Interview With Samsung Global Scholarship Program Graduate

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master thesis interview

master thesis interview

Today, I am excited to finally publish one of my latest interviews with a graduate from Seoul National University who came South Korea to study through the Samsung Global Scholarship Program.

In a nearly 1-hour interview I drilled Chetan to tell me about his experience writing and completing his Master’s thesis. If you are in the middle of your thesis project I am sure you will find this interview helpful as he uncovers many useful tips that can help you nail your project too.

Interviewee: Chetan Raj
Interviewer: Vladimir Chen

Vladimir: Hello

Chetan: Hello, Good afternoon

Vladimir: Hello

Chetan: Hello, Good afternoon

Vladimir: Hello Chetan, how are you?

Chetan: I am doing good. How was your weekend?

Vladimir: It ‘s been great. Can you hear me well?

Chetan: Yeah, I can hear you well

Vladimir: All right, that’s great! Well, let me just make a very quick introduction. Hello ladies and gentlemen. I am Vladimir Chen, I am Vladimir Chen from and I am calling from Copenhagen, Denmark. The current time is 14:01 and we right about on time. I am excited right now because today I have a very special guest on this call. And his name is Chetan Raj. Chetan is currently based in South Korea where he works for Samsung Electronics. Today I will be interviewing Chetan and the reason why I am doing this is because Chetan has been a subscriber at Not long time ago Chetan was in the middle of writing his Master thesis. So in the course of writing his thesis I got a couple of “Thank-you” emails from Chetan and I just want to read them out loud here: Well, in the first email he wrote: - Thank you for your advice on writing a master thesis. I especially liked this article on Waking up on the bell of alarm. Thank you for all this practical advice. Then I got a second email from Chetan saying: Thank you for your advice on writing a master thesis. I have completed my master thesis. I will be graduating soon at the end of August. And then just recently I got his third email where he writes: “Thank you for your inspirational advice, help and other useful information . I have graduated and was also be able to publish my thesis as an IEEE Conference paper” and he sent me a link. “I am a big fan of your blog and do read all articles. Thank you again for assisting me in my life and career.” So he sent me a link a to his conference paper, which is based on his master thesis. So today, I wanted to take an opportunity. I wrote him back asking him to share his experience on writing a master thesis. Basically how he wrote a master thesis. So I believe Chetan is here with us now. Chetan are you with us?

Chetan: Yeah, thank you for the nice introduction

Vladimir: Thank you for being with us Chetan and I really appreciate your time and I know it is 10 p.m. in South Korea now and it is Sunday. So I guess tomorrow you will need to go to work. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience on writing your master thesis. So, let’s just begin. Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself, where are you from, what are you currently doing and how did you get where you are now?

Chetan: I am Chetan. I come from India. I did my undergraduate in India. Then I worked for few years at Samsung in India. Then I got accepted to a special program called Samsung Global Scholarship Program and they funded my graduate studies at Seoul National University. So, I came to Korea nearly two and a half years ago to start my graduate studies. At Seoul National University I did my Master’s in Electrical and Computer Science Engineering with professor Yong Song Su and my research was on software engineering for embedded systems.

Vladimir: Let me interrupt you. Chetan, before you continue to your master thesis topic, can you please tell me a little bit about about Samsung Global Scholarship Program.

Chetan: Yeah. Samsung Global Scholarship Program consists of two main groups. One group is for engineers and the other is for MBAs. In engineering, they select students from India, China, and Russia. Every year they sponsor about 12 students. Usually four from each of these countries. The idea behind this program is to provide exposure to the Koreans and the Korean culture and also make Korean students get acquainted with the international people. The reason they chose these three countries is that they are known for engineering skills, they are known for producing good engineers.

Vladimir: So, how many people applied for this program in India?

Chetan: The program was limited to top students from few universities. Nearly 50 students applied during my time and then they chose 6 among those 50 students. And out of 6 students, 4 decided to take the program.

Vladimir: Ok, 6 successful students. All right. So, you were one of those 6 students and you came when?

