My Story

Post GATE Experiences: Interview at IIT Delhi

Prologue:

“It had been over 1 hour since all of us were waiting eagerly for the interview result to be pasted on the Notice Board. At 5:30 pm, one of the staff finally brought an A4 sheet with 4 names printed on it, and pasted the same on the Notice Board. All of a sudden, all the students crowded the Notice Board. I waited back for their dispersal (in fact I wasn’t able to gather the courage to look at the result). I saw some faces turning back sadly (probably they didn’t make it). As soon as they created the space around the board, I stepped ahead and had a glance of the result to discover that I……..”


I still remember the morning of June 7th 2011. Without the need of any alarm bell, I woke up at 5:10 am. There was some hang-over kind of feeling (friends!interviewatiitd I don’t consume alcohol at all!). With some effort, when I tried to recollect myself out of the hangover, I found a book under my head (which happened to become my pillow last night). It was Keith Wilson and John Walker’s Principles and techniques of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I remembered going through the chapter on Chromatography late night till 1:00 am, before I fell asleep. It didn’t take me long to realize that the morning could be another fateful day of my life, as my interview at the Department of Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology, IIT Delhi was scheduled for that day i.e June, the 7th, 2011.

I was living in Palwal (Haryana) with my friend Deepak Dixit (a very determined friend of mine who attempted GATE BT 3 times without loosing hope, to finally clear it in 2012).  Palwal is around 60 Kms away from New Delhi, so I had to plan my travel in a way that I should reach IIT Delhi by 1:00 pm without any last minute haste/anxiety (especially considering the “Delhi Traffic”).

Before leaving for IIT Delhi, I revised the three basic modes of Bioreactor operation (Batch, Fed-Batch and Chemo-stat) from Doran. I was quite sure that some one in the interview panel must ask me a question related to the bioreactors (it was quite obvious to think so, as IIT Delhi is all about Bioprocessing and Biochemical Engineering).

 Reaching IIT Delhi

I left for Delhi at 9:00 am (4 hours before the scheduled time). I left without any book in hand to relax and not to burden my mind with any unnecessary anxiety of the lack of preparation (or the left topics). On my way to Delhi, I kept my eyes closed, was unusually calm (wasn’t thinking much about anything) and reached IIT Delhi without any hassle by 12:15 pm. I wasn’t new to IIT Delhi. I first came to IITD in 2008 for attending the Cultural festival :Rendezvous. Followed by that I came to IITD in 2010 with a project proposal to grab an internship (though I wasn’t entertained there). So, this was the third time I came to IITD, but I came with the aim to be an IITian this time, and be a part of IITD!

I didn’t need any guidance for reaching the Department of Biochemical Engg. and Biotechnology (Popularly known as DBEB) and easily grabbed a seat in the Seminar Room by 12:30 pm.

Pre-Screening Process

Total Students selected for the screening process were: 25

But, the number of students who reached IITD on the day of screening were 10.

As per schedule following events were planned for screening:

1. Written Test to filter a batch of students

2. Interview

Things that were asked from all the students before the screening process were :

  • Copy of the 10th, 12th and B.Tech marksheets.
  • Copy of GATE scorecard
  • These details were entered on a piece of paper as well

 The Pleasant Surprise

After the pre-screening, we were informed that as the number of students appeared for screening were already half of the number of students qualified for screening, so our written test won’t be conducted, and direct interviews would be carried out. Also, we came to know that finally only 2-4 students will be selected out of the 10 students for the coveted MS(Research) course in DBEB. Whereas the final number of students that would be selected brought some anxiousness, the news of exemption of written test did bring a great relief.

 The Interview at IIT Delhi

As the interviews started, I was sitting in a corner of the seminar room (very much aloof of the 3 clusters that were created in the room). I was just observing every one (as if I was some alien and was watching the humans for the first time! :D). I watched people going out anxiously and coming back happily. I was thinking, “Man! If everyone is having a nice interview, do I really stand a chance here????!” All of a sudden I heard, “Sunil Nagpal, it’s your turn”. For the first time in the entire day, I was numb in “fear and anxiety”. I opened the door of the room where interviews were going on. It was a Conference Room with a huge elliptical table in the centre. And, wow! there were “8” Interviewers in the room!!! My heart was just pounding like hell as I witnessed this scene!

A lady scientist (extremely well dressed and soft spoken) asked me to take the seat. My mind quickly recognized her as “Dr. Saroj Mishra” (I had researched well about the faculty of DBEB). She was the first one to ask me:

“Sunil, I see that you have a brilliant academic record in school as well in college, but I have a curious question that what made you land up in Lovely Professional University?”

