MIT Ahoy!

Meet Manas Mitall, a NSIT-ite who has earned himself a seat at Masachusetts Institute of Technology with a 800/ 800 GRE score…

A mind-boggling GRE score of 800/800, a 100% scholarship for MS in MIT, a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an entire shipload of international prizes won, a host of research projects. Never thought these could be the achievements of an individual sane human? Manas Mittal a student pursuing Bachelor of Engineering in computers at Netaji Subhas Insitute of Technology (NSIT) has all these and a lot many honours to his credit.

Here are some tidbits from the interview he gave us:
What are the projects you worked for during your undergraduate years?
I’ve had a good time doing projects on my own outside of class. In the summer vacations following my first year, I decided that I needed some breadth of knowledge about contemporary computer technology. Therefore, I decided to work and write for PCQuest, a popular Indian Computer magazine.

After my second year at NSIT, I decided to try and get an internship in a research lab. I wrote e-mails to a few professors whose work I liked. I was offered an internship at the MIT Media Lab. One of the projects I worked on was involved building a device that, starting from an acrylic disk, manufactured cups, plates and bowls on the fly upon user command. Further, the device could recycle these dishes back into acrylic disks. The MIT Media Lab focuses on going the ‘last mile to deliver technology benefits’ by focusing on projects and ideas that apply technology to solve some problem.

I continued working with the MIT Media Lab in the summer vacations after my third year as well. Now, I am going to join there as a graduate student.

Outside of MIT, one of the projects I’ve worked on was Infostation. Our team of 4 NSIT students won the 2nd prize worldwide at a Microsoft competition for that.

In which field would you be undertaking your graduate studies at MIT? Why the particular choice?
I would like to be a masters student at the Media Laboratory at MIT. The Media Lab works primarily on applying technology to solve problems. The research is also ‘pull based’, motivated by problem solving rather than just intellectual pleasure.

You have an excellent GRE score and an impressive resume. Did you always believe you would make it to MIT?
I don’t think GRE / TOEFL scores matter in top schools. In fact, MIT, as a policy, never ask for GRE scores. Early on in my undergraduate studies, I had decided that I would like to get an experience of studying in an American University. As for believing that I would make it to MIT – while I thought that my interests were close match to the work being done at MIT Media Lab, I wasn’t sure that I’ll get admitted there. One can never be. I received the admission offer rather late, and had almost started looking for places to stay in Hyderabad where I had planned to go (as my second choice) and work with Microsoft.

You have been a visiting scholar to MIT for the past two years. How benefiting has the experience been?
Like all experiences, spending summers at MIT changed me as a person. My work there led me appreciate that it was fun to understand how things work, and to find the beauty and elegance that is found in so many ideas that work. I also stayed with a M.I.T. professor and it was a unique experience to do small things with him — Like fixing a car silencer – the spirit of understanding, fixing and making things was omnipresent.

On a personal level, the friends I made there gave me a new perspective of looking at things. I became less judgmental, more understanding and tolerant. When I came back to India, my friends noticed and complimented upon the change.

Do you believe that international exposure is a must for engineering students in India?
I think traveling and living in a different environment is an enriching experience. I couldn’t get many opportunities in India for interesting internships, and so I decided to go to the states. The good thing about good schools is that you get to do interesting work.

Any words of wisdom to students keen to follow in your footsteps…
Well, I was lucky to have got a lot of opportunities early. I hope people can take the initiative and create / find out of opportunities. On a personal note, I am not sure where exactly I am headed, so people should find a better person (one who has more wisdom) to follow.

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