As industry and society continue to digitalize, the demand for computer science researchers will continue to increase simultaneously. | Photo credit: Freepik
Companies around the world are looking for dedicated research centers that can innovate in an agile way. Cloud-based models are emerging, where collaboration happens with stakeholders based all over the world. Indian IT companies that offer such a model are sought to set up research and innovation centers. Indian companies are also building an intellectual property portfolio. In this context, computer science researchers have a bright future, with growing opportunities in multiple fields, especially as Indian academia collaborates with industry and government.
The two most important qualities for a researcher are curiosity and passion for the subject. Other aspects include the ability to explore new areas and build on what exists; be disciplined and results-oriented, even in the absence of deadlines; flexibility in thinking and multidisciplinary knowledge; in-depth understanding of a subject area (science such as physics, math, or biology; or industry knowledge in retail, banking health, etc.); personal motivation and self-confidence; not being intimidated by failures and being open to healthy criticism; and an ability to visualize the future and impact of one’s research.
Core computing systems research involves the development of new data structures, algorithms, architectures, data management, networks, computational mechanisms (e.g., quantum, optical), etc. The intersection of AI and Core Computing requires expertise in math and data science. This may involve understanding different domains and leveraging their rules to create high-performance systems customized for a domain. Computing paradigms are also extended to cloud and edge technologies.
It is important to note that the boundaries of the industry are blurring. For example, is Amazon a retailer, entertainment platform, or infrastructure company? Is Google a payment service, a map creator or a search engine? Innovation happens at intersections. When computational research is applied to science or industry, new ideas are born. Likewise, computing is driving innovation in existing multidisciplinary fields: advances in SCADA technology and robotics are driving innovation in computing allied to electrical and mechanical sciences; the recent growth of data-driven techniques (ML and DL) motivates research in computer science along with mathematics.
Academic or industrial research?
If one is inclined towards the theoretical aspects and teaching, academic research is more suitable. University research has also spawned start-up ecosystems. While Silicon Valley is the best-known example, our IITs set up incubation centers to turn new ideas into businesses. University research units also collaborate with the government on cutting-edge projects.
Industrial research can be attractive to those who want to work on real-world problems such as building platforms to accelerate drug discovery; make better materials; help retailers optimize store space and price of goods; create digital twins for boiler rooms, businesses and even cities to understand the best way to operate. The industry is also collaborating with the government to implement large-scale projects in the areas of healthcare delivery, banking and insurance, cybersecurity and digital identity.
Companies that take internal research seriously offer the best of both worlds. They allow researchers to pursue their scientific exploration by encouraging them to take sabbaticals and participate in conferences. They also offer a range of problems that their customers try to solve.
As industry and society continue to digitize, there will be more roles, domains, and organizations that will need IT research. This is the right time to pursue it.
K. Ananth Krishnan is Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, and Rekha Singhal is Principal Scientist, Tata Consultancy Services.
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