Meet Mr. Abinash currently studying in 4th year of 5 year Integrated M.Sc. course in Physics at NIT Rourkela. His interests lie in Interdisciplinary sciences and is oriented towards the mathematical side of physics. Apart from syllabus, he enjoys reading topics related to Information Theory, Statistical Physics and Complex Systems. Now comes the non-academic side of him. He is a full-fledged gadget freak. He loves reading about the latest technology, even though he can’t afford more than half of the devices he reads about. Actually this interest grew out of another interest of his. He is a freelance content writer and writes mostly on gadget reviews, social media trends etc. Not only this he has also had a serious addiction to TV series having watched almost all the popular (and many never-heard-of) TV series, Dexter and House M.D. being his favorite ones
Internship in his own words: I was selected for Summer Fellowship at IIT Madras. It’s a 2 month internship. I received a stipend of Rs 6500, in 2 instalments. They took Rs 5800 for 58 days of stay and food at the IIT hostel. So, I had to bear my travel expenses. But it was minimal. This is a research internship, meaning that students were supposed to work novel problem, under a faculty. As far as my guide was concerned, I could choose the particular problem to work with.
Time to know more about him…
InternFeel: How you came to know about the internship? Generally what was your way of being in touch with the media to get the information about the various internships?
Abinash: From the summer of 2012, I had been looking at the websites of elite institutes for Internship opportunities. For summer of 2013, I had fanatically applied for 7 internship programs. Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS), IIT Kanpur, IIT Madras, Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc) Chennai, IISER Kolkata, Institute of Physics Bhubaneswar and IISER Pune. I had an idea that most of the institutes have their fellowship programs, but it was tiring to keep myself updated with the exact date of announcements. Most of my updates came from Internshala.com. Others came from friends who kept checking their favourite institute’s website.
IF: How much competitive is the selection process? What things you feel are looked for in the applicant by the selectors?
Abinash: A total of 20 candidates were selected in Physics. IITs carry weight in anyone’s CV, so it’s highly probable that a lot of applicants might have applied. But, there’s a big plus point when you apply for IITs’ internship– they have a whole different category for non-IITians. Like for IIT Madras, no IITian was eligible. That reduces a LOT of competition. As far as physics is concerned, I would say that IITians don’t form a very large population. Even at IIT Madras, most of my fellow interns were from other well-known institutions like DU (St. Stephens’), other NITs,
IISERs etc. As for what goes on in the selection, I think it depends heavily on the CGPA. But that’s not the only factor. I know a friend who had a CGPA like me, but didn’t get through. The application form asked for an abstract of the project in which I wanted to work. I believe that showing maturity in writing these project abstracts (Statement of Purpose) bear quite a lot of weight in any internship. Almost anyone can come up with an SOP on a topic. But if you don’t really know the subject, there won’t be any ‘purpose’ in your statement of purpose.
IF: What qualities of yours – educational / otherwise, you feel helped you in having an edge over the selection process?
Abinash: I will admit CGPA had quite a lot of weight. But, my familiarity with the topic helped me a lot. I was interested in working a problem related to chaos in electromechanical system. It was mostly analyse-and-conclude sort of problem. When I was writing the SOP I had already finished reading the basic literature that’s needed for the problem.So, I believe my SOP was quite mature.
IF: Approximately when you got the news for the selection? How was the celebration?
Abinash: I had a stressful February, 2013. I had my mid-terms starting from 23rd or so, and almost all the internships had a deadline around that time. So I spent quite a lot of time before the exams, filling applications and scrounging through papers to find a problem which would be non-trivial and yet something which I can handle and finish in 2 months of summer.
In contrast, March was blissful. On 1st March, which is incidentally my birthday, I got the news that I was selected for Indian Academy of Sciences. I was extremely relieved at the news. I was assigned the guide whom I had filled as the first preference (from Univ. of Madras). So it couldn’t have been better. So, on the afternoon of 6th March, I was looking for tickets, logistics and all, and an email arrived. It was from Dept. of Physics, IIT Madras. It was the acceptance letter.
I was so happy!
