Intership at CERN (Geneva) by Sneha (Amity University )

[su_button url=”″ target=”blank” style=”3d” background=”#35979E” color=”#fff” size=”6″ wide=”no” center=”no” radius=”round” icon=”icon: user” text_shadow=”5px 5px 5px #c8c8c8″ rel=”DreamCatcher” title=”DreamCatcher” class=”goddamn-buttons”]Have a Chat With Her[/su_button]

InternFeel ID: IF15035

InternFeel: Hello Sneha, pleasure to meet you! Please tell us about yourself. What makes you different?

1004  Sneha: Hello everyone. I believe that I am no different than you. I just try to make the most of the opportunities that lay in front of me. I have completed my graduation in Computer Science from Amity School of Engineering & technology, Amity University, Noida in 2014. I would say that I have a satisfactory academic record with 100% merit scholarship for all the four academic sessions during my B.Tech from 2010-14. Also my grades in high school are good with 91.80% in Xth and 93.60% in XIIth. Besides the academic performance, my other achievements help me get an edge at the professional front. I have a keen interest to write about different subjects and hone my writing skills in my leisure time. Other than that, my hobbies include reading novels, playing badminton, solving puzzles, travelling and participating in various
IF: Which internship you got the chance to take? What is it all about? Stipend, duration, place?

Sneha: This summer, I got a chance to intern at European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, Geneva. As you must be knowing, CERN is the organization that has been in news ever since the discovery of the God Particle, Higgs Boson. We often come across its name in our physics textbooks at school.The organization boasts of huge particle detectors and is responsible for providing research facilities to knowledgeable scientists and post-docs over the globe. CERN has also played an important role in the origin of World Wide Web. The World Wide Web began as a CERN project called ENQUIRE, initiated by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 and Robert Cailliau in 1990. Since computing is an inevitable component of any such organization that needs to manage petabytes of data arising from these detectors, various leading ICT companies have collaborated with this technology giant including Oracle, Huawei, Intel, and Siemens to bring about a unique public-private partnership called CERN openlab. CERN has different student programmes. I was selected for the ‘CERN openlab Summer Student Programme’. This is a 9 week programme which offers the students an opportunity to have an amazing summer at Geneva, Switzerland. The programme not only motivates the students to work on an advanced IT project but also includes trips to organizations like Google, ETH Zurich, ILL etc. The students are paid a stipend of 90 CHF/day which is sufficient to cover accommodation as well as food expenses. Also a travel reimbursement given at the end of the programme covers all the travel expenses.
1003IF: How you came to know about the internship? To what all sources you kept
yourself connected?
Sneha: I came to know about this internship from different sources. One of my friends at NIT and a college batch-mate got selected for a similar internship in the previous year. Further, I keep looking at websites such as ‘Internshala’ for internships. It was through Internshala that I finally applied for this programme.
IF: Tell us on the procedure to apply for the internship. Who all are eligible to apply for this internship?

Sneha: One needs to apply for this internship through the CERN official website. An important eligibility criteria is that one must be a Bachelor or Master student in Computer Science or Physics and shall remain registered as a student during the internship. Starting from creating an account, students have to upload their CV, Marksheets, Bonafide certificate from college and other relevant documents on the website. Further, the significant part includes uploading a motivation letter that explains what inspires you to opt for this internship, how it shall be helpful for you in future and why you should be selected! This is followed by an application form where one has to give details of various projects undertaken, experience obtained as well as technologies learnt. Lastly, the students need a recommendation letter from a university professor to be filled online by the professor. For more details, please have a look here.

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?
Sneha: Since this is an international internship with applicants from all over the globe, it’s competitive for sure. This year only 23 students were selected from a pool of 851 applicants of which only five were Indians including me! As already mentioned in Q.1 above, I believe that one of the factors that helped me was a good academic record throughout school and college. Other key factors might be a good motivation letter as writing is one of my hobbies. But above all, the application is indeed significant as it included detailed description of my projects that I had to mention in order to justify how I have practically implemented a particular technology that I had mentioned in the form. Further, the programme requires the students to have a good knowledge of English or/and French. I have received a merit certificate from CBSE board for being among the top 0.1% candidates in English Core in class XIIth and I have learnt Spanish as one of the foreign languages at my University. I could use these facts to make my
application more effective.
To summarize, according to me the selectors look for someone who has knowledge, past experience with variety of projects and passion as well as dedication to work in a research and development environment like that provided
by CERN.

IF: About when you got the news for the selection? How was the celebration?
Sneha: I got the news about selection at a very special moment. I was at my friend’s house for a night-in. All of us were watching a movie and having fun when at midnight, I saw a notification in my mobile for an email. I just opened it without any intimation that it was going to be from CERN. But to my surprise, it was the long awaited selection mail. My happiness knew no bounds with feeling of both excitement and fear that how would I do it all alone. I shared the news with my friends who were all happy that I got this opportunity. Next day, when I
reached home, everybody at home was really happy and congratulated me. The twist was that I haven’t informed my parents that I have applied for this internship. Since it was my first experience