Mitacs Globalink Research Internship Experience by Sohini (VIT)

s1InternFeel: Hello Sohini, Pleasure to meet you! Please tell us about yourself. What makes you different?

Sohini: Hello! I am currently pursuing B.Tech in Bio-technology from Vellore Institute of Technology (Vellore Campus) and am in my final year of studies. I harbour an extreme love for food, am an avid animal lover and a voracious reader. My hobbies include writing for various online platforms, singing and dancing.

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

Sohini: I was awarded the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship in February 2014. Mitacs Globalink is a national, not-for-profit organization that works with 60 top universities from all over Canada conferring research experience and international exposure to senior undergraduate students from across the globe. For the duration of three months, Mitacs gives you the opportunity to work and be responsible for your very own research project, under the guidance of a host professor from the institution you choose. Mitacs is a fully paid internship covering right from flight charges to accommodation and they also offer a generous living allowance of 200 CAD every week. You are reimbursed additionally for Visa charges as well.

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

Sohini: I came to know about this through the International Relations office of my university, VIT. A mail was forwarded to all students informing us about this internship and the wonderful opportunity it provides. I learnt additional information from seniors who had received the award before me. Online platforms such as Eduinfo, Internshala etc proved to be a great source of information too.

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

Sohini: The application process for Mitacs Globalink is an extensive one requiring the basics which are: 1. Letter of Recommendation 2. Statement of Purpose (can be in the form of essay questions too) 3. Transcripts and 4. Resume. A number of questions are asked about your interests, skills, research projects etc. You are also asked to choose any 7 research projects from an extensive list of projects in your area of interest. Make sure you choose in order of preference. Only students in their pre final year are eligible for this internship. This internship takes place during the months of May to September only. Students with a CGPA of more than 8 or 80% hailing from various countries such as China, Brazil, Vietnam, Mexico, Turkey, India etc are eligible for this internship.

s3IF: 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?

Sohini: The Globalink Internship is a highly competitive platform as it selects students from almost all over the globe. I would like to stress on the point that the grade point average of a student does not matter as much as the body of work he/she has done. Doing a research project within your area of interest, attending conferences, publishing research articles will showcase your enthusiasm and really boost your CV. I believe my research experience and the research article I had published in an international journal gave me an edge over the other competitors.

IF: About when you got the news for the selection? How was the celebration?

Sohini: It would be an understatement to say that I really wanted to be a Mitacs Globalink Scholar. When I received an email from a professor saying he had received my application and would like to interview me, I immediately busied myself in learning everything I could about his laboratory and the work they were involved in. The interview was a success and a week later (in February) I received confirmation that I had been selected as a scholar. It didn’t matter that I had received the email the day my exams started, I spent the rest of the time calling up my family and close friends and discussing excitedly about the future. In short I felt grand.

IF: What all preparations you did (academic/otherwise) after the results in view of the internship?

Sohini: As I had already devoured as much as I could about the laboratory I would be working in and my project (I talked about the project almost more than my professor himself) he told me I didn’t need much prior preparation. He asked me to brush up on my laboratory skills (molecular biology, genetic engineering, microbiology) and gave me two research papers to read. I also immediately applied for my Visa as I had known other people to have problems regarding this.

IF: So Sohini, 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?

Sohini: My project title was “Molecular characterization of multi-drug resistance in Acinetobacter bauminii”. I was working in the antimicrobial resistance laboratory under the guidance of Dr. Ayush Kumar.

Lately, bacterial pathogens exhibiting multidrug resistance (MDR) have become very common in clinical settings, underscoring the importance of understanding underlying mechanisms of resistance.

My work involved studying the molecular mechanisms of multi-drug resistance in gram negative bacterium. Using state-of-the-art genetic tools I had to characterize mechanisms of function and regulation of multi-drug resistance pathways in opportunistic pathogens like Acinetobacter Bauminii, an organism that in the last few years has gained considerable importance due to its ability to cause antibiotic resistant infections in immune-compromised individuals.

s4IF: What was the best thing about the work culture and the internship? What all things you liked there?

Sohini: The first thing I noticed was that professors there are much more candid and relaxed with a student. They ensure that the student is comfortable in every way and only concern themselves with the work being performed efficiently.

