Saturday, October 25, 2014

Shell-FOM CSER (Computational Sciences for Energy Research) PhD 75 Programme 2014-15 [Part 5]

Click Here to Read Round 3 Details

Round 4: CSER Matching Phase

30 candidates were selected for the final round which was the CSER matching phase. In this phase the principle investigators of selected PhD project proposals (hereafter PI's) and the candidates for the resulting PhD positions who were pre-selected by Shell (hereafter candidates) had their very first interaction.

1. Some background information

Permanent staff at Dutch universities and academic institutes was invited to submit research proposals for PhD projects, from which a number of excellent proposals was selected.

In parallel, STCB selected a pool of approximately 30 'high potentials' who want to obtain their PhD in the Netherlands and to afterwards continue their career at Shell in Bangalore. The application process for PhD students included various interviews at selected locations in India.

2. Aim of the matching process

The aim of the matching process is to establish an optimal match between the selected project proposals and the pre-selected candidates from the aforementioned pool of 'high potentials'. A successful match will result in a granted research project for the PI, a signed employment contract between the PhD student and FOM in the Netherlands, and a letter of intent from Shell for a job in Bangalore after completion of the PhD. The first PhD students can start in their projects in the Netherlands early 2014.

3. The matching process

The matching process took place in November 2013 according to a tight time schedule with distinct steps:

Step 1. November 1: FOM will send candidates this document ('Rules of play'), as well as a link to the selected research proposals and the information form to be completed.

Step 2. November 7: the candidates will read these proposals and send FOM their ranking of at least five proposals by order of preference. Simultaneously, the candidates will return the completed information form and a copy of their passport.

Step 3. November 8: FOM will send the curriculum vitae and original motivation letters (that were sent to Shell at the original application step) of all candidates that indicated preference for a certain project proposal to the corresponding PI.

Step 4. November 12: the PI's will, by e-mail, invite a number of their candidates for an interview by Skype (or phone), providing a proposal for a date and time (taking into account the time difference) and a Skype name. These interviews will take place from November 12 to November 26. The PI's will also send a motivated rejection by e-mail to all candidates they do not wish to invite for an interview. The PI's will simultaneously inform FOM on this first selection. The candidates shall respond to the PI's invitation (accepting or declining) by 18 hours after receipt of the PI's e-mail.

Step 5. November 12 – November 26: interviews. These interviews will form the basis of the priority lists (rankings) that the PI's will make of the candidates interviewed. Please note: as there will be many combinations of projects and candidates to be considered it will NOT be possible at this stage that PI and candidate come to a final mutual agreement. The PI will not make comments to any of the candidates on his/her preferences.

Step 6. November 26: the PI's will inform FOM of their priority list by mail. PI's should also clearly indicate which candidates (if any) they do not deem suitable. Please note: including a candidate on the priority list implies the PI will accept this candidate even though he/she might not be the highest ranked candidate.

Step 7. November 26: the candidates will inform FOM about their preference of projects (in the form of a priority list). Candidates should also clearly indicate which projects (if any) they would not like to work in. Please note: including a project on the priority list means the candidate will accept this project to work in even though it might not have his/her highest preference.

Step 8. November 29: on the basis of the priority lists of both PI's and candidates FOM will decide on the final match and inform both PI's and candidates. Please note: FOM commits itself to make an optimal match based on mutual preferences as much as possible. In the case of concurring preferences by multiple candidates, in this phase of the matching process the preference of the PI precedes. In the case of concurring preferences by multiple PI's, the PI precedes of whom the project proposal obtained the highest priority during the proposal selection process.

Step 9. FOM will send the selected candidates a labour contract in duplicate for the selected PhD project under supervision of the selected PI/responsible team leader. The candidate should return one copy of the labour contract to FOM after signing for agreement by January 1st 2014. In addition Shell will draw up a letter of intent of Shell for a job at Shell Bangalore after a successful PhD.

Please note: by signing and returning the FOM labour contract the candidate sincerely commits him or herself to join the project of the PI in the Netherlands. Please make sure there are no obstacles to do so before signing the contract! FOM and Shell expect the candidate to turn down any (later) competing offers after signing a labour contract.

