California Calling: Aashish’s experience

“Try to achieve what you like, otherwise you have to like what you achieve.”

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Q1. In which course are you presently enrolled? Please tell us something about yourself – your interests and areas of specialization.

Hi, I’m Aashish Bhardwaj,final year UG at IIT Ropar. I am passionate about Mechanics ranging from automobiles to space satellites. I love to sketch, interact with people and cook food. Moreover I am a diehard follower of cricket. Believing in the father’s theory of “Try to achieve what you like, otherwise you have to like what you achieve” is the driving force for my whole career.

Q2. Which internship did you opt for? Give us a few details-stipend, duration and location.

I was selected for S.N. Bose Summer internship 2015 for a Project at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA. The program is organized by IUSSTF in joint collaboration with DST, Govt. of India and University of Wisconsin. The host university arranges for accommodation and a stipend of $2000 along with airfare and health insurance is provided. Moreover the program also covers the expenses for an orientation session in the USA and a student symposium in New Delhi.

Q3. How did you come to know about the internship? Which channels of information (Internet/ Personal/Corporate contacts etc) did you utilize?

I came to know about the internship in my 2nd year through an email sent to IIT by IUSSTF for inviting the applicants. I was aware well ahead of time and prepared my SOP noticing all the points that are mentioned on internet. Also I took help of previous scholars for some tips and also reviewing my SOP.

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Q4. Briefly describe the procedure for application. What are the eligibility criteria for this internship?

After the application process starts we have to fill the form available on website. The form includes 1 page SOP and 1 page research experience. This is the most critical part as you have to project yourself accurately in just these 2 pages. Two recommendation letters are required preferably from a previous project supervisor. The results are out in January last week and then you have to mail professors in USA to find a mentor. After the selection and finding a guide, final selection letter is sent.

Q5. Let’s talk about how competitive the selection process is. What qualities of yours do you think helped you to have an edge in the selection process? What key attributes were the selectors looking for?

The selection process was very competitive as only 9 mechanical Engineering students were selected all over India with 60 in total from all backgrounds. I think preparing the SOP well really helped me in highlighting my qualities. Moreover, recommendation letter from IISc and previous research internship through IAS summer fellowship really helped me getting through. Since I was the topper of my batch it was an added advantage. The best part is that CGPA is not the only thing IUSSTF looks for. Some students with high CGPA were rejected, perhaps due to a lack of professionalism in profile.

Q6. According to you, what are some common mistakes that you feel applicants should avoid in the internship application process?

Students should prepare SOP and research interests very well. Mostly students either copy them or just mention everything casually. These things require time and should not be done in a day or an hour.

Q7. What kind of groundwork did you do post-selection and before beginning the internship?

On January 5th when I was heading for a class I received the award letter from DAAD WISE selection. I was already too happy but to my utter surprise within an hour the mail from IUSSTF flashed with award letter. Within 15 mins another mail from IUSSTF asking for dates for Chicago orientation came. I was too excited and began looking up the climate of Pasadena, VISA formalities and so on.

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Q8. Please give us an overview of the work/research project you carried out during the internship period, including its future prospects, and your role and responsibilities.

My research work was based on Computational Mechanics. It involved a new technology of making lightweight material from micro-lattices similar to building with bricks. The technology has been highlighted among “Top 10 technologies” by MIT. I worked on calculating the effect of imperfection in Lattice members due to limitation in accuracy in nano-manufacturing and their effect in stiffness.  The project has huge scope for application in aerospace materials as weight reduction of 40% and stiffness increase to 140% is possible.

Q9. Was this your first internship / training? If not, what do you think was unique about this internship?

No, I had done 2 internships before. One after 1st year at Roulunds Braking India and another after 2nd year through IAS summer fellowship at IISc Bangalore.This internship has given me a huge level of confidence and interest in my field. Now I can work freely with people from any nation and ethnicity. I have improved my research skills and the best part is, I have made 20 new friends with whom I have spent the most memorable and crazy times.

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Q10. What was the best feature of the work ethic of the organization and the internship? What was it that you liked about your workplace?

The best thing about the work culture was that my mentor laid stress upon “what has to be done “not “how it is to be done”. I knew what I have to calculate but not how to calculate. That was the most interesting part. Even my co-mentor asked me how I approached the problem because the way I coded in python was less time consuming and it had taken much longer for him to do the same. I was encouraged to try whatever approach I wanted to take. Moreover my mentor and co-mentor were German-it was altogether a different experience. “Work hard on weekdays and party hard on weekends” is the mantra there. Best thing is people respect Indians very much and consider us super intelligent. One of the visitors even mentioned “You are from IIT and at Caltech-that is the best I could dream.”

Q11. Let’s now talk about some negatives. What were the glitches and problems that came your way, which you think your juniors should be careful to avoid?

As such there were no technical glitches, everything went smooth. But some of my friends had problem in getting the VISA.

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Q12. Were there any special events during the internships? (Events can be academics related like field trips, conferences, hackathons, meets etc and also non-academic, relating to your hostel life and the like)

There were many events like “OASIS annual show 2015” by Indian students at Caltech. IUSSTF organized a 3 day stay and Bus tour in Chicago for orientation session in Indian Consulate. Also after the completion of internship a Student symposium was organized in INSA, Delhi for poster presentation.  Moreover my friend Rishav Roy (from UCLA) and I used to hang out with Viterbi India scholars and moved to Los Angles every weekend.  We visited Hollywood, did trekking on Hollywood hills, visited Griffith observatory, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Santa Monica Beach and so on.

Q13. What are your future plans and how much of an impact do you think this internship will have on it?

At present I am looking for an industrial experience and will go for higher studies soon. This internship experience has led to my developing a great interest in materials. After this internship I am confident that I can contribute to the society with my technical skills.

Q14. Any advice for juniors that can help them in getting internships in future and for deriving the best learning experience out of it?

I would recommend everyone to develop a good research background with good academics as that is very helpful to clear the tough competition. Also work hard to achieve what you want, and dedicate time for building a good SOP.

Q15. Any views about this initiative of InternFeel, and how beneficial it would be? Any suggestions/feedback for improvement?

This is a very great initiative, and even I took help during my preparation from InternFeel interviews. This is the platform where people can look for experiences which are helpful not just for internships but also when you are applying for a job.

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