Chetan: I came to Korea in 2006. Summer 2006.

Vladimir: Ok and the program itself is 2-year long, right?

Chetan: Yes, the program is for 2 years. According to the Global Scholarship Program the first 2 years you study at Seoul National University and they fund your education and give you funds of $1000 USD per month. After you complete you studies for 2 years you need to work for another 2 years for Samsung Electronics as part of the program.

Vladimir: Well, I just want you guys to check the program on Google. If you type the Global Scholarship Program in Google, you will find a Wikipedia page about the program and in 2006 in selected applicants you can see Chetan’s name.

Chetan: I can you the link to the program.

Vladimir: All right great! Ok, Chetan, can you please tell not in technical terms what was your thesis about and how long did you write it for?

Chetan: My thesis was about component-based software development for embedded systems. And I made some kind of software, a framework where independent software development can be integrated and deployed as final application. My thesis was a kind of report on this software work which I’d done. This was a research work which was partly funded by Electronic Research Institute in Korea. So I worked on this project for about one year during the time I was studying at the Seoul National University. Then I summarized whatever I did for the project, compared my work with some of the existent works, found out what are the main advantages of using my work. I listed good factors of my research work and then I compiled into a conference paper. Then, I published this conference paper at ICEE conference, which was in Taiwan in August 2008. Then I used this conference paper as my final Master thesis.

Vladimir: And then you went to present this paper at the conference in Taiwan?

Chetan: Yeah, I was in Taiwan in August 2008 to present my paper, my work.

Vladimir: Great! Sound awesome. All right Chetan, there are lots of students who are going to be listening to this call including students who are about to write their theses. Can you please based on experience share some advice, tips for those students who are about to start?

Chetan: I think the first very important thing is they need to do a lot of initial survey. People have to read a lot of research papers and collect a lot of information. And the second thing is that need to schedule thesis work. They need to have a clear-cut plan what they have to do in the first week, second week and so on until the deadline. And the third thing as you keep mentioning at is to stick to that schedule. These are the three things which I strictly followed to write my thesis. These are really I recommended to other people.

Vladimir: So, let me just summarize what you’ve just said. So you said that in the beginning it is really important to get into reading a lot of papers and doing a lot of survey. Then the second thing is that one should come up with a schedule and finally you need to stick to the schedule on a weekly basis.

Chetan: It is the methodology I used and I recommend this to other students.

Vladimir: Ok, great! Let’s move on to the methodology you used. How those who start should go about selecting methodology?

Chetan: When I initially started to plan about what I should write about I really did not know what kind of problem I should solve. Or what kind of problem I should attack and find a solution for it. So, I read a lot of research papers. Nearly 2 months before I started to write my thesis, I read research papers, at least one a day. Then I made a kind of graph and categorized the different kinds of problems those researchers tried to solve. I categorized it and found a common pattern on what kind of solutions they attempted to provide. So this gave me insights into what kind of problems I should be trying to solve in my research work. Once I knew what I should try to solve, I could find solutions to those problems. Then I compiled it as my research paper. The second thing is that I was always in touch with my seniors and updated them over the time I am working on, what were the problems which I was trying to solve, what are my solutions to it and they gave me their own insights and also gave me valuable advice. It is always better to work with a group and work with your seniors. This is kind of methodology I used to make a good contributory work. And of course there was always my advisor … I actually reported to him once in two weeks.

Vladimir: When you say seniors are you referring to PhD students or are you talking about professors or just general faculty department.

Chetan: When I say seniors I refer to more experienced people including PhD students or other faculty members. And also when you do a research at a research institute they will be many other external experts. All these people will be very helpful to you.

Vladimir: So what tools did you use? Did you just contact them?

Chetan: With my PhD seniors I did a face to face talk whereas with external experts I usually would interact with them through the email or occasionally through a phone call.

Vladimir: What about advisors? What do you think one should know before he or she starts contacting potential advisors? And how did you work with your advisor?