My lab mates were also one of the main reasons why I will always have such fond memories of Canada. Not once did I feel like a newcomer, the lab had a continuous stream of serious work punctuated with crazy laughter (All of them are very funny people).

I had the chance to visit not only Winnipeg but also the city of Toronto. Viewing the Niagara Falls was like a dream come true. With all the sight-seeing and travelling to new places that I did there, it was a dream come true for the traveller in me.

IF: Were there any special events during the internships?

Sohini: Mitacs organizes a minimum of three to four events and workshops for everyone. These events are usually trips to various industries, organizations or workplaces that it has affiliations with. The workshops held for us helped build communication skills and provided tips on team work and organizational skills. Mitacs also provides a mentor for every 5 students, the role of the mentor being to help us settle down in Canada and answer any queries for us. The mentors arrange a minimum of two social events (of our liking) for us to get to know the other international students and have a fun time

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

Sohini: Upon arrival, my professor offered to pick me up from the airport, provide accommodation for me and made sure I knew everything I needed to know about the places around. Mitacs had of course made arrangements for it all, but I immediately felt at ease on receiving such kindness from him. Throughout my stay in Canada, he would always remind me that if I ever needed anything, I just had to ask. He also took time out to coach me if I had doubts about the work being done.

IF: Let’s now talk about some negatives.

What problems you or your friends faced, regards to the internship, which your juniors may be able to avoid?

Sohini: One of the major problems I faced once I got confirmed as a GRI was of obtaining the Visa. Due to some issues there was delay in the visa process and this caused quite a headache. So I would advice students to start the visa process way ahead of time to ensure a smooth journey. Another reason for discomfort upon arrival in the Universities residence (where I was given accommodation) was the common fridge provided to all residents of a floor. It was not enough to store the food and cooking was a major problem due to this. But then again, the positives really put the negatives to shame.

IF: Anything you would like to tell us please. Feel free to share any interesting thing that happened.

Sohini: Upon telling my professor that I had problems with storage in the fridge and cooking, he immediately offered to give me his spare fridge along with a rice cooker! Also, if ever you ask for directions from the bus drivers in Canada, you are almost certain to get a free ride to your destination. There are so many such instances! People there are extremely sweet and helpful, sometimes surprisingly so.

s6IF: Have you done any internship/training before? It would help the readers if you could bring a comparison among your two different experiences.

Sohini: Yes I have interned at a leading Pharmaceutical company “Elder Pharmaceuticals Ltd.” the summer before this, mainly for industry exposure. After working there I realized that I have not much interest in pharmacy as a career option. Research in the laboratory bought out the potential scientist in me and I realized I definitely wanted to pursue higher studies.

IF: To which all people you would, like to thank in context of this internship?

Sohini: I would like to thank my friends for letting me know about this internship and the seniors who were selected before me for all the information they provided on the internship.

IF: How much difference this period of 3 months made in your intellectual capabilities and mindset. In broad terms what are your gains from this?

Sohini: Being entirely responsible for my project taught me not only how to troubleshoot but also to gauge a certain problem from various angles to find solutions. I also notice that I feel more confident while taking decisions whereas initially I would second-guess. I have gained a lot more confidence in the process of mingling with people from various nationalities and making new friends. Canada also nurtured my love for travelling and nature.

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.

Sohini: I would advise all students in their pre final years to apply to the various internships out there. International internships are one of the best ways to not only be exposed to a different work environment, it also helps you become more confident about yourself. I have explained in detail about landing a dream summer internship in my article – http://blog.internshala.com/2014/09/tips-to-land-dream-international-summer-internship/ . Do read for helpful tips.

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

Sohini: I plan to pursue Masters abroad after this. This internship and the research experience it has provided will definitely see a very positive impact on my resume.

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

Sohini: InternFeel is doing an extremely important job of reaching out to students and making them aware of the opportunities that lie in wait of them. I believe that doing so is crucial in today’s age due to the sheer number of internship opportunities out there. Most students are unaware of the hows and whats of applying and InternFeel is doing a commendable job of providing much needed information.

IF:Sohini 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.

Sohini: Hopefully sharing my experience will be help to other students and I wish everyone all the best too!

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