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Arindam Khan

IISc and CSA

Why CSA@IISc? (written in March, 2019)

Last year (2018) range of gate scores for admission at IISc CSA was extremely high: 894-1000 (GN). We have several GATE toppers and IISc has remained a top choice for GATE qualifiers for the past few decades. There are many reasons to choose IISc:

International recognition: IISc is no. 1 in India in most rankings. According to CS Rankings , IISc is the only Indian Institute within top 100 in the world. In some subareas, we are within the top 50 in the world. For example, in my research area of theoretical computer science (algorithms and complexity+ cryptography: also called track-A theory) IISc is rank 2 in Asia (after Tsinghua University) and no. 43 in the world. Let me mention some other rankings for top 5 among Indian Institutes:
NIRF Ranking: IISc(1), IIT M (2), IIT B (3), IIT D(4), IIT KGP (5).
TIMES Higher Education (THE): IISc(1), IIT B(2), IIT M(3), IIT D(4), IIT K(5).
CSRanking: IISc(1), IIT B(2), IIT K(3), IIT D(4), IIT M(5).
Thus IISc is internationally well-recognized and its fame is rapidly growing. Some of IISc alumni are faculties in top world universities, including my PhD advisor Prof. Prasad Tetali (MS from IISc in '87) who is currently a Regents Professor at Georgia Tech.

National recognition: IISc has been a pioneer of science and technology in India. For example, CSA at IISc was established in 1969, probably the oldest CS department in the country. It has been recognized as a center of excellence by UGC and DST in India. Last year IISc was tagged as an Institution of Eminence (IoE). ''Under this scheme, IISc will be supported by an additional Rs. 1,000 crores over 5 years, over and above its annual MHRD grant. The IoE tag will also allow IISc autonomy in many aspects of operation, including the ability to hire foreign faculty members to constitute up to 25% of its strength and flexibly utilize privately generated resources from alumni, industry and philanthropists.''

Research: CSA publishes 100+ publications per year, mainly in top-tier fora. For example, A paper on Data Clustering by one of our faculty members has almost 15000 citations. Most professors are leading researchers in their area and have done PhDs/postdocs from top universities such as MIT, Stanford, Princeton, CalTech, Georgia Tech etc. We have one of the largest and diverse departments in the country and we collaborate with top research institutions around the globe including MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, CMU, ETH, Microsoft Research, IBM Research etc. There is also a chance of doing great interdisciplinary research due to our diverse institute. For example, Pratiksha Trust (Kris and Sudha Gopalakrishnan) recently made an endowment of 225 crores for a center on brain research which fostered collaboration between computer science, neuroscience, and many other departments. Under this program, Prof. Christos Papadimitriou visited and stayed in IISc as an endowed chair. So we got a chance to learn from a pioneer in the field.

Teaching: We have 31 faculty members, 80 PhD students, 48 M.Tech (Research) and around 100 M.Tech (courseworks) students. The student-teacher ratio is the lowest in India. Unlike IITs, here the focus is on graduate teaching and courses taught here are at par with any top global universities. We also get a chance to attend many great talks/seminars/workshops. Last month, for example, we had 3 talks by Nobel laureates including Venky Ramakrishnan.

Job Placement: IISc has the best placement for M.Tech. students in India. Last year the highest salary was 38.10 lacs per anum (lpa), median 22 lpa, mean 22.77 lpa and lowest was 10 lacs. Out of 75 students, 13 students got salaries > 30 lacs and 45 students got > 20 lacs. The job profiles were of research engineers (17), software engineers (28) and data science analysts (30) - related to their field of study. Note that these are domestic salaries and the best in India. Recently, OCCAP designed a new policy by which companies will bid for slots. If a company wants to come early for placements, they will have to offer higher salaries. Under this policy, the salaries have increased and I will post the data once I have it. In IITs undergrads (B.Tech/Dual Degree) receive most of the top offers as most companies prefer to hire undergrads over M.Techs. Whereas in IISc, students don't have to compete with undergrads and thus get top offers from Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Flipkart, Uber, Apple, Tower Research etc. Students also get a chance to do internships at top companies at salaries up to 1 lac per month.

PhD opportunities: Every year our students go for PhDs in top world universities including MIT, Stanford etc. as well as continue their research as a PhD student in IISc. M.Tech students get excellent research exposure and publish at top-tier places, which is extremely rare in Indian academia. Our faculties have global connections and their recommendation letters (along with student's publications) carry a lot of weight for PhD admissions.