Step 10. Following acceptance of the job offer by the candidate, FOM will grant the research proposal and will send an official granting letter to the PI. This granting letter will be valid only for the matched candidate. FOM will replace candidates rejecting the offer 'automatically' by the next best match. If none of the ranking candidates accepts the job a suitable agreement will be worked out.

The list of projects selected by FOM were as follows:

1)    Prof. D. Lohse - Solar Steam Nanobubbles - Physics of Fluids Group, Fluid Dynamics
2)    Dr. M.F.M. Speetjens - GEOCHAOS – Geoscience meets chaos - Mechanical Engineering + Applied Physics
3)    Prof. D.M.J. Smeulders - Numerical modeling and validation of fracture network formation in anisentropic media - Mechanical Engineering + Geosciences
4) E.A.J.F. Peters - Simulation of proppant transport for shale gas production - Chemical Engineering and Chemistry (ST), Multiphase Reactors Group (SMR)
5) W.K. den Otter - Simulating semi-solid rechargeable flow batteries - Computational BioPhysics
6)    Dr. H.J. Bulten - Wireless Seismic-sensing networks - Nikhef(Geosciences) + Computational Science
7)    Prof. J.J.W. van der Vegt - Computing Seismic Waves with Minimal Pollution Error - Mathematics of Computational Science
8)    Prof.dr. W.A. Mulder - Fast elastic wave equation modelling and inversion - Computational geosciences
9)    Prof.dr. S. Luding - Computational science for gas/oil exploration production and processing - Multi Scale Mechanics
10)    Prof. Dr. B. de Bruin - Mechanistic Insights in Catalytic Energy Conversion Processes - Computational Chemistry
11)    Dr. M.A. van Huis - DFT simulation of photocatalytic hydrogen production using CdS/Au nanostructures - Soft Condensed Matter
12) M. Dijkstra - Plasmonic Supraparticles and Photonic Quasicrystals for enhanced light-trapping in solar cells - Nanomaterials Science
13)    Dr. P.A. Bobbert - Atomistic morphology of organic solar cells: key to efficient charge separation (ATOMORPH) - Theory of Polymers and Soft Matter (Applied Physics)
14)    Prof. P.J. Kelly - Wave propagation in layered materials - Computational Materials Science
15)    Prof.dr. M. van Hecke - Evolutionary Algorithms Designing Responsive Metamaterials - Applied Physics

I applied for the projects [1-9] and was selected for the projects [1-6] for the Personal Interview Rounds with the individual professors.

The next 6 interviews were woven around each project. The questions asked generally boiled down to these:

•    Tell us about yourself? Why do you want to pursue a PhD?
•    Did you find the proposal interesting? Why do you want to take up this project for your PhD?
•    Why do you want to join our group?
•    What are your expectations from the PhD project? There will be some managerial responsibility. Are you willing to take them up?
•    Why do you want to come to Netherlands for a PhD? Why not US?
•    Few questions to gauge your skills/competency.
•    Discussion on the proposed projects.
•    Do you suggest some improvements to the proposal? (Missing timeline for validation studies, experimental work, etc.)
•    Questions pertaining to your Master’s Thesis.

So after the process ended, we had to send a final priority list. I was selected for the project - Simulation of proppant transport for shale gas production. It was a very interesting project which had a lot of industrial scope.

Few weeks later I declined the offer.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Shell-FOM CSER (Computational Sciences for Energy Research) PhD 75 Programme 2014-15 [Part 4]

Click Here to Read Round 2 Details

Round 3: Shell Recruitment Day

 There was a long wait and finally I was invited for the Shell Recruitment Day in Oberoi, New Delhi. It lasted from 8.00am to 5pm.

The assessment day involved case study undertaken individually and as a group exercise, with a break for lunch in the middle. It was divided in 5 stages:
1.    Case Study
2.    CBI (Technical & HR interview)
3.    E Tray
4.    SRI
5.    GD

During the interview and assessment process your academic credentials and results will play almost no part in determining whether you're a suitable employee for Shell (except the Technical interview part). These are only really important for getting past the online application stage. Your assessors will predominantly focus on analysing your CART skills.