Chetan: One important thing which I noticed is the advisors are usually very busy. So you should not waste their time. So whenever you approach your advisor you should already have thought about what you will ask him, what kind of information you need. Make a plan about how to go through the entire process when you meet you advisor. This is what I noticed. So if you are going to your advisor without a proper plan you are probably wasting his time.

Vladimir: So, basically you are suggesting that everyone needs to prepare a plan for the session to get most about of the advisor.

Chetan: Yeah … because generally advisors are busy people, right? If you go with a prior plan and exact kind of idea what you need

Vladimir: All right … the bottom-line don’t go to your advisor without being prepared. You need to have a plan, you need to come up with questions. Is this right?

Chetan: Exactly!

Vladimir: All right, great stuff. What about your challenges? Can you tell us a little bit about what you experienced during the process of thesis writing? What difficulties did you experience?

Chetan: The first one was about writing process itself. During the initial version of my paper, I was not able to clearly present my ideas … in a logically-structured format. I took a help of academic writing book. I used the book to learn how to write a research paper. And the second challenge was to complete writing within a particular deadline. The way I could approach this is to properly schedule my work. And the third challenge is to show your paper to your peers and get a feedback. Because your peers may not be experts in your problem, so it was challenging for me to get feedbacks. I meant to say is you can’t write a paper all by yourself, right?

Vladimir: And what sources did you use to help you with academic writing?

Chetan: I referred to a book on how to write academic papers. The book is called Academic Writing for graduate students – Essential Tasks and Skills.

Vladimir: And I guess, they can just Google the book and find it on Amazon. It is the first result that comes up.
Ok, Chetan, was it all smooth for you in terms of setting a deadline sticking to it all the time?

Chetan: Of course not. I could not really stick to the schedule so often, but whenever I overshoot myself I added, worked extra hours to make up for it especially during last two days I was putting more than 12 or 13 hours per day to finish up my thesis on time. And at that time I usually relied on my seniors and advisor to give me a very good feedback or give a good critique on my thesis. And I was able to correct my thesis at that time and able to convince them to make a publishable thesis. Basically you do overshoot yourself and need to put a lot of extra hours.

Vladimir: If you were to start all over, what would your advice be in terms of setting a deadline and sticking to it?

Chetan: If I were to start all over again I would have started this entire process at least one month before the time I actually started. So it is better to start early. There should a lot of small milestones, meet those milestones and then take a break to evaluate yourself where you stand and then either correct yourself or change the next milestone and finally accomplish your work before the final deadline.

Vladimir: Do you remember how long before your deadline were you finished pretty much with everything? Were you finished like a month before?

Chetan: In my case, revising and changing the paper and taking the advice went along with writing a paper. Of course my paper was structured into many sections. When I wrote one section of the paper, I gave it to my advisor and my seniors to comment and review it. That thing evolved together. I was able to complete my paper 5 days before the deadline. I generally recommend that you complete at least 2 weeks before the deadline so that you can take a break and try to review the paper in kind of relaxed mood. And it is always better to start early.

Vladimir: All right, this discussion leads me to another question about making mistakes during the process of thesis writing. What mistakes did you make?

Chetan: It was kind of revolutionary process. I was a novice when I started to write my thesis. It took me around 2 months to write my thesis. During these two months I really learned a lot. I learned what it is important to write about and what it is not important to write about. Structure the paper and how to make a good flow in your writing and how to interconnect different sections in your paper. I went through these 2 months of writing from a complete novice to making it a publishable thesis.

Vladimir: Let me just ask you very quickly before you continue. You mentioned that you knew what was important to write and what was not important to write about. I know a lot of students get trapped in reading a lot of nice-to-know information. Eventually it completely overloads them. Information overload is just a killer. So how did you know what was important, what was not important, what was interesting and so on? What would your advice be?

Chetan: In my case, the real people who could tell what was important what was not important were PhD seniors and my advisor who already turned a lot of conference papers. They were the people who told me or guided me about what is important to write. So, it is very important for a person who is writing a good thesis to take their advice seriously, to take an advice of an experienced person. If you are working individually it is hard to know what it is important what is not important.

