IPTSE Winter School Intern Experience by Shreya (DTU)

ggfunInternFeel: Hello Shreya, pleasure to meet you. Please tell us about yourself. What makes you different?

Shreya: I am a Final Year Undergraduate pursuing Mathematics and Computing Engineering at Delhi Technological University, Delhi. My interests include Artificial Intelligence, Game Theory and Data Analysis. My hobbies include reading books, listening to music, and solving puzzles.
I love participating in MOOCs – I enjoy each and every lecture I get to see and hear. I make it a point to attend relevant workshops whenever and wherever possible. I believe in the philosophy that life is short and we must maximize our utility by investing our time in the work we are truly passionate about irrespective of its potential worth.

IF: Which internship you got the chance to take? What is it all about? Stipend, duration, place?

Shreya: A. I had been selected for the IPTSE Winter School  2013. This internship program had three tracks last year- Data Mining, Educational Games and Image Processing. This internship was meant to be like a bridge for the research-oriented undergraduate students in India to understand what kind of research happens at CMU. My team developed 2 educational games which proved to be serve their purpose as observed during the play testing sessions of the Educational Games track. No stipend was offered, the internship lasted for 2 weeks (9th December 2013 – 23rd December 2013). The internship was conducted in collaboration with MSRIT, Bangalore. The organizers had arranged the accommodation and food within MSRIT campus for which each participant had to pay 5000 rupees.

B. I got selected for LUSIP (LNMIIT Undergraduate Student Internship Program) 2014 wherein I got to work on “Learning Using Privileged Information”. I had the option of carrying the research intern from home and chose to do that. No stipend was offered and the internship was for about two months.

IF: How you came to know about the internship? To what all sources you kept yourself connected?

Shreya: I have been following EduInfo since my first year at college. It is the best blog for knowing about internships because we get notified regarding so many internships (both research and company) and the blog notifies us of an internship as soon as the concerned institution declares one. Apart from EduInfo, I have also followed Internshala, Interlelo and Certain News about Uncertain World.

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

Shreya: A. Students are required to choose a primary and a secondary track of the three available tracks, have to fill an application form regarding academic performance and research interests. Students are also required to email two letters of recommendation to the specified email id before the application deadline. There is no eligibility criteria as such. Based on the application form and letters of recommendation, students will be selected.

B. There are a number of projects that are offered in LUSIP. So, students can apply for at most two projects. The application form did not consider academic performance as a measure of research capability. Instead, the form involved filling up basic information, past projects, ideas & experience regarding the project topics one has applied for. Post selection, students are required to send a scanned copy of No Objection Certificate signed by their institute’s concerned authority as a part of the verification process. The eligibility criteria and the pre-requisites are mentioned along with the details of the project. Both these parameters vary from project to project.

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

Shreya:
A. The selection process is quite competitive. My academic performance has always been consistent and at the time of the application, I was ranked second in my discipline. I had honestly explained my interest and expectations from the two tracks I preferred to work on. In my belief, my programming experience and my past projects are among the key parameters that helped me bag the internship.
B. My pre-requisite knowledge, application of that knowledge in some projects in the past and understanding of the research internship are the factors due to which I got the internship.

IF: About when you got the news for the selection? How was the celebration?
Shreya:
A. The result was declared on 1st November 2013. I was very excited when I got to know about my selection. It was going to be my first research internship and that too under the supervision of professors from Carnegie Mellon University. I shared the news of my selection with my parents immediately as it is their belief in my capabilities and their support that has always encouraged me to do everything in life.

B. The result was declared on 19th April 2014. By the time I got to know of my selection in LUSIP, I had already been selected for other internships (including SURGE’14 at IIT Kanpur). Due to my end-semester exams clashing with almost all the other internships, I decided to take up LUSIP along with another internship simultaneously. In case an internship’s start date/ end date clashes with one’s institute’s exam schedule, one should always have a talk with the mentor and the institute at which the internship is to be carried out. I had a talk with my mentor (of LUSIP) who permitted me to start working on my projects post my end-semester exams. I was happy when I saw my name in the list of selected candidates as during the application stage itself, I had a gut feeling of my selection in LUSIP.

IF: What all preparations you did (academic/otherwise) after the results in view of the internship?
Shreya:
A. I did not do any major preparations on the academic front as such. I just discussed project ideas with fellow interns before the internship actually began.
B. I was happy that I already had a good grasp of the pre-requisites to proceed with the project. So, I did not do any preparations at all post the declaration of the results.

IF: So Shreya, 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?

Shreya:
A)    My team developed two games for educating children in an interactive way so that their retention power is high and they understand concepts. In today’s world, the techniques adopted by teachers to teach students aren’t very effective, as a result of which students’ understanding of fundamental concepts is poor. Considering the fact that now-a-days children spend most of their time on video games, the idea of educational games helps serve both the educational and entertainment aspects. The games developed during the internship have been designed in particular to aid the learning process.
B)    My team had to study a number of research papers on “Learning Using Privileged Information” (LUPI) and look for a new formulation. LUPI is an advanced learning algorithm proposed by Dr.Vladmir Vapnik in 2009 that considers some elements of human teaching where a teacher can provide students with hidden information that exists in the form of explanations, comments, comparisons and so on. The main idea is that the hidden information is privileged as it is available only in the training stage and the machine learns during the training stage using the privileged information.

