Friday, October 24, 2014

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.

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