Stage 1: Case Study

We were divided into groups of 6 and a case study was handed over to us. I estimate that around 60-70 people got to this round all over India.
The business case study was based on a fictitious setting, a fictitious island called Opana (with 3 countries – Bouka, Yana and Goura). The case focused on one country Bouka which was ruled by the – Central Party. Shell has some activities and plan to increase the activities there by taking over more oil exploration, bidding, etc. You had to think about various issues like research and development, safety, environment, work force, corporate social responsibility, financial data, etc. A lot of information was provided to you like official reports, emails, press release, charts, graphs, etc. and half hour was given for the preparation.

The key question that you need to prepare was your recommendation for one of the 3 projects that Shell needed to undertake in that region keeping all aspects in mind – company finances, competitors, people, stakeholders, etc. So you have to read emails and headings and try to catch the key words. Think about increasing capacity of plants, ensuring safety, work life balance, local work force, satisfying the govt, stakeholders, environment, etc. also care for shell employees. You will have to think about the budget allocated and hence see how you plan for short, medium and long term like:
1) Balancing Global standardisation with local leads
2) Meeting Global energy needs whilst paying respect to the environment
3) Implementing Health, Safety, Security and Environmental controls
4) Keeping up with market innovation and technology.

There were some environmental concerns like endangering a rare species of whale in that region whose mating activities were hampered due to the noise generated by oil drilling. Your need to look and try to come up with some figures. You were also supposed to think about the short term and long term strategy and what would be the broader implications of your decision.

The three projects were:
1.    Oil Exploration Software – This software accessed the data to predict the possible oil locations. This project promoted partnership with the local technology institute. This project had a larger application if successful in the long term for exploring other oil fields around the world.
2.    Biodiesel – Help the society and environment by developing Biodiesel with the help of locally grown crops.
3.    Drilling noise reduction – The government had mandated to do this project if the company wanted to do deep sea oil rigging in order to protect the whales.
Read the entire case carefully and make your decision.

Stage 2: CBI

This round was not associated to the case and comprised a technical and HR round purely accessing your CART abilities:
The technical round stressed on your projects, applications, problems you encountered and solved, why you were interested in this program, etc.
The HR round had some of the following questions:
- A time when you had to explain a complex or difficult issue to someone?
- Example when I have had to work hard to achieve a goal? Proudest achievement?
- Example of a time when I have had to work in a group and faced differences with another member?
- Example of when I have engaged or built relationship with different people/groups/cultures and my success depended on it?
Answer these questions wisely.

Stage 3: E-tray

This round judged your organizational capability and crisis management. You were one of the project managers of Bouka East Project and the entire task was simulated in the form of an email system.
The crisis situations came in the form of the emails which you had to respond to. There was a time limit so you were required to be quick and smart. Some sample emails are as follows:
- Worker strike in one of the location due to low wage pay.
- Fraud made by a supplier.
- Green Party notice against the company activity (This political party is opposite the Central Party and is very vocal about the environment and people’s concerns and it wants to put a stop on the activities of Oil companies).

Stage 4: SRI – Self Reflective Interview

A very polite lady (probably her major was psychology) took my interview. It was based on how I approached the E-tray questions. What all things I took into consideration while answering those questions? How did I perform according to myself? Was there any change of approach midway? If so why? What did I learn from this exercise? Will I perform it better if I take E-tray again?

She will be polite, but she will ask counter-questions which will nail you. You need to escape her intelligently, and yes politely. No anger/aggression/confusion, just remain calm and composed, as your fate is in her hands.

Stage 5: Group Discussion

This was the only group activity. The GD group comprised all 6 members of your group and it was observed by around 10-12 Shell officials, who were familiar as they came in one round or the other previously to interview you.

The atmosphere was tense. There was a white board. Few markers lying on the table. And one sheet given to each member which had 2 points that can help you in the GD. There were 6 different set of points, each for one member.

