What Is Research?

July 12, 2006

Looking back, and forward

Filed under: Uncategorized — vipulnaik @ 1:00 pm

The VSRP programme already feels like over. All I need to do now is deliver a short and sweet presentation on what I have learnt here (for which I am making slides using LaTeX). The presentation is titled “Module theoretic freeness over the invariant subring” and it is open to all.

I’ll be in this glorious place called TIFR for just two more days. So it is time for me to collect myself, figure out what I can squeeze from ehre in two more days, and then start packing my bags for the life ahead.

One regret I’ll have is missing out on interaction with the faculty here. Apart from with my guide (Professor Dipendra Prasad), I hardly talked to any of the faculty members. Why was that? TIFR has many of the country’s, and some of the world’s, best researchers. Why did I pass up this chance?

One thing is that I really don’t know how to approach a big shot mathematician who appears busy in his (or her) office. Do I just barge in and start blabbering? Obviously not. Do I research the mathematician’s tastes and read his/her papers and then decide on a line of approach? Or do I hang around in the canteen, place myself strategically next to the professor, and try to get involved in a conversation?

So what opportunities have I had? Who are the people with whom I had openings to interact? One of them was Professor M.S.Raghunathan who is one of India’s best mathematicians. He gave the introductory talk, and he also gave a lecture series on “Lie groups”. But I didn’t really feel synchronized with that Lecture Series. May be he seemed too high to me….

Professor Indranil Biswas gave a lecture series on differential geometry, which I enjoyed. But that’s not a topic on which I have lots of deep questions. And Dr. Raja Sridharan gave a few talks in the beginning on algebra, which had a few nice proofs, but I again didn’t find anything to follow him up on.

Another factor that I think pulls me down in these things is my inability to capitalize on “social lunches” and “social dinners”. For instance, I don’t go down for evening tea (because I don’t take it) but in fact, evening tea is an important occasion for the students to meet profs and drop in casual conversation.

DP (my abbreviation for my guide) had invited all the VSRP students for post dinner snacks on one day, and during that interaction, he encouraged us all to get friendly. Another TIFR faculty member, Dr. Riddhi Shah, also dropped in there and talked to us for some time.

Anyway, what is gone is gone. It is back to the same thing: every body is busy in his or her own work, to build contacts and guides requires an extra effort and initiative. Staying in one’s own world doesn’t always help.

My plan for now: go and talk to DP tomorrow. (I’ve already fixed that up with him). Ask him more questions relating to the other areas of work, relating to the other repercussions of the reading work that have been done. These include:

(i) What all that we discussed about Lie groups goes through for algebraic groups?
(ii) What is the concept of doing things over characteristic $p$?
(iii) Finite groups, what are the tools used in the study of them?

I also want to say a few words about my idea on “Sequences” and try to open the door for further communication via email.

Finally, I want to figure out whether it will be appropriate to ask for a letter recommendation from him at a later stage.

Will post more after tomorrow.

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