Steps for a Successful University Project
March 11th, 2021
Joining a university opens up a plethora of avenues that a student can explore. At first, the sheer amount of diversity can be overwhelming but it is imperative to understand that these different sectors are to be explored to find the most optimum yet exciting career path one would like to pursue in the future.
The most definitive way to go about any specific topic of interest is by perusing the content that lies in the ambit of said topic and then strengthening the fundamentals on it by making a project.
Almost all of us who have been in undergrad for the past few years have realized how important project work is, as well as the importance it carries in strengthening one's resume. In this article, I'd like to highlight a few pointers which a student must keep in mind before deciding to start a project either by themselves or with a team.
The primary and perhaps the most important point of all is to make sure that the topic at hand is not far-fetched, achievable, and rational. A lot of times students decide to take up rather intermediate or advanced subdomains of a particular topic for a project and quickly lose interest when they realize the complexity of the problem.
This one point can be easily addressed by making a plan of action that encompasses a linear growth in the complexity of the problem at hand, with the learning curve an individual achieves by thoroughly studying, experimenting, and strengthening their basics on a concept.
After choosing a topic, comes the part of examining the relevance and requirement for the project. Now, this would not be an immediate concern to an individual as it would be more important to address at later stages when the project takes a rather large-scale development initiative, but it is always handy to know the scope and requirement of a certain product that is under progress and if it would be a significant upgrade to the current existing alternatives.
After laying down the foundations of the project and completing a substantial amount of core technical work, one should brainstorm a business model as well for the product. This encompasses everything from understanding what the target market is, what the scope for use and development is, as well as how cost-efficient the product is.
If you think about it from the point of view of a university, they give a lot more emphasis on creating a solution for trivial problems which scale appropriately on a large scale, or to those problems which already have a solution but cheaper and efficient alternatives are a potential upgrade.
To cite an example of one of the projects I worked on, our group took up the initiative to address the problem of growing emotional distress and turmoil amongst people in the usual environment. Our goal was to create a deep learning model which would attempt to analyze the emotions of a person by employing facial expression recognition and classify them into different sets of emotions based on the expression displayed.
In today's society where everything moves at an exponential pace and being rather slow could result in missed opportunities, people tend to not address their emotional needs and rather tend to completely ignore them or live in denial. While this could work as a temporary relief from any specific situation, prolonged behavior could lead to a person living entirely in denial or developing mental stress to a limit where he/she would require immediate professional assistance.
To combat this problem of people not choosing to deal with their emotions and in an attempt to mitigate the damage it causes to individuals over time, we decided to develop an infrastructure that could help individuals face their emotions head-on and help them with professional aid in early stages before it takes a drastic turn.
After working on the technical aspect of the problem at hand for a substantial amount of time, we also had to look into the financial and business aspect of the product/project. The key points to take note of while making a business model for any project have already been briefly mentioned and highlighted upon in my previous blog, so I would not delve into them. To give a brief idea, the key takeaways a business model must provide are:
- Key partners
- Key activities
- Key resources
- Value propositions
- Customer relations
- Customer segments
- Cost structure
- Revenue streams
Everything I have mentioned up until now was rather targeted towards individuals who would like to do a product-based project. Here, you work on a problem at hand and come up with a solution/product which helps you counter the problem or mitigate the damage.
Another type of project that is rather popular amongst students who are invested in research and not applied sciences are research-based projects. These usually involve a mentor/faculty from the college who would help you from time to time as well as pay keen attention to your work to make sure that you don't go on a tangent and focus on the topic at hand.
A few of the points to be followed here such as choosing realistic goals, relevant topics, rational and scalable problems would be applicable here as well. These stay constant as ultimately it is a project and it takes proper planning, time, and effort.
In a research-based project, it is imperative to set a timeline right at the beginning. This timeline must touch upon all of the important points that have been targeted in the project. Deadlines, subtopics to be addressed and coursework to be studied are a few examples of what a timeline must comprise.
Usually, the mentor helps in setting deadlines as well as making an achievable yet optimal timeline. But irrespective, one must always make one with or without a mentor. This not only helps you keep track of your progress but also acts as a constant reminder.
When you delve into research work for the very first time, you would have little to no knowledge on how to go about writing papers, thesis, etc. The best advice to tackle this problem would be to regularly document everything that you keep as findings, as well as regularly read up on existing papers to get a hang of how the papers/thesis are structured and what they entail.
Constantly brushing upon the outlines of a research paper would help you tremendously towards the end of your project because you would not have to worry about spending excessive time over learning the fundamentals of writing informative yet interesting research papers.
These few tips, along with constant dedication as well as determination will help you with your projects in University and set you apart from a substantial number of individuals who take a rather head the first approach with little to no plan.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Siddharth is an undergrad student pursuing Computer Sciences at SRM Institute of Science and Technology. He was an intern at NUS Singapore and is a cybersecurity researcher with an intermediate background in penetration testing, network security, machine learning, deep learning, and mobile application development. His primary areas of work include the enhancement of home security systems and effective integration of smart grids with blockchain.
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