On Technology
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On Technology

Good Ideas for University Projects

The Why and the How

Many university students ask me about university projects, especially on ideas and probable topics. This article is a summary of what I (usually) end-up telling them.

Why University Projects

For most people, University Projects are a mere requirement. It’s something they “have to do” to get their undergraduate or post-graduate degree. But there are many other reasons for doing University Projects and doing them well.

Solving problems you care about

The two most common questions I get about ML and AI, are “What are the most important technologies?” and “What courses should I take?” My answer to both these questions is the same: “Forget about technology and courses to start with. Instead, find a problem that you care about. Then, see how you might apply technology or knowledge gained from courses to solve that problem”.

University Projects are an excellent medium for solving problems that you care about. And beyond merely satisfying your course requirements, that’s an excellent reason for completing a project.

Building Visibility

If you are planning on pursuing “higher studies” beyond your bachelors or masters, your adviser would probably advise you to “publish a few papers” based on your university project. This is indeed a good reason, as often the project and any resulting papers will feature prominently in a post-graduate university application.

Beyond this academic visibility, projects are also a useful means of professional and industrial visibility. When I’m scanning through resumes to hire software engineers or data scientists, a good university project will boost the candidate to the top of my priority list. University projects carry a lot more weight than (say) high GPAs; they are far more relevant to the real-world.

Converting into a bigger thing

Many real-world businesses have been born out of university projects. The most famous example is probably Google. Not only did Brin and Page become multi-billionaires, but so did several of their advisors at Stanford, and some of their batchmates.

A “bigger-thing” might not necessarily be monetary. For example, you could convert your university project into an open-source project. While it might not turn you into a Billionaire, it could still potentially benefit thousands or even millions people.

Winning awards

There are many competitions for university projects, and the winners get a lot of publicity, monetary or other rewards, and often both.

How to come up with good university project ideas?

The previous “Why” section meant to be a “generator” for this “How” section. Each “Why” serves as a mechanism to generate “Hows”.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What real-world problems do I care about? How might I “formulate it” as a university project?
  • What are some interesting research papers? What are similar topics?
  • What might be a potentially exciting business idea? Can a university project be a basis for testing such an idea?
  • What are some interesting open-source projects related to my academic interests?
  • What are some good competitions for university projects? What topics won in the past?

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