A video was shown which showed the upcoming crisis as the Central Party had been voted out in Bouka and Green Party was in power. The group had to come up with ways to handle this situation and identify the stakeholders whom they need to address and how – Shareholders/Board members, Green Party, Environmental Groups, Local peoples, Employees. You need to handle the situation very carefully as you are being observed by the Shell officials. Speak up your points clearly. Make use of the white board before someone else picks up the marker. It is a gamble which I played. I went to the white board and my group members listened to me. They followed me. In your case they might continue the discussion and reject you by just dictating the points and making you write. So it will be your call. The safest thing to do is to put forward your points consistently.

Click Here to Read Round 4 Details

Shell-FOM CSER (Computational Sciences for Energy Research) PhD 75 Programme 2014-15 [Part 3]

Click Here to Read Round 1 Details

Round 2: Technical PPT + Telephonic interview

Around 3000 applications were submitted and 200 were shortlisted for this round.

If successful at the initial screening stage and on the basis of your Technical presentation which you submitted, candidates will be invited for an interview. This will be a telephonic interview. A Shell assessor or trained business manager will conduct the interview.

The interview and all stages of assessment will focus on Capacity, Achievement, Relationship Building Skills and a Technical assessment which is carried out at the final assessment stage, Shell use the acronym CART to represent these qualities.

Within the inital interview only C, A and R are assessed. Achievement and Relationship Building skills are assessed via standard interview questions: "Can you given me an example of a time when...?"

You cannot prepare for this element and it is actually counter-productive to try to do so since the assessment measures the candidate’s ability to think on their feet, undertake analysis, demonstrate commercial awareness and operate with an unfamiliar topic.

It was split in three parts.

Part 1
A couple of general questions about your career preference, why you opted for this programme?

Part 2 – Competency/Capacity Questions (Technical PPT)
The main questions were followed by a variety of probing questions aimed at finding out specific things you did in your Thesis/Project you submitted for their evaluation. The probing questions tried to capture the usual Situation -> Task -> Action -> Result or Context -> Action -> Result. Make sure you know your stuff inside out plus what you would change wrt to your actions and what you learned about yourself.

Part 3
Questions for the interviewer

Click Here to Read Round 3 Details

Shell-FOM CSER (Computational Sciences for Energy Research) PhD 75 Programme 2014-15 [Part 2]

Click Here to Read Round 0 Details

Round 1: Online Assessment

You are required to complete an online assessment as part of your application. This is designed to help you know Shell better and vice versa. During this journey, they show you around some of the different Shell businesses that help create better working solutions for their customers around the globe.

The online assessment consists of two parts: a Competency Based Questionnaire and a Cognitive part with a decision making task and a problem solving task. You will need to successfully complete the first part before proceeding to the second.

The information provided below is for the first e-assessment:
•    In this part you are asked to complete a Competency Based Questionnaire. These questions ask you to rate yourself against a number of behaviors.
•    The Competency Based Questionnaire consists of 18 sets of statements to rate in approximately 20 to 30 minutes. You are not timed during this assessment.
•    You will need a computer with a reliable internet connection to take the online assessment.
•    Before you start the assessment, please make sure that you are somewhere safe and quiet, and that you have paper and a pen at hand. You may also want to have a dictionary within reach in case you want to look up any words.
•    No specialist knowledge is needed to answer the questions and you should not rely on any previous knowledge you have of Shell as this may lead you to a wrong answer.

After you submit the first e-assessment you receive a link to proceed to the second e-assessment:
•    This part of the assessment consists of two tasks: a decision-making task that assesses how you respond to common situations that Shell graduates may face, and a problem-solving task that assesses your capacity for solving numerical problems.
•    The decision-making task is not timed, but the problem-solving task has a set time limit of 18 minutes. In total, the test should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
•    During the decision-making task, you can save your progress at any point and revisit the test by re-entering the same link that you will have been sent to access this page. However, as the problem-solving task is timed, you must complete this part of the test within the time frame set.

Click Here to Read Round 2 Details

Shell-FOM CSER (Computational Sciences for Energy Research) PhD 75 Programme 2014-15 [Part 1]

In this blog I will detail the entire enrollment process of Shell-PhD programme which I went through last year. Applications invited for fully sponsored PhDs in Computational Sciences at Universities in The Netherlands followed by employment at Shell Technology Centre in Bengaluru, India.

