The Coder Inside A Chemical Engineer: An Interview With Chetan Bansal

Posted on January 31, 2013 in Interviews

This post is part of a series of content focusing on covering inspiring work of Indian youth, brought by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with Potentiaa

Ask anyone on BITS Pilani, Goa campus who Chetan Bansal is, and chances are he/she might know him — randomly ask a number of people on campus who Chetan Bansal is, and chances are they will all know him.

Chetan is a recipient of Mantra-CEL (BITS Pilani’s) Award for Innovation, 2011, and 2012 BITSAA Global 30 Under 30 Awardees(for innovation). Chetan has been selected thrice for Google Summer of Code, in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Google Summer of Code is a program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source projects. GSoC is considered as one of the most prestigious programs for coders and developers. Chetan has published four research papers.

Chetan has been a research Intern at Microsoft Research INRIA Lab Paris. Coders, web developers and programmers look up to Chetan’s work- what’s particularly interesting is that Chetan’s undergrad is in Chemical engineering.

Check out his profile on Potentiaa

chetan bansal

In The Words Of The Winner

What drives you? Your interests and passion?

I am interesting in working on real world problems which can be solved by using technology. I am especially interested in Web and mobile apps, Human Computer Interaction and Web Security.

What are you currently doing and what are your plans for the future?

I will be starting with my thesis at INRIA, Paris & Imperial College, London in July. It will be a continuation of the work I did there on Web security last year as a part of my summer internship. After that, I will have to do another sixth months thesis before graduating from BITS next year. In the long term, I plan to do a job for a couple years in research or product division and then maybe work on a Start up.

What projects interest you? (What are you currently working on and what are the (a few) projects in the pipeline)

I am currently working on three projects, all related to web applications:

a)Google Summer of Code project — I am working on a project with a U.K. based organization where we are creating a web service for storing and sharing data for people and organization. It will be an opensource platform which can be used by anyone to build their own website.

b)Examination Software — It’s a commercial project for an Indian school where we are aiming to automate various processes of the school like conducting examination, evaluation, report generation and automated & personalized testing. I have worked on a similar application earlier for Cypress Univ. Alliance which was used at various Indian and foreign conferences.

c) (SLP) — SLP is a world class, highly reputed training program founded by a BITSian Alumnus. I am working as a part of their tech team to bring up a new custom built website which will replace the existing WordPress based site. Lots of exciting features like a fellow directory will be coming up.

We have heard about your passion for research in technology. Could you shed some light on your past publications and recent research interests please?

Three of my publications are related to web data mining and web semantics (Ontologies). These were a part of the projects I did at BITS as elective courses. The fourth paper was recently accepted at CSF ’12, Harvard. This was based on the work during the summer internship I did at MSR INRIA Lab, Paris last year. Lately, I have been inclined towards working on web/mobile security and web mining.

Why do you see a dearth of talent in these fields in India?

There is no formal education in these fields at the undergraduate level. So, most people who come up are driven by their interest. It’s important to have the right kind of network and opportunities to grow which can be critical.

Your GsoC experiences?

During GSoC ’09, I worked on an ontology module for Wikipathways which is a Bioinformatics project. My mentor (from Univ. Of California, South Francisco) was incredibly helpful along. It was a good learning experience since I was working on a lot of new technologies.

During GSoC’10, I continued working with same organization, however, this time I worked on a Data visualization application. It involved finding and visualizing relationship between various pathways.

Lastly, currently I am working with mySociety which is a UK based organization on a web service for managing information related to organizations and people. This time, I am working on some totally new technologies like NodeJS and MongoDB. So, it has been quite a fun and challenging experience.

Your Mantra (BITSAA Innovation award) experiences?

It was a real honour to be awarded the Mantra Award for Innovation by CEL & BITSAA. The award has been instituted by Mr. Anupendra Sharma, a BITSian alumnus and also the founder of SLP to encourage students. The award was given at a nice ceremony organized by CEL.

We have also come across a recent publication in the International Conference on Advances in Computing and Management — 2012. We would love it if you could shed some light on the same as well.

The paper titled “An Automated Firefox Bookmarks Enrichment Framework” was published at ICACM 2012. It was a part of a Study oriented project, an elective course, I had taken at BITS. It was coauthored by me along with another batchmate and a CS faculty. We basically created a framework for automatically tagging and categorizing the bookmarks we have in the Firefox browser.

Your paper on “Discovering Concrete Attacks on Website Authorization by Formal Analysis ” was recently selected for CSF’12 at Harvard University. Could you shed your thoughts on the same as well?

The paper was a part of the work I did along with my mentor during the summer internship at MSR INRIA Lab, Paris. We worked on the formal verification of the OAuth protocol using ProVerif and security analysis of its implementation and integration across various websites. We were able to find a lot of encouraging results like security vulnerabilities in some of the top websites like Yahoo and Indiatimes.

What are your hobbies? What(beyond coding and research) drives you Chetan?

 I am quite a music follower. I also like travelling and reading books and articles.

Who are your mentors and role-models?

There are a lot of BITSian seniors and alumni who have helped all along the way by giving me opportunities and helping me grow.

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