Back in September 2012, when many of my friends were applying for international Internships like DAAD and Mitacs Globalink, I was reluctant. I didn’t think myself good enough to apply in these. I just didn’t have anything to work on. I had applied IAS because it’s quite prestigious, and only after that I had started reading seriously on my topic. So, getting an acceptance from IAS and IIT Madras in succession, was awesome.
Later that month, I think around Holi, IIT Kanpur’s result came. I was accepted there too. And then in IISER Kolkata, and finally at Institute of Physics Bhubaneswar. But by then, I had made up my mind that I would go for IIT Madras, because the department had a nice research group working on the topic (Chaos Synchronization) in which I was interested in.
So, when you ask me how the celebration was, I remember all these selections as one. Apart from the customary treats to friends, I treated myself on a solitary dinner to my favourite restaurant.
IF: What all preparations you did (academic/otherwise)before joining and after the results?
Abinash: I had done a thorough literature reading for the problem. It was I who had proposed the problem, and I was determined that even if my guide wants to modify the problem, I will make some progress on the problem before reaching Chennai. So, by the time I reached IIT Madras, I had worked out and even finished the first two (and easier ones) parts of the problem already. I must say, I am very lucky. Because some of my fellow interns, didn’t even get a chance to work in the topic they liked, let alone the problem of their choice.
IF: Any problems that you faced before joining, which you feel could have been easily avoided if known in before?
Abinash: No, not really. I had heard before that IITs are very organized when it comes to logistics and program structure, and IIT Madras wasn’t an exception. Booking tickets was a bit problematic, since the ticket booking window for trains was 4 months then. Otherwise, things were very straightforward.
IF: Any common mistakes which you feel students should avoid while searching and applying for internships?
Abinash: First thing is to decide on what you want to work on. Spending the first 2 years of college, exploring as many topics in your discipline as possible, is very important. ‘kuch bhi milega toh chalega’ (anything I get will work fine) is a lame attitude. And it gets you nowhere. Go through the faculty list of the institute where you are applying. If there’s no one in the dept. who works in the topic you are interested in, don’t waste your time applying there. Even chances are you won’t be selected. And apply in as many internships one is eligible in. Even those in which the eligibility isn’t clearly mentioned. Like in IIT Madras, the eligibility criterion for Integrated M.Sc. wasn’t mentioned clearly, but I applied in it anyway. Incidentally, only 2 other interns were of same year as I was
IF: So Abinash, could you please highlight us with what work/research project you carried out during the internship period? It’s application in near future and your work in it?
Abinash: My project’s title was ‘Chaos in Electromechanical Systems’. The electromechanics is just a fancy word to describe the study of generators and motors. So, this project focused on a particular system called Bullard Dynamo. The objective was to couple a Bullard Dynamo with a simple system called the homopolar generator, and study the coupled system. The physics of the systems ends the moment one establishes the differential equations. Much of my project goes into the study of the properties of a system of differential equations. The behaviour of the solutions of these differential equations depend crucially on certain parameters. One of my tasks was to find the parameters for which the solutions will be chaotic. I spent the first two weeks trying to find these parameters. The rest went into learning advanced concepts and seeing the applicability of those concepts to the system in consideration.What would be its application?
Well, this system is one of the first models to model the origin of Earth’s Magnetic field.
Till now, geologists and physicists have found it hard to come with a complete set of equations which will model how Earth’s or Sun’s magnetic field flips. (Heard about Solar Flares recently? Predicting solar flares is an open problem). I will confess that the project comes nowhere near to making any major contributions to these topics. I picked thissystem because it gave me a playfield to apply the textbook concepts.
IF: What was the best thing about the work culture and the internship? What all things you liked there?
Abinash: The best thing was the freedom. My guide was extremely flexible. He had set meetings on Thursdays, and I was free to stay in room and read. I found the bureaucracy at IIT Madras more flexible than my institute. Throughout the internship, I kept things to myself. I didn’t have any labwork, since most of my work was on pen and paper. I used to come to the computer lab though, and would use one of the monitors as my extended displays. No one ever bothered me. I say this to highlight, how none of the officials interfere unless you are doing anything wrong.