Round 0: Online Form
You are required to complete an online form and submit it at the Shell Recruitment Portal. It is very important to keep your CV ready and think over each and every question mentioned in the form. I have enclosed my response below to some of those questions.

* What is your motivation to do a PhD in the area of computational sciences applied to the energy sector? (Maximum 1250 Characters)   

People's well-being, industrial competitiveness and the overall functioning of society are dependent on safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy. The scale of this challenge requires consolidation of research and innovation. Being a polyglot programmer, I firmly believe that programming is just a toolkit to solve real world problems. During the coming decades, there are likely to be major changes in energy systems throughout the world as efforts are made to meet the growing demand for affordable energy and reconcile demand with the need to effectively address climate change. How will it be possible to supply a rapidly growing world population with energy in ways that are economically, environmentally and socially acceptable? Fostering research in the energy sector will undoubtedly be an important step on the way forward with the results of this research used to support innovation and I want to be an essential part of it. Currently in my Master's Thesis I am working on Energy systems based on phase changing materials which is one of the upcoming sources for alternative energy and eco-friendly air conditioning. I always want to be at the cutting edge of scientific discovery and I want to passionately pursue PhD the area of computational sciences applied to the energy sector as it will have a direct impact on our society and give me a challenging opportunity to achieve something significant and make a difference.

* How will your past experience (academic curriculum, research background, knowledge of specific computational methods) help in this PhD programme? Any other aspects you would like to highlight in this regard? (Maximum 1250 Characters)

As far as my knowledge of computation is concerned I have completed all computational courses offered by my department - programming and numerical methods for engineers; finite element methods in engineering; and numerical heat transfer and computational fluid dynamics. I have a very strong programming background as it is my passion. For my exceptional contribution in inculcating and harnessing the programming culture in my campus, I was awarded the prestigious Science & Technology Excellence Award. Also I am highly academic and research oriented and have done computational projects which had a significant impact in real life - from providing remote experimentation platform for remote areas to automating entire simulation workflows to make engineers 100 times more productive. I have an insight that High Performance Computing will have a major impact on our future technologies so I ventured into that domain on my own and not just learnt it, but also organized the first supercomputing contest of India on the PARAM Yuva grid. I would like to mention that I am a self-motivated person whose driving force in life is perseverance, learning and applied research which makes me one of the best candidates for this PhD programme.

* Given an option to write a thesis proposal in the area of computational sciences, do you have an idea which you can briefly explain? What is your motivation behind the idea? (Maximum 1250 Characters)

Thermal energy storage is a technology under investigation from the early 80’s. Since then, numerous new applications have been found and a lot of work has been done to bring this technology to the market. Nevertheless, the materials used were mostly investigated 20 years ago, and the research has led to an improvement in their performance under the different conditions of the applications. In those years a significant number of new materials have been developed in many fields other than storage and energy, but a great effort to characterize and classify these materials has been done. Taking into account that thousands of materials are known and a great number of new materials are developed every year, I propose to pursue modelling and simulation of the phase change phenomenon of these various PCM materials in a Thermal Energy Storage unit. And also come up with an algorithm to find the optimal material suitable for use, combining multiple objectives and restrictions of use, to evaluate the most used engineering materials for applications in thermal energy storage and also considering different parameters, such as thermal properties, mechanical behaviour, price, availability, recyclability, CO2 footprint, etc. My current master's thesis is the motivation behind this idea as it would not just require computation but also a deep understanding of the physics behind the problem.

* What were you most excited about in any of your research projects in the past? (could be an experimental result, a theoretical breakthrough etc) (Maximum 1250 Characters)

Quite recently I was working on Nano-enhanced Phase Change Material simulations. I got a first-hand experience of research and made certain keen observations which were really exciting and had tremendous scope of improvement. It was then I realized that perseverance and innovation is of utmost importance in research and it enables you to probe deeper into unraveling the mystery behind the problems and find a solution which can change the world for the better.

