Stresses of Graduate Life

Graduate life is stressful, often illustrated beautifully in comic strips, memes and (very few) movies. While college life (undergrad) is referred to as the best times of one’s life, graduate studies change all that. A graduate student is expected to get serious about the studies and contribute meaningfully to the field. More often than not it is accompanied by tougher exams, assignments and projects.

It becomes quite difficult just to pass the courses, as I felt last year. But this price comes with a greater reward. After completing the courses I could understand and appreciate the design of the electronic systems at various levels – from the semiconductor physics at the sub-atomic level to the system integration and packaging at the product level. Knowledge of all these levels is essential to being an engineer and a researcher in this field.

Most of the topics covered in the courses of this MSc program deal with the actual design, implementation and fabrication of the circuits and systems which were introduced in the bachelors. Hence, we need to learn quite a lot in a short time so that we can implement some concept in the thesis project. There is just no way around it, except to take your own time to get it right.

Analog Design is also an art! (Image source: https://theamphour.com/the-amp-hour-48-posthumous-pease-porridge/)

As for myself – it was difficult for me at first but eventually I understood the amount of effort I needed to put in for the courses. At the end of the year I had earned the requisite number of credits. But there are some things one does not quite understand unless they implement the whole design by themselves. My thesis project is based on Analog to Digital Converters (ADCs) which are the essential link between sensors and digital signal processing systems. The sensors convert the physical quantity to an electrical quantity which is then converted by the ADC into a digital value. I had studied the design principles of ADCs in the course Nyquist Rate ADCs. I believed I had understood everything required to design an ADC by myself. However while doing my thesis project I encountered several issues for which I had to go back and explore how other researchers had solved that exact problem. Thanks to the course that I had taken I knew exactly what to look for and where.

Levels of Packaging of electronics (Image Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Packaging-Levels-used-in-Electronics-after-4_fig5_320372534)

I often read on Delta (TU Delft’s newspaper) that many students (and especially Masters’ students) are under heavy stress due to academic pressure. While it is true that the stress is real and I myself have experienced the same, I don’t think attributing it all to the academics is fair. I can’t say for all the MSc programs but Microelectronics is a tough nut to crack. Everyone entering the program should be fully aware about that and be ready to prove their mettle. If someone feels that it is getting too difficult then they should seriously re-evaluate their choices and future planning. The end goal of our studies is to contribute to the pool of human knowledge and become able to continue doing so for the rest of our professional career. It would obviously take considerable effort to get there!

Study in groups helps learn better (Image source: becuo.com)

Do not think you are all alone in this situation though. This happens with many people and they might be feeling just as miserable as you. The best way to cope with the stress is to talk about it with friends, classmates and academic counsellors. They can help you deal with your problems and guide your study planning as well. You can also form study groups along with your friends and help each other out. It certainly helped me.

Good Luck!

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