Getting funds to finance your postgraduate study abroad is challenging. I have seen many talented bunches of students settling for lower ranked universities unable to afford the high cost of attendance. One of my seniors from Mechanical Engineering at IIT (BHU) had an exceptional profile with a GPA of 9.85 and received an admission offer from Stanford University to pursue a Masters in Materials Science. However, he didn’t receive any scholarship and ultimately, he had to give up his plans.
Under such a grim circumstance, JN Tata Endowment for Higher Education helps around 100 deserving candidates from India to finance their study.
I was interviewed on 26 May 2018 over Skype by Dr. Neeta Kanekar and Mr. TJ Ravishankar, the director of JN Tata Endowment. Dr. Kanekar is a professor in Bioengineering at IIT Bombay with research expertise in Rehabilitation Engineering.
The interview lasted for around 30 minutes. There was no long formal introduction. They moved on to the technical questions after 3-4 minutes of the introduction.
Let me tell you a little bit about my background to help you feel relatable to the interview questions in the following section. I graduated in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Varanasi in 2018.
I worked on various projects at the crossroads of medicine and Mechanical Engineering during my undergraduate. I worked on the design of a lower limb exoskeleton during my summer internship in France. Unfortunately, all the existing commercial designs of exoskeletons are expensive beyond $15,000 (as of 2018) and therefore aren’t affordable for the general public in India. So, my motivation to work on frugal innovations in the biomedical sector using the core principles of mechanical engineering led me to pursue higher education abroad.
At the time of the interview, I had admission offers from Imperial College London, Carnegie Mellon University, CEMACUBE (RWTH Aachen + Trinity College Dublin), KU Leuven, Paris Tech University of Glasgow and some other American and European universities.
I was anticipating a scholarship from Imperial College London and since Imperial College ranks among the top 10 world universities in engineering, it was most probable to attend Imperial College at that time.
However, I went on to pursue CEMACUBE Masters Program. You can read later
“Why I Declined Admission Offers From Imperial College and Carnegie Mellon?”
Ravishankar: So, where are you going?
Me: I would be pursuing postgraduate study in Bioengineering at Imperial College London.
Ravishankar: You have mentioned about your research experience in biomechanics. What according to you is biomechanics? Take your time in answering the question. There is absolutely no need to hurry.
Me (after a brief pause): Biomechanics is a field of engineering which involves the application of mechanical engineering principles like kinematics and dynamics to solve problems of medicine, say human gait analysis.
Ravishankar: What are the four fundamental mechanical principles that govern biomechanics?
Me: You mean their applications like tissue engineering?
Ravishankar: I will give you a hint. One of them is static. Can you tell the other 3?
Me: Dynamics, Kinematics, and Kinetics.
Ravishankar (smilingly): You should have said that on your own.
(He asked Dr. Neeta to ask questions)
Dr. Neeta: You have worked on exoskeletons. What exactly you did and for how long did you work on it?
Me: I described the details like the biomechanical data collection and the design is supposed to aid in elderly mobility.
Dr. Neeta: Did you check the effectiveness? What was the outcome?
Me: Yes. I checked it computationally in OpenSim software. 4 months is too less time to fabricate it.
Dr. Neeta (she repeated): What was the outcome?
Me: The exoskeleton could decrease the torque required at the joints and the also the metabolic rates while walking on level ground.
Dr. Neeta: What are your core strengths in Mechanical Engineering? (You see they want to know how your undergraduate courses have prepared you for your graduate study)
Me: Solid Mechanics and Control Systems
Dr. Neeta: Tell me the difference between the closed loop and open loop control systems.
Me: (Thinking to myself, This is damn easy!!) I explained and she seemed satisfied.
Dr. Neeta: Tell me about your course structure.
Dr. Neeta: What are your future goals?
Me: I am keen to pursue Ph.D. and pursue a career in academia.
Dr. Neeta: Why didn’t you apply for a direct Ph.D.?
Me: I applied only to the Ph.D. programs of 5 well-ranked US universities like Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the final list. However, some of them admitted me to the Master’s program like Carnegie Mellon and Northwestern University.
Since master in the USA is unaffordable for me, I am going with the European one. However, European universities don’t admit students for a Ph.D. position without a Master’s degree.
Dr. Neeta: Getting into the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington is very tough. You should have applied to the state universities and some safer schools. They are also excellent in research in biomechanics.
You should have applied to universities like the University of Delaware and the University of Illinois, Chicago which have pretty good funding for Ph.D. position in rehabilitation engineering. (Later I found that she had completed her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Chicago)
Me: I was keen to get into one of the top 100 universities in the world. I can find a Ph.D. position in the UK after M.Res. in Bioengineering from Imperial College.
They wished me luck and told me to prepare beforehand for the postgraduate course at Imperial.
Relevant: Tips For Being Successful In JN Tata Endowment Scholarship
Happiness is being a JN Tata Scholar. On July 4, 2018, the wait for the scholarship result was over. I had made it to the list of successful applicants.
I hope my interview experience helps you. You can read about the amount of scholarship received ad other perks by clicking on the following link.
Read: Perks of Being A JN Tata Scholar
Although it is a loan scholarship, the rate of interest is just 2% and calculated at simple interest. doesn’t involve any processing fee. You can refer to the main website to get intricate details of the scholarship. I am here to share the selection process and my interview experience.
s always, the J.N. Tata interviewers stress more on the clarity of the discipline you want to pursue.