InternFeel: Please tell us something about yourself. Where and what are you studying currently?
Shubhendra Singhal: I am Shubhendra Pal Singhal currently pursuing B.Tech in Computer science from NIT Trichy. I am a public speaker at Toastmasters International and an adventurer. I love to travel, talk on various abstract things. My main strength is that I am always positive in life and I never give up on anything.
IF: Give us details about your internship – process of application, stipend, duration, and place?
SS: I did my junior year summer internship at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles as a part of the Viterbi India Connect program which is coordinated by IUSSTF. Students from the Electrical and Computer Science department can apply under the Eklavya project. The internship is for 7-8 weeks. The stipend is around 2500$. Flight tickets(round trip) will be handled by IUSSTF itself so no worries. But the accommodation has to be booked by you. IUSSTF gave us 630$ for accommodation in 2019.
IF: How competitive was the selection process? According to you, which qualities have helped you have an edge in the selection process? Also, what were the key things that the selectors were looking for?
SS: Hands-on open source project like GitHub contributions or any intern work is always preferred. CGPA is given uttermost importance rather than professional coding skills. Generally a CGPA of 9 and above would be fine. Any publications or research projects will surely boost up your chances of getting selected.
I already knew Ubuntu, GCC, MySQL, Python and I had many projects based on web development along with a CGPA of 9.51 that helped me grab this opportunity. All the other factors like rank, knowledge of the open-source, a research project at IIT Bombay too helped me in my selection. The reputation of your college also helps in your selection sometimes.
IF: Could you please highlight the work/research you carried out during your internship period?
SS: My project focused on the hardware acceleration of the SAT Solvers. The part of the SAT solver (if parallelized by the hardware) can be replaced and the subsequent execution time can be analyzed. An open-source profiler “gprof” is used to analyze the execution time of individuals calls made to any function from any other function. A full summary report is generated where the user can analyze the call time of the function and its respective children. The main idea behind using the profiler is that any change made to a small part of the execution time of any function or a call can help us understand the effect on the total execution time using the concept of callgraph (Graph analyzing every call and its respective execution time.). The changes made to the analysis of the minisat problem is platform-independent.
Regular meetings with Prof. Sandeep Gupta and Prof. Nuzzo was always very helpful where anyone idea developed was brainstormed to just prove it.
IF: Can you give us interesting details about your experience – good and bad? (It could be something like the amazing location of your internship, the friends you made for life, a bad senior, accommodation given in case of an outstation internship and something along that line.)
SS: LA is one of the most iconic places in the US. Starting from Hollywood to skyspace, it has everything. LA is like a dream come true. It’s very easy to emotionally get attached to this city and especially the people here are generous and kind. It was my first time in the US so everything starting from boarding international flight to roaming in the streets of Hollywood, everything was perfect. Coming to accommodation always prefers a hall as its cheap and either way you are never going to work at home because of the amazing work environment at USC. It should cost you around 450 to 500$ a month.
SS: U.S. education teaches you more practical than theoretical. There were many instances in my college where people just mug up and get nice marks, but hats off it doesn’t work that way in the U.S. You will soon realize the difference once you reach here. But yes one strong advice that everyone should follow is that be true to yourself. If you know something to be confident about it and implement. But if you don’t know something which you have already read, then study it logically. Mugging up will lead you nowhere.
IF: Has this internship had a decision altering impact on your career? Do you now think of a different future path as compared to before doing the internship?
SS: Yes, this internship helped me clear my mind as to whether I want to apply for an M.S. or Ph.D. ahead. I want to pursue a research career ahead and want to dive into more in the field of Systems in Computer Science. So for me, Ph.D. is the best option as I want to further explore and contribute in cloud, parallel and distributed based systems that require in-depth knowledge of how systems are being made. My previous interns were all related to this field and thus, I am determined to follow a research career ahead.
IF: Lastly, do you have any words of advice or caution for students aspiring for this internship and reading this piece?
SS: Grab this opportunity to work with USC. Do a lot of projects especially research one and keep pushing it regularly on GitHub if any codes are involved. Maintain a CGPA above 9 and try to get good LOR from your professor. Recommendations from the professor with whom you have worked is of more importance than a recommendation from a reputed professor with whom you haven’t worked.