Vladimir: Ok folks, let me just sum up. It is really important to divide between important stuff and nice to know stuff. Otherwise you can easily get yourself trapped in information overload. Chetan also said that you need to get on board as many experienced people as possible. This way you can get their advice to help you figure out what it is important to write about and what is a nice-to-know information. Ask questions of the seniors and listen to their advice. All right, what time management techniques, do you have any advice to those who are writing their theses? How did you manage your time?

Chetan: I think as I told you before I made my thesis schedule of what sections I should complete by what time, when should I get it revised and when I should get it reviewed by the people. I used the Google calendar to schedule my work and to send me alerts about my pending tasks to do. So this is how I managed my time. Of course the deadline was a motivating factor to complete your work. Without it I guess we can get lost. So of course setting up a deadline, setting up a goal, setting up an objective is really important if you want to do a good job.

Vladimir: What I just want to add here Chetan is the fact when you said to set up a deadline, everyone knows that it is really necessary to stick to deadline. But a lot of people simply do not do it. I don’t know if you have done it but people can also make a public commitment. You not only set a deadline and then just say to yourself you need to stick to it, but you also go out and find a person that you trust or the person that trust you and just tell them that you have a deadline which means that you just publicly stated that you have a deadline to stick to and that will kind of push towards completion. Ok, Chetan was it hard to motivate yourself in the process of writing a thesis?

Chetan: It was not hard to motivate myself because I knew that if my thesis gets published then I will be able to make a trip to Taiwan and present my paper and present it. That was kind of inspiring to me to present my thesis in front of all those experts and other people. Yeah, that was kind of a big motivation. The second motivation was of course I will be able to graduate with “flying colors”.

Vladimir: So, what you should take away from here is everything we do is based on gaining a pleasure or avoiding the pain. What Chetan did is he associated his completion of a master thesis with the idea that it will be published and that he will be able to go to Taiwan. This creates a sense of gaining pleasure which means that this pushed him to finish his master thesis. Right? Can you relate to this Chetan?

Chetan: Yea, exactly!

Vladimir: Great thing! The last two questions I have. You talked about great advice, tips about time management, setting deadlines, advising with seniors and so on. What about web tools or just resources in general? Do you have any resources to recommend?

Chetan: I used a lot of free web resources to help me with my writing. Especially for English writing I used the Online Writing Lab (owl) at Purdue University. I will send you a link to that website (here is the link It gave me a very good introduction or tips to write a good thesis. There are lots of web resources on how to write a research paper. So if you just Google search “how to write research papers” you get a lot of nice articles and nice insights from experienced people. The indispensable tool for me was Google calendar.

Vladimir: And you also some of the tips provided by

Chetan: Of course! That was also a great help to me. Very valuable web resource, very valuable help for motivating myself, making good use of my advisors and time.

Vladimir: I especially remember you wrote in the first email “I especially liked this current article on Waking up on the bell of the alarm”. So I guess there must have been some challenge waking up during the process of your thesis writing?

Chetan: That was a very good article. Especially during the end of part of my project, as I said, I put a lot of efforts and that meant waking up early in the morning. And this particular article inspired me to wake up early in the morning and give me a mechanism or a way to wake up early in the morning. So I really liked that article at the time and used it a lot when I needed to wake up early in the morning.

Vladimir: All right, and the last question. Is there anything else Chetan that you would like to share with all listeners?

Chetan: I want all the listeners to write a thesis very well and be very motivated, have a clear goal/objective and set up a deadline, make a plan, have a good schedule, stick to the schedules and finally make a good thesis, which can be shared with a lot of other people. And be happy!

Vladimir: Thanks a lot Chetan, I really want to thank you for taking your time and appreciate that you took time on this Sunday evening in South Korea, so I guess you need to wake early tomorrow morning and go to work. So we wish you all the best in all your efforts, endeavors. Once again thank you for your time. We will stay in touch with you. We will talk again.

Chetan: It was my pleasure too. Thank you for conducting this interview. Thank you.

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