If the IITs have stood as vanguards of STEM education, it’s the premier mathematical and statistical institutions in India that are at the forefront of the data analytics movement. One of these is the Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI). Funded substantially by the government, it’s a world-class institute that is today seeing student applications and recruiter interest at all-time highs, thanks in part to a new industry-ready MSc in data science with a dual focus on math and computing skills.
Manjul Bhargava, mathematics professor at Princeton University and winner of the Fields Medal, one of the world’s highest honours in math, told Times Techies in 2019 that CMI is “so good that some are turning down IITs to go there.”
CMI is today a recruiting ground for Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Adobe, Micron, CRISIL, HP Labs, Temenos, Ford Motors, and many others. Average pay packages have doubled in the past six years, from Rs 7.8 lakh per annum in academic year 2014-15 to packages of Rs 15.5 lakh in the ongoing placements season.
Rajeeva Karandikar, director of CMI, notes that mathematics had always been closely linked with engineering education, but the explosion of data and developments in computing in the last four to five years has thrown the spotlight more directly on the subject.
Madhavan Mukund, deputy director and dean of CMI, says that this year, the number of applications for CMI’s data science course increased by almost 60%, from around 700 to 1,200.
Mathematicians are renowned for their introverted nature. We are working on changing that, improve their communication skills, so that they suit corporate roles as well
Rajeeva Karandikar, director, CMI
Mukund says data science has aided the image of mathematics, and the “market for math.” He says he frequently receives emails from parents and students seeking more information on how math can help them build a career.
The predictive AI/ML models used across sectors today rely on math concepts like probability, linear algebra, and others. Semiconductor major Micron hired CMI graduates for the first time this year, picking up over 10% of the students who sat for placements. They are hired for data science and data characterisation roles, to help the technical process engineer with data insights on chip rejection rate and other parameters.
Over 50% of CMI students pursue doctoral or post-doctoral research. Many of them are now in faculty positions at prestigious institutions – MIT, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Rutgers, Stony Brook, the IITs, IISc Bangalore, TIFR.
We are undertaking outreach efforts to break some of the myths surrounding math, especially in the minds of students who have been scared away from it at an early age. We try to make math enjoyable and application oriented
Madhavan Mukund, deputy director & dean, CMI
Three of CMI’s faculty members – Rajeeva Karandikar, T R Ramadas, and V Balaji – have been conferred the coveted Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award.
CMI alumnus Arul Shankar, now a faculty member at Toronto and PhD student of Manjul Bhargava, contributed to the work that won Bhargava the Fields Medal, and was named in the Fields Medal citation.