph.D. and ready to take the risk?
If yes, then the candidate should definitely go for it.
Any exam tips, application tips, links to any personal blogs, etc
Keep in touch with seniors. Get your application cover letter, CV, research statement checked and proof-read by them since they already have the experience. Build up your contacts with the people residing at different universities across the world, it really helps.
Factors considered in choosing the university, program, and advisor (For postdoc as well as Ph.D.)
It is wise to choose the advisor first having mutual research interest. If your frequency matches well with that of your supervisor, the University you will be working at should not really matter.
How do you think they are different, choosing a Ph.D. and a post-doc guide.
Both are entirely different. For choosing a Ph.D. advisor you don’t have much experience. You join PhD and then you gather the research experience.
While choosing a postdoc advisor, you are already an experienced candidate. Check the projects your potential future advisor is working on, if you feel comfortable, apply. Do not send applications to thousands of people, it won’t work. Be selective and effective.
What do you think are the differences between IITB and the current University in terms of say:
I can’t say much about the faculties of my current institute since I haven’t been through any of the courses running here. But faculties of IIT Bombay were just amazing, the grading system was also very good.
Honestly speaking, with my personal experience I feel IITB is better in terms of central research facilities and having access to them.
Research opportunities are good. Most of the experimental laboratories in Israel are well-funded. You will find all the basic lab-specific characterization tools in the lab itself. For example, you are in a material synthesis lab, you will have your own XRD instrument, BET apparatus, etc. If you are in a thin-film lab, you will be having your own CVD setup and Raman spectrometer. These ease your research a lot. You can have industrial collaborations if you are interested.
Any other factor
Both my past and present, the institutes I was in were blessed with scenic beauty. In addition, IITB had a very vibrant atmosphere which I enjoyed a lot during my approx. 8 years of stay.
Friends and Social Life (also if any culture shocks):
People here are usually friendly and helpful. Since language is a big barrier here, at some point you have to socialize with the Indian community. There is definitely a cultural shock that you have to face. In any foreign land, you will encounter people with different mentality, lifestyle, cultural background etc. And you have to come to terms with them and adapt yourself accordingly. This is not always easy and takes time.
Significant difficulties (like say finances, research and colleagues, adjusting family life, marriage, etc.)
Tel Aviv is one of the costliest cities in the world. Managing finances here is extremely challenging. You can’t roam around and spend as much as you wish. The costliest part is the room rent followed by the food and health insurance; 60-70% of your salary will go here. The rest you can save or spend for any miscellaneous purpose.
Adjusting family life and staying with your spouse should not be a problem, you will find a lot of Indian families here to hang around, chat, have lunch/dinner together. With your local colleagues, you will be introduced to a different culture and food habits. You need to be flexible and adaptive.
And most importantly, you have to cook your own food and learn to do every household matter by yourself.
What are some key takeaways you have from your experience in Israel?
Being independent and confident in what you are doing is very important. Try to keep everything professional and officially recorded.
What are your Future plans?
I wish to be a successful electrochemist and return to India to join the academics.
Any advice that you’d like to give to the students?
Being in research is difficult. Failures are obvious so try to be focussed and motivated. Never lose your hope, success will show up today or tomorrow.