InternFeel: Please tell us something about yourself. Where and what are you studying currently?
Ananya Gupta: Hello!! I am Ananya Gupta from IIT (BHU) Varanasi. I am currently pursuing B.Tech in Electrical Engineering. My interests lie in the field of Robotics, Digital Electronics, Bio-inspired Machine Learning, and Neuromorphic Computing. Apart from studies, I like listening to music, singing and traveling. I also like teaching small children in my free time.
IF: Give us details about your internship – process of application, stipend, duration and place?
AG: I got selected for the prestigious IUSSTF Viterbi India Program 2019 which provides the opportunity to do a summer research internship at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA. Though I was selected for the DAAD WISE Scholarship to do an internship in Germany as well, I chose USC, as I believed I would get more exposure and research culture here. The duration of the internship is 8 weeks and interns get to work on projects related to the computer science and electrical engineering domains. Airfare and stipend along with medical insurance are provided by the IUSSTF. We got a total of 3130$ as stipend which is sufficient to cover all the expenses for the two months’ stay.
Application for the program opens around September and the deadline is in November. The good thing about Viterbi application is that is very easy to fill in comparison to other internship applications. You have to fill an online form and answer a few simple questions about your past research experience and interests. You also need to submit two recommendation letters and specify names of 2-3 professors whom you want to work with. Overall, the process is quite simple and it does not take more than a week to complete the application.
IF: How competitive was the selection process? According to you, which qualities have helped you have an edge in the selection process? Also, what were the key things that selectors were looking for?
AG: The selection process is very competitive as hundreds of applicants apply and only 15 among them get selected. I had a decent CPI of 9.65 and also previous internship experience in the same field of interest. I think a good CPI, an impactful SOP(statement of purpose), previous project experience and letter of recommendation are the things that matter in the process of selection. Also if your interest area matches with the current research laid by the professor, it greatly increases your chances of selection.
AG: I was interested in doing a project in neuromorphic hardware which is building analog electronic circuits that can mimic human brain and cortex system and fortunately BioRC group under professor Alice Cline Parker works in the same field so I could get the very project of my choice to work on. My project was “To Model Inhibition and Signal Routing in Human Brain and Cortex using Low-power Neural Architectures designed in Analog Circuits.” In simple words, I studied the previous work and research papers by the group and build basic models of various neurons (Axon-Hillocks, Synapses and dendrites) and then I combined these blocks to make a switching network that can model how the inhibition works in biology and how do the specific signals get transferred to specific locations in the human brain and nervous system.
This field of neuromorphic research lies at the intersection of Neuroscience, Electronics, and computer science. It is a very new booming area of research to develop bio-inspired hardware and algorithms that are more efficient in terms of speed and power consumption.
IF: Can you give us interesting details about your experience – good and bad? (It could be something like the amazing location of your internship, the friends you made for life, a bad senior, accommodation given in case of an outstation internship and something along those line.)
AG: The internship experience at Viterbi was a whole new and wonderful experience. The professor was a very amazing and friendly person. The other people in the group were also very friendly and helped a lot. The research culture is much developed and organized. There were weekly group meetings where we used to discuss each other’s work and problems and future ideas.
The best thing is like a total of 15 students from India were doing an internship in Viterbi, we were like a family away from home. Every weekend, we used to go to visit places in and around Los Angeles, which made us explore the unique blend of cultures in the USA. The Hollywood trek, San Diego, Malibu, Santa Monica, Six Flags were some of the memorable experiences. Overall these two months were one of the best days of our life.
IF: How do you think this internship has helped you grow? In other words, what are your key takeaways from the internship?
AG: I learned a lot from this internship. The hard work and organized way of research inspired me a lot. I got to interact with a lot of people and I learned how to discuss the problem and convey your ideas in the best possible manner. The internship made me more confident, organized and brave to take initiatives and to deal with problems. Apart from the academics and project, I made a lot of friends and interacted with a lot of people that made me a more social and better person.
IF: Has this internship had a decision altering impact on your career? Do you now think of a different future path as compared to before doing the internship?
AG: I always thought of pursuing higher studies and this internship has strengthened my decision of the same. This internship gave me a feel of research work and its ups and downs. Now I am even more confident to pursue higher studies and research abroad.
IF: Lastly, do you have any words of advice or caution for students aspiring for this internship and reading this piece?
AG: Follow your passion!! Apply for the internship in your area of interest. Work hard in advance, do a good project with a professor in your university and if possible publish a paper. To get selected for a specific program or university, SOP and recommendations matter a lot. So write your SOP with the utmost care. Also, try to interact and be in touch with your professor as it will help you in getting a good recommendation. Once you get selected, try to make out the best from the opportunity. Explore the work culture, interact with professors, co-interns, fellow scholars and also make new connections. Discuss your ideas and problems and try to learn as much as you can. Embrace the foreign culture and enjoy your time during the internship.
For those who could not get a foreign internship or internship at their dream university, I would say internship in India is not that different from foreign internship except for the whole new cultural experience. Doing an internship in some good college in India has its perks so If you are passionate enough, you can do whatever you want to from anywhere.
Believe in yourself and work hard. All the very best!!
IF: Please rate this internship from the scale of 0 to 10, 0 being really bad to 10 being awesome!
AG: Rating: The internship experience was truly amazing. I would rate it 9/10.
IF: Please feel free to give any kind of feedback or suggestion for us at InternFeel. We would love to hear from you –words of appreciation or suggestions are all equally welcome.
AG: I would like to thank team InternFeel! You are doing an amazing job. Before getting the internship, I dug up the site to know about the experiences of other interns which helped me a lot to prepare for the application and gave me motivation. It is a great place for the students to read and share their experiences and help each other.