Nishad Kothari, PhD candidate
Degrees: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Science, B.I.T., India), Master of Science (Computer Science, Georgia Tech, USA)
Supervisor: Joseph Cheriyan
What program are you in? What is your research area?
I am a PhD student in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization. I work in the area of structural graph theory. The main focus of my research is matching theory.
Why did you choose to study in the Faculty of Mathematics? Why did you choose the University of Waterloo?
I was very fascinated by discrete mathematics (combinatorics) and theoretical computer science. To the best of my knowledge, the C&O department at the University of Waterloo is the only one of its kind on planet Earth. The C&O department at Waterloo was on the top of my list. Most importantly, I was interested in the work of at least 4 to 5 faculty members of this department.
What are your career goals?
I will pursue an academic career. I am passionate about both facets of academia, namely, research and teaching.
What has been the most rewarding moment in your graduate career so far?
The most important aspect of a PhD is whom you work with. In that aspect, I have been very lucky to have Joseph Cheriyan as my supervisor, and U. S. R. Murty as my mentor. Each meeting with either of them is a rewarding experience in itself. The most rewarding moment was when I proved the first significant theorem towards my thesis.
What has been the most challenging part of life as a graduate student?
Like all graduate students, I met with some success initially. However, in retrospect, those problems were relatively easy. With time, the problems I have encountered have become increasingly more and more difficult. There have been months and months of failure, and this is what makes graduate life challenging as well as exciting. The dual nature of life!
What has been your favourite course or project so far in grad school?
I took the graduate level graph theory course at Georgia Tech. This sparked my interest in graph theory, and went on to define my PhD direction as well. Thanks to Robin Thomas, who did such a wonderful job at teaching this course! At Waterloo, I took a course with Dave Wagner in Algebraic Enumeration, which was very challenging since I had never encountered that branch of mathematics earlier.
Can you describe any practical or hands-on experience you’ve had during your studies?
I have been a TA for several courses, and I enjoy running the tutorials and interacting with students. That apart, I also completed two certifications in teaching during my PhD studies. All these experiences have taught me a lot about teaching.
How do you describe combinatorics and optimization to your friends and family?
Well, for those who are curious, I just explain to them using some applications - which they might be able to relate to, and then pretty soon, I get pretty technical.
How do you spend your time outside of school?
I enjoy swimming, and so I go to the university pool every 2-3 days. I do see movies at Princess Cinemas quite regularly.
Do you have any words of advice for people considering or planning graduate studies at the University of Waterloo? What about for people who may be interested in C&O?
Well, I just advise them that they consider the people they want to work with. The most important aspect of graduate school is who you work with, that is, your supervisor or advisor. That being said, it is good to be at a place where there’s lots of variety. And as far as mathematics is concerned, Waterloo Math Faculty is huge!
For those who are interested in combinatorics or in discrete optimization, Waterloo C&O is one of the best places on this planet.