Smitten by Stanford

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V. VENKATASUBRAMANIAN is impressed by the research culture that prevails at the Stanford University.

My tryst with the campus of Stanford University, started when I started out as a summer intern at the Mechanical Engineering Department during my undergraduation days at IIT Madras. I was instantly impressed by the Stanford campus. The campus, one of the largest in the world, has a good mix of buildings with architectural and ecological beauty. After this three-month stint, I planned to pursue my higher education in this university. I was able to realise my dream of studying in the same campus, when I was accepted into the doctorate programme, subsequently. The cooperation among the different research groups is a unique aspect of the Stanford research experience. The abundance of space in the campus helps immensely. Whether it is a lingering research problem or a question from the homework, a wooden bench is never too far off to help liberate one’s mind and come up with a solution.

Choices galore

When it comes to courses, at Stanford, it ranges from the purely abstract to the practical. An example of the diversity is the set of classes I took during the winter quarter this year. I opted for a course on ‘String theory’ taught by Leonard Susskind, one of the fathers of modern string theory and a course on ‘Startup’ taught by Peter Thiel, an alumni and one of the founders of PayPal and a legendary Silicon Valley investor.

Honor code?

The university follows the honor code, an adoption from the military, and as a result, the faculty refrain from proctoring the examinations. This is a testament to the trust placed on its students, and it goes a long way in making the students independent. It is this independence that has had a role in the development of so many successful technology companies by its alumni.

In addition to excellent academic facilities, the campus also houses world-class sporting facilities. I play tennis regularly over here, and even get to occasionally practise with the tennis team.

The rivalry between Stanford and UC Berkeley is special and it comes out during sporting events. The campus is completely decorated in red, in the lead-up to the ‘Big Game’, the college football game between Stanford and Cal.

The emphasis placed on excellence in sports is exemplified by the fact that if Stanford were a country, it would have ranked 17th in the world with 12 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals at the 2012 London Olympics.

Most important, the one ingredient of Stanford life that triumphs over all of its east coast rival schools is the weather.

The near-perfect weather at Stanford, with the sun beaming for nearly nine months accompanied by the mild winters, is a boon, especially for a Chennaite like me.

The writer is a graduate student at Stanford University finishing up PhD in Mechanical Engineering.



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