IF: What problems you or your friends faced, during the internship, which your juniors may be able to avoid?
Abinash: I faced no problems regarding food or accommodation. If you ask me any problem in particular, I will point out again, how some of my fellow interns didn’t get the field they wanted to work in. Unlike some institutes, like IIT Kanpur or even IAS, IITM doesn’t specify which field you want to work in. So, you should carefully scan the faculty list before applying.
IF: As with almost everything, what were the cons of the internship? The elements which you felt, if wasn’t there could have made this internship super awesome?
Abinash: I think a little more stipend would have been nicer. They give you money which meets your food and accommodation. That’s it. Not a penny more. Though one can easily manage things like a city trip, there’s a different sort of fun in doing that with fellowship money.
IF: Were there any special events during the internships which you would like to share?
Abinash: Yes. As part of the program, every alternate weekday, a faculty of IITM would give an introduction to the field they specialize in. Each of these lectures was enlightening. But the broadest highlight was lecture from Dr. Balakrishnan. I have completed 2 of his courses via video lectures. I have seen many professors, but Prof. Balakrishnan is unbelievably awesome. I used to idolize him since 2011! I got to ask him questions, and answer his, it was like a little dream come true.
IF: What was the guidance provided by your guide? What all support you received from your intern institute administration.?
Abinash: My guide was Dr. Arul Lakshminarayan. He is a very cool guy. He works in Quantum Chaos and Information. So, the first day I went to him discuss the details of the project, I outlined what I intend to do. He gave me literature on some of the advanced topics, which I hadn’t considering including in the project. The biggest advantage was flexibility. He said that he was okay with me as long as I learn something from the project. There were two other guys who were interning under him. Our topics were very different, so he fixed a weekday every week, when we will outline what we have been up to.I got to discuss results with him, whenever I wanted to. I couldn’t have asked for any better guidance. As for the college administration, they were amenable. I had an early train, so they even gave me the certificate in the evening, rather than the next morning. Stipends were dispersed without any delay. It was all nice.
IF: To whom all people you would, like to thank in context of this internship?
Abinash: I would like to thank the guy who shared IITM internship information in Internshala (I don’t remember his name) and would thank my friends Soumya who sort of re-reminded me of the date of internship. It goes without saying, how much I thank my mother for helping me arrange logistics. And I would also thank my guide for making this internship a great learning experience rather than a certificate grabbing façade.
IF: How much difference this period of 8 weeks made in your intellectual capabilities and mindset. In broad terms what are your gains from this?
Abinash: It has impacted me greatly. I am more confident about the subject now. I know a lot more on the subject, and know what to find where. I have made some contacts in different institutes, and I have had a taste of a life where working on a research problem is your full-time job. When I finally submitted the report at the Physics Dept at IITM, I kind of felt a sense of accomplishment. That I was able to put together what I set out to.
IF: What advice you would like to give to your juniors, which can help them in getting internships in their future college life.
Abinash: My advice is simple. Read as much as you can, so that you can find what which subject you can like. Getting a research internship is all about being mature about a subject, or I would say being more mature about something than most of the other students. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about deciding your PhD thesis now! Just find something on which you would be willing to dedicate 2 full months of summer at a hostel which would be mostly empty.
IF: What are your future plans after this internship and how much impact this internship will have on it?
Abinash: My future plans are firmly fixed at a PhD. I want to pursue research in applications of chaos theory, specifically of synchronization of chaos, and its applications to cryptography. This internship gave me much needed confidence and also let me know where I lacked reading.
IF: Any views about this initiative of InternFeel, and how beneficial it would be?
Abinash: It’s awesome what InternFeel is doing. When I was preparing to leave, I too had so many questions. I am sure that if someone reads this, many crucial questions would be answered.
IF: So Abinash, we are at the end of the interview. From the entire team of InternFeel, we thank you for taking out your time and sharing your experiences for everyone and we wish you best of luck for all your future endeavors.
Abinash: Thank you very much!