Internship Experience | Garima Garg | DTU & UNL,USA

Garima Garg from Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani shares her exciting internship experiences at Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), USA. Read on to know more about grabbing your possible opportunity!

Garima Garg With Peacock
Garima Garg with a peacock

IF: Please tell us something about yourself. What are your hobbies and interests? Where are you studying currently?

Garima Garg (GG): Hi, I am Garima Garg. I am pursuing dual majors of Pharmacy and Information systems at Birla Institute of Technology & Science Pilani, Pilani Campus and will be graduating in July 2016. I like to spend my spare time by watching movies and TV series.

IF: Which internship did you get the chance to take? What was it all about? Stipend, duration and place?

GG:

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

I got an opportunity to spend a semester at DTU, Lyngby Campus. (Jan 2016 – May 2016). There is an exchange program between India and Denmark sponsored by Novozymes and The Henning Holck-Larsen Foundation. I received a monthly stipend of 6500 DKK along with a travel grant covering tickets and visa. Anyone (Bachelor, Master or PhD students) can apply for it.

You can read more about it at this link:

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), USA

In 2014, I got selected for the prestigious Khorana Program and interned at UNL from May 2014 – Aug 2014. The program is sponsored by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and Indo US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) and University of Wisconsin-Madison. I think they have made some changes in the application procedure and what the scholarship covers.

When I interned, the scholarship included a stipend of $ 2000, health insurance ($ 500), airfare and accommodation was provided by UNL.

More information on this link.

Garima Garg with Her Lovely Friend
Garima with her lovely friend

IF: Tell us about the procedure to apply for the internship. Who all are eligible to apply for this internship?

GG:

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

The colleges which the program has a collaboration with, are asked to send a fixed number of students. The students have to submit a statement of purpose (SOP) explaining how the exchange would help in their future endeavors. So it’s mostly decided by the placement cells of the colleges. In my case, however, it was little different. Students at BITS are required to do either a project or an industrial internship in their last semester. I had randomly sent a mail to one of the professors at DTU and he liked my cover letter. He was the one who suggested that I should apply for this exchange program and fortunately I got selected. So for students who want to submit a project, they need an invitation letter from a professor at DTU and submit it along with an SOP.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), USA

An applicant has to submit a form available at IUSSTF’s website which requires details about CGPA, research interests, previous lab experiences, 2 letters of recommendation, No Objection Certificate (NOC) from home university, etc. B.Tech, M.Tech, M.Sc students enrolled in Biotechnology and allied fields are eligible to apply for it.

IF: Let’s talk about how competitive the selection process is. What qualities of yours, you believe helped you in having an edge in the selection process? What key things you feel were looked for by the selectors?

GG:

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Not many people knew about this exchange program when I applied.

Previous research experience (I had done 3 internships and one master thesis by then) and how much of my cover letter and statement of purpose matched with the supervisor’s research profile were the contributing factors.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), USA

This one is quite competitive; they select very less number of students from all over India. When I did, the count was only 30.

Pursuing two disparate majors, Department rank of 1 (pharmacy), decent CG, recommendation letters, previous internship at Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun, it all helped. But I think the one factor that gave me an edge was lab component in almost every course of both my majors at BITS. At the time of application I had finished around 12 courses in Pharmacy and 3 courses in Information Systems which had lab components. Since this scholarship is for students enrolled in Biotechnology or allied areas, being a student of Pharmacy (Bio) and Information Systems (Technology) helped in the selection.

According to me, everything they ask for in the application form like CG, SOP, previous lab work, who you have taken letters of recommendation from and more importantly what your referees have written about you, matters.

IF: Could you please highlight the work/research project you carried out during the internship period? Its application in the near future and your work in it?

GG:

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

The project was on “Interpretation of Metagenomic Data during Fermentation”. It focused on developing a computational pipeline for rapidly and accurately differentiating bacterial and fungal strains from each other within metagenomics sequences of wine samples.

Metagenomic data comprises genetic material which has been directly obtained from the environment. I had to write a python script which could take wine samples’ data as input and predicts which strains of bacteria were present. I used several bio-informatics software like IDBA-UD assembler, CD-HIT-EST, Burrows Wheeler Aligner, SAMtools, GroopM, etc. in the pipeline.

One example of future applications could be analysis of environmental samples like soil samples to detect the presence of disease causing microorganisms, how they can harm or influence production of crops, etc. Another one could be to explore the diversity, function and ecology of microbial communities.pic 1

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), USA

I worked on a project titled “Identification of circular RNA in plants and Animals” and conducted research in the development of bioinformatics tool to analyze RNA sequence (RNA-seq) data for identification of circular non-coding RNAs. I constructed a computational pipeline to map short reads to reference genomes, collect suitable RNA-seq libraries and finally identify novel circular non-coding RNAs. This is important because it is speculated that circular RNA have a role in gene regulation and may represent a new methodology of treatment of disease like Cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and atherosclerosis.

IF: How much difference this internship period make in your intellectual capabilities and mind set. In broad terms what are your gains and takeaways?

GG: Both of these internships have helped me learn more about myself. I got to experience how research is carried out in foreign universities, how their culture is so much different from ours, how to manage things on my own, talk to people, make new friends, travel and the best one is I can cook food now 🙂 . They have made me more independent and confident.

IF: Which other internships opportunities you tried for and didn’t get through? According to you what might be the reasons for the same?

GG: It has been quite long since I applied for these internship programs. So don’t remember much but what I remember is that I did apply to a lot of them. These programs don’t have a fixed criterion for selecting students. Some focus more on CG, some on SOP while some give equal weightage to all -CGPA, cover letter, statement of purpose, recommendation letters, etc. so can’t say exactly which factor contributed and which didn’t.

IF: What are your future plans after these two internship and how much impact this internship will have on it?

GG: We learn so much from these internships that they help us in deciding our next steps be it Masters or MBA or anything else, The skills which I learnt from these experiences will help me in my life in one way or other.

We’d like to thank Garima for sharing her amazing experience! 

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