I decided to be true to her. And I replied, ” Mam, I’m one amongst those lakhs of students who wanted to be a doctor, but couldn’t grab a seat for MBBS in a government institute. I did manage a seat for MBBS in a private college, but then I decided to spend the same money on a B.Tech in Biotechnology course, which was gaining popularity at that time. As I didn’t appear for any entrance exam other than AIPMT, I had no other option but Amity or LPU to join for B.Tech course. And Mam, with due respect to your question, I rather believe that the name of any educational institute is created by it’s students, and I hope that today LPU will get recognized here in some form..”

This frank answering made me really very confident, and I could see that Dr. Saroj was very much content with my answer, if not impressed.

.

Then came the second question from her:

“Ok, Sunil, tell me which Book did you follow for Microbiology and Biochemistry?”

I quicky answered, Prescott for Microbiology and Stryer for Biochemistry.

And, she nodded her head to acknowledge my response with satisfaction.

.

Then, a male scientist ( I recognized him as Dr. Prashant Mishra), sitting immediately diagonally left to me, asked me in an extremely soft tone:

“Ok, Sunil, can you draw the structure of Starch and Cellulose’s basic units?”

Well, I was delighted to get this basic question (it was the favourite question of my Biochemistry teacher at LPU 🙂 ). I took not even half a minute to draw the structures. They liked the quick response.

Then he asked,

Ok Sunil, what do you understand by Specific activity of an Enzyme?”

I replied, “Sir, the amount of substrate the enzyme converts per mg enzyme preparation, per unit of time may be referred to as Specific activity.”

He interrupted, “Can you please explain in terms of Units of enzyme? and tell me what is 1 Unit of an Enzyme?”

I waited for some seconds to recollect the concept of Enzymes learnt from Trevor Palmer’s book and replied, “1 unit (U) is the amount of enzyme that catalyses the reaction of a unit of substrate per minute. A unit of substrate can be 1 micromole or 1 nanmole or as specified some seller/manufacturer”. So Specific activity may be calculated by dividing number of enzyme units per ml with the concentration of protein (representing the enzyme) in mg/ml.”

He seemed content with the answer.

Then a question came from one of the senior scientists there (He was Dr. Bisaria):

“Sunil, you just drew the structures of starch and cellulose. Can you explain the reason for the difference in their structure and what advantage do starch and cellulose derive out of the different structures?”

I took some time to understand the first part of his question. I really didn’t find any immediate answer to his 1st question about the reason for difference in their structure. I was thinking that it’s actually more of the rule of nature, but then I decided to say whatever I was thinking. I replied, ” Sir, I think, it’s more of the rule of nature. Starch is supposed to be a storage material, so it’s structure should be simple enough that it can be used in starvation (a property offered by α 1,4 extended glycosidic structure of amylose form). Cellulose on the other hand is a structural material, so β bonding helps in tight packing and strength of the molecule. We shared some more finer intricacies of the structural significance of amylose, amylopectin and cellulose before he finally transferred the rights of questioning to next faculty–Dr. Atul Narang.

Readers who want to study the details of Starch, may refer This Link

Dr Narang was a young scientist, who asked me a question I was very well prepared of:

“Hi Sunil, can you tell me something about Chemo-stat? Why is it called so? and What’s Washout?

I was extremely happy to listen so many questions (because I was eager to answer each of them!). I replied, “Sir, Chemo-stat is a mode of operating a bioreactor in which we have a continuous influx of substrate and efflux of product, at such a rate that there remains a steady state in the bioreactor in terms of the chemical concentration of substrate, product and biomass. That’s the reason it’s called a Chemo-stat. And, washout refers to the sudden washing out/ depletion of entire biomass from the bioreactor (chemo-stat) when the dilution rate is increased beyond critical dilution rate.

He was extremely content with my answer, so was I.

Other faculty didn’t ask me any question and I was told that my interview was over. I thanked all of them and left.


My interview went for around 45 minutes. One of the longest interviews I ever faced. After all interviews were over, we all were asked to wait as the results were planned to be declared right then. We got excited. It had been over 1 hour since all of us were waiting eagerly for the interview result to be pasted on the Notice Board. At 5:30 pm, one of the staff finally brought an A4 sheet with 4 names printed on it, and pasted the same on the Notice Board. All of a sudden, all the students crowded the Notice Board. I waited back for their dispersal (in fact I wasn’t able to gather the courage to look at the result). I saw some faces turning back sadly (probably they didn’t make it). As soon as they created the space around the board, I stepped ahead and had a glance of the result to discover that I had made it to the list of selected students! I jumped and punched in air! I was ecstatic and elated! And, I still cherish that day of my selection in IIT Delhi for the masters course.

Hope you people might find it useful for your pursuit of a Masters/PhD at IITD. Let me know if I can help any of you in any form needed.

All the best!

Sunil

 

One Comment

  1. diksha kalra

    I Diksha kalra M.Sc. microbiology student. I want to ask how to Prepare for Phd entrnace exam of iit delhi. I got 47 marks in gate lifesciences 2018.

     

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