Somnath Sarkar of IIT Kanpur was awarded the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) WISE (Working Internships in Science and Engineering) fellowship for summer internship at the Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden) for three months in 2009. A student of the fiveyear integrated MSc in statistics and informatics at the IIT, his love for Germany stemmed from its special place in the history of mathematics.
“The DAAD project required sufficient background in programming languages, which I had acquired during the course of my study at IIT Kharagpur. With inquisitiveness and curiosity to study the application of statistics in geospatial datasets, I decided to opt for a research project based on this topic,” says Sarkar.
The topic of his research was in geostatistics — a branch of statistics that focuses on spatial datasets, which is information identifying geographic location of features and boundaries such as oceans, natural features, and more.
“Take the example of an iron-ore deposit map. Ever wondered how the maps are made? It’s obviously not possible to dig thousands of square km to determine the distribution of ore deposit,” says Sarkar. As part of the research, Sarkar added new simulation features in a software developed by his supervisor called ‘The Sigmath,’ which could be used to generate various geostatistical distributions and thereby help to visualise, understand and generate geographical maps.
Geostatistics is a fairly new area in India. One of the main challenges here, is the lack of resources even in the premier institutes on topics that are lesser known to the masses. The Universities in Germany, on the contrary, provide vast repositories on any topic one is interested in, besides also being more flexible in terms of the resources needed for research being made available, feels Sarkar.
The fellowship also brings fond memories of Germany. “Travelling from India, the first thing one notices is the scanty population. At the first go, language posed as a challenge as most of the announcements, motorway signs, directions, and instructions on products in supermarkets were in German. Even the lunch menu at the university canteens is in German. But it is a beautiful country with helpful people,” recalls Sarkar.