Sathwik with his thesis advisor, Prof. David

Sathwik hails from the town of Hosanagara in district Shivamogga (Karnataka). After graduating, he has joined the DSP algorithms group at Texas Instruments in Bangalore. He will be joining the PhD program under the guidance of Prof. Eytan Modiano Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Spring 2021. Here are excerpts of a brief interview with Sathwik, where he highlights his journey through IIT Madras.

Tell us about your family background, early education

My mother is a primary school teacher, and my father works in an insurance company. I did my primary schooling in my hometown of Hosanagara in Karnataka. Growing up in this remote town in the hills of Western Ghats, my childhood days were full of extracurricular activities like music, arts, and games, mostly in the heavy monsoon rains. To get better exposure to various career opportunities, I moved to a residential school in Mysore during high school. It was during this time that I heard about the IITs for the first time. Eventually, the exposure I got in my school and my father’s million online searches (we used Yahoo Answers back then 🙂 ) motivated me to write JEE and eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree in IIT Madras.

Can you tell us about the influences that shaped you and your career path during your stay at IIT Madras?

The most vital asset IITM offered me was its erudite and diverse community. The energy and enthusiasm among the students and professors are propagative. The atmosphere always motivated me to continuously learn new things and constantly try and achieve my goals.

My friends always encouraged me to be on top of my studies. They encouraged me to seek unique opportunities and participate in events like internships, conferences, and workshops.

Further, the role of my research advisor, Prof. David Koilpillai, was crucial in the development of my career. Apart from strengthening my academic skill set, he also encouraged and recommended me to take part in collaborative projects. I secured a research internship at Purdue University in the US with his help, which gave me hands-on research experience. The collaborative atmosphere offered by IITM also allowed my project to be co-advised by Prof. Nambi Seshadri from UCSD. Having two of the pioneers in my field of study as my advisors gave me a great deal of knowledge and creativity. The research environment that IITM offered me played a paramount role in forming my research career.

If you were to do it all over again, would you choose IIT Madras? If so, why?

Definitely yes.

The atmosphere IITM offered me was, without a doubt, optimal. My friends, who were the right balance between fun and scholarly, always encouraged each other to excel in every aspect.

I am grateful to IITM for all the opportunities it provided me. I would not be in the place I am right now without the supportive platform IITM offered. Besides adding to my scientific caliber, the diverse atmosphere provided by IITM has also enhanced my critical thinking, moral ideologies, and other extracurricular skills.

If I had to do it all over again, the only thing I would change is to enjoy the IITM campus more. Because, just a couple of months after leaving, I am already missing the green and calm campus.