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Currently in the 4th semester of engineering in an Indian university. The thing is - is it better to do as many short-lived projects/research work on diverse topics of computer science or stick to one/two projects consistently throughout my undergraduate years?

Case in point: currently working on an image-processing project that promises to carry on for a year or so (as per the prof). Does this seem like being over-specialized at too early a level? Although taking on too many things will spread me out thin and in all probability not end up getting any meaningful work done. Especially as I hope to apply for grad school in the US.

Would really appreciate any views and suggestions on this.

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I think it depends (to some extent) on what you plan to do later on. In academic/research fields specialization is the norm. One is encouraged (one could less euphemistically say pressured) to specialize at an early stage. As a professor once wrote to me, your employer the university wants to be able to sell you as an expert in fill in the blank. In more practical fields I imagine there is less pressure to specialize. Clearly, if you are working on big corporate software projects at Google or similar places, you'd need to know a bit about a lot of different things in order to get your work done.

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nice one from the professor for sure. Currently focusing on grad school and academic research rather than entering the industry right after graduation. –  AruniRC Mar 22 '11 at 12:56

Pretty much any project you undertake as an undergraduate student is likely to be microscopic when compared the scale of any real industry project. There may be some outlying cases, of course.

For the purposes of your education, you have to decide if you are interested enough in a particular topic to devote your time and energy to that topic at the expense of other ones. Do you care about image processing, for example?

Personally, when I'm hiring, I like to see that a candidate has the capacity for deep understanding of a topic (or better, several), but it's also good to see that he or she has learned at least a little bit about a lot of topics in the field. That is to say, the best candidates are those who have good breadth of understanding overall and also have good depth in at least a few areas of expertise.

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alright i gotta ask is the overall understanding bit covered in the subjects that are part of an engineering curriculum? then (hopefully) the depth part will be done in the research projects undertaken. –  AruniRC Mar 22 '11 at 12:54
@AruniRC, in my experience, about 10% of any given graduating class is worth hiring. I suppose that means it's possible for students to learn what they need to in school, but that only very few of them actually do it. –  Carl Norum Mar 22 '11 at 16:30
now thats a relief. :) –  AruniRC Mar 23 '11 at 1:38

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