Student recognition: Our strength is our extremely bright and enthusiastic students. They have won 5 best paper awards, 3 best poster awards in recent years. In the past years, we had numerous Google PhD fellows, TCS PhD fellows, MSRI/Infosys/IBM PhD fellows, and ACM India Best Doctoral Dissertation Prize winners.

Entrepreneurship/Startup culture: IISc has produced trend-setting startups from Indian academia such as Picopeta Simputer, Strand Life Sciences, Mimyk, PolyMage Computing and a variety of free software tools that are in use by the international academic and industrial communities such as ChExVis, Recon, MathFinder, Omen+, Polymage, Pluto, Codd, Picasso.

Location: Bangalore has the nicest weather among Indian metros. It is a vibrant, young and cosmopolitan place and the place to be in India for young scientists and engineers. IISc campus, though located in central Bangalore, is one of the greenest campuses in India, shielding us from pollution and extreme weather.

Why Theory@IISc? (written in March, 2019)

Though ranking systems have their own problems, according to CSRanking, in Theory (algorithms and complexity+ cryptography: also called track-A theory) IISc is rank 2 in Asia (after Tsinghua University) and no. 43 in the world. Some advantages at IISc:

1. Big and diverse group: We have one of the biggest and diverse theory groups in the continent. We have researchers working on approximation/online algorithms, game theory, computational complexity, graph theory, spectral algorithms, optimization, learning theory, cryptography, computational algebra and number theory, distributed algorithms etc.

2. Location: Bangalore has Indian Statistical Institute, ICTS, Microsoft Research, IBM Research etc. many other institutions/labs with strong theory/math groups. So, students can collaborate and learn from them. For example, One of our adjunct faculty is Prof. Ravi Kannan from MSR. Theory researchers from Microsoft Research often collaborate and teach at IISc. Also, I love Bangalore weather and the IISc campus.

3. Theory courses: As we don't have undergraduates in CSA, we can offer the highest number of graduate-level theory courses in the country. For example, this semester (spring 2019) we are offering 7 graduate courses: approximation algorithm (co-taught by me), game theory, theory of deep learning, computational geometry and topology, theoretical foundations of cryptography along with research-level courses on special topics on graph theory, special topics in complexity. No other university in Asia can offer so many diverse graduate-level theory courses.

4. Seminars/visitors: IIsc hosts many conferences/workshops/seminars in theory CS. For example, last month we organized this amazing workshop: CSA50 Pratiksha Trust Workshop on Theoretical Computer Science. Many legends and pioneers of our field visit IISc. Recently, Prof. Christos Papadimitriou held an endowed chair position at IISc. So, one gets a chance to interact and learn from the masters in the field.

5. Theory culture: We have a young and vibrant group. IISc gets one of the best theory students in the country. They are bright and energetic. Young faculties also have more time for students.

Reading Group
Resources for Simplicial Complexes Reading Group Online Learning Reading Group
IISc Theory Lunch (2019-20)

Date Speaker Talk Title
29 March, 2019 Praneeth Netrapalli (Microsoft Research India) Optimal regret rates for nonconvex "Follow the Perturbed Leader"
3 May, 2019 Raghavendra G.S., Rekha Pai (IISc Bengaluru) Merge Trees/ Data Races
7 June, 2019 Niranjan Balachandran (IIT Bombay) Fractional L-intersecting families
21 June, 2019 Neeraj Kayal (Microsoft Research India) Proper Learning Algorithms from Lower Bounds for Arithmetic Circuits
12 July, 2019 Chandan Saha (IISc Bengaluru) Learning sums of powers of low degree polynomials.
16 August, 2019 Karthik C.S. (Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel) Inapproximability of Clustering in L_p metrics
30 August, 2019 Akanksha Agrawal (Ben-Gurion University, Israel) Guarding Polygons via CSP
13 September, 2019 Vinod Vaikunthanathan (MIT, USA) Breaking the $2^n$ Barrier in Secret Sharing
4 December, 2019 Sahil Singla (Princeton, USA) Improved Truthful Mechanisms for Combinatorial Auctions with Submodular Bidders
6 January, 2020 Sandip Sinha (Columbia, USA) Beyond trace reconstruction: Population recovery from the deletion channel

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