* Why would you want to study in The Netherlands? (Maximum 1250 Characters)

I want to pursue my PhD in The Netherlands because it has proven to be a true pioneer for discovering inventive solutions to everyday problems. Creating a large part of the country by reclaiming land from the sea shows their pragmatic approach. I could also see this approach when it comes to education as it invests a huge portion of its GDP towards funding research and education. It clearly shows their dedication towards moving ahead in all spheres by providing an environment which is both innovative and creative. Also the strong connection between Dutch higher education institutions and the business world (Shell) will create possibilities for practical assignments and internships which will prepare me for a promising career in an international environment. Dutch culture is a unique blend of liberal thinking combined with national traditions. The Netherlands is a highly tolerant country, with outstanding social programs and where empowerment of the average person is championed. The Dutch education system is interactive, student-centered and focused on teamwork, which makes it easy to meet other international students. The Dutch professors are highly respected and this respect is a national virtue that characterizes The Netherlands. Doing my PhD in The Netherlands is a once in lifetime opportunity and I want to definitely avail it.

* Why do you want to work for Shell in India? Where do you see yourself in 8-10 years from now? (Maximum 1250 Characters)   

Since the inception of this programme last year, I had already come to know about the state-of-the-art Computational Centre of Excellence set up by Shell in Bengaluru. Since I entered my college I had shown tremendous inclination towards solving problems in engineering via computation. Shell is providing me a great opportunity by showing me the path I always wanted to tread on. It was my dream to do cutting-edge Computational R&D and I want to thank Shell for making it come true.
8-10 years from now I see myself as a senior member of the R&D team, leading my own team of computation and data scientists, solving some of the most challenging problems and putting the India R&D centre on the Global map as one of the best places for Computational Research and Development.

God is a Gamer - Ravi Subramanian: A Review

This book is woven around one of the most controversial crypto currencies of our time - BITCOIN. Bitcoins allow you to make a secured money transaction without exposing yourself and remaining anonymous online. This book battles the good and evil side of this crypto-currency in form of a thriller ride which leave you craving for more.

Aditya runs a gaming company Indiscape with the help of Sundeep. Indiscape is struggling as they are unable to replicate the success they had with their flagship online game, in their upcoming venture Townsville. They fail to understand the gamer's psychology, to make it short. He also heads the tech company eTios which provides a critical support to various banking firms of the country, especially NYIB - New York International Bank. While the chairman of NYIB Malvika slips off a highrise building and commits suicide, FBI is busy investigation a big shot crime in US of someone who has links with the POTUS. The finance minister of India gets caught in this turmoil and it looks as if it is an open and shut case. While the FBI was busy with their investigation, a terrorist group unleashed havoc in America which sends the FBI on a wild goose chase to catch the person behind the admins of Cotton Trail (a fictional version of the real life Silk Road, an online market operated as a Tor hidden service, such that online users are able to browse it anonymously and securely without potential traffic monitoring). They discovered that this black market website is fueled by Bitcoins. Aditya’s son Varun enters the scene as a genius who knows the in and out of the online gaming industry and turns Indiscape’s figures upside down before another disaster strikes the company. Meanwhile, the FBI investigators plunge headlong into the shady world of Bitcoins and the Dark Net, where websites like Cotton Trail exist for illegal transactions—drugs, sex and weapons. This brings the FBI to Mumbai where this book gets a few more unexpected twists and ends in a killer way which leaves you craving for more.

The book gets you hooked and makes sure that no page is left unturned. The author leaves clues all along which makes you guess the mastermind, until you encounter a new twist which takes the story to a whole new level. Kudos to the author. The writing style is new as each chapters last for 2-3 pages and cover places all over the globe. Sensitive topics pertaining to cyber-crime have been dealt well and the author has made sure to simplify things to spread awareness among the general masses as this book is really close to reality – The things mentioned can happen!

Who's got the poker face? Who's the mastermind? What will happen to eTios, Indiscape and NYIB? Will FBI be able to unravel the mystery behind the Dark Net and catch the admins of Cotton Trail?
And above all who is Satoshi Nakamoto - the founder of Bitcoin?

Read God is a Gamer to know more.

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