IF: What was the best thing about the work culture and the internship? What all things you liked there?
Shreya:
A. The mentors of my track kept the atmosphere very cool and were constantly available for helping us out in case of any issues. My team mates were very enthusiastic and creative. The mentors helped all the teams plan their projects in a systematic manner by laying out a schedule which had to be followed. As a result, we did not ever feel pressurized during the internship.  In short, I couldn’t have asked for a better research internship. 
B. The best part about this internship was that I could work from home. Apart from that, my team mates were highly cooperative and enthusiastic regarding the project. Our mentor shared the material that had to be studied during the internship before the commencement of the internship and was always available to help us out. We, as a team, were able to identify our strong areas and work upon them to complete the project report well before time.

IF: Were there any special events during the internships?

Shreya:
A. There used to be a talk (for an hour) every day before we started off with our day’s work. These talks were by great researchers and intellectuals who discussed their work with us. These talks were organized in such a way that each talk was closely related to one of the three tracks. A special fun session had been organized for all the interns on the first Saturday to relax post the first week’s work. All of us enjoyed that session a lot. The hostel life was great thanks to the great friends I made during the internship. At the end of the internship, we had a poster presentation session wherein we had to explain our projects to mentors, researchers and other interns in detail. Post this session, our mentors took us out for lunch where we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

B. It was a work from home internship. There can be nothing more fun than working from home.

IF: What was the guidance provided by your guide? What all support you received from institute’s administration.

Shreya:

A. As I mentioned earlier, the mentors of my track were extremely friendly and dedicated. They had set a project plan that had to be followed by all the teams, which helped in an effective and stress-free completion of the projects. They regularly monitored the progress of each group and motivated us whenever we were in need of it.
B. My mentor provided all the study material related to the project and had given all of the selected interns an outline regarding the project. He was always ready to help us out in case we had a doubt even though it was a work-from-home internship. He would always respond to our emails and phone calls. It was his motivation and guidance which helped the team finish the work before time.

IF: It would help the readers if you could bring a comparison among your two different experiences.
Shreya: IPTSE was my first research internship. LUSIP was my second research internship. IPTSE was an experience wherein face-to-face interactions happened. LUSIP being a work-from-home intern had fewer interactions-basically through chats and emails. Both the experiences are different yet significant and I am fortunate to have got both these opportunities, because in real life one should be able to tackle problems and handle projects in both the scenarios.
IF: To which all people you would, like to thank in context of this internship?
Shreya: Firstly, I would like to thank my parents and my sister, who have always been supportive of me. I would also like to thank EduInfo (the blog through which I got to know about both the internships) and my college professors who have guided me for the past three years.

IF: How much difference this period of 2 months made in your intellectual capabilities and mindset. In broad terms what are your gains from this?

Shreya: There is a huge difference that I experienced in myself post both these internships.
A. I had always been very concerned about my projects – I used to take a lot of pressure and do my work though I did enjoy it at the same time. IPTSE taught me how being more systematic and working effectively in a team can bring out the best in one’s project. Post IPTSE, its experience helped me do a lot many more projects that I actually could have.
B. In case of LUSIP, I was a bit more relaxed and more confident that I actually am. I had this mindset that reviewing a research paper is a big task – one has to understand the research paper thoroughly, proof read the draft of the review to detect and correct any errors etc. I successfully got rid of this fear post the internship.

IF: Advice for juniors? Which can help them in getting internships in their future college life and also advice for making the best out of it.

Shreya: Generally, students start working on projects in the second year of college. In the second year, one should experiment a lot – work on different areas so that you can figure out your area(s) of interest and work on it in the third year and then try to specialize in the area(s) in the fourth year. By the end of second year, one should be in a position to decide whether he/she wishes to start working or wants to pursue further studies. This step is crucial because generally, a research internship and a company internship are poles apart. Apply for an internship which should make sense to your career five years down the line. You should be very honest while applying for any internship because if you lie and hyperbolize your abilities then not only does some deserving candidate lose a vital opportunity,  you end up getting an opportunity which you cannot make the most of.

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

Shreya: These internships have helped me realize what I can achieve if I am more focused and calm. I have always had this craze for being perfect – I keep working until things are as they should be in an ideal situation. These internships have helped me realized that this attitude and my affinity towards learning new things, can help me become a researcher in future. I look forward to doing my Masters in Computer Science.

IF: Any views about this initiative of InternFeel, and how beneficial it would be? Any suggestions for improvement?

Shreya: InternFeel is a wonderful initiative. I feel that it is an effective way for students to know the pros and cons regarding an internship – which they should be aware of, to be prepared to tackle any challenges.
Perhaps interviews from a much more diverse pool of students might be more helpful; diverse in terms of discipline, university, place of internship can help a lot more students. Maybe the concept of an InternFeel college ambassador might help bring in a lot more experiences.

IF: Shreya it was so nice to know all about this. We agree you would have been busy with your academics. Even then you took out time for this. We thank you and wish you best of luck for all your future endeavors.
Shreya: Thank you! 

Have you done internship / training? Please Share your experience . It won’t take more than a hour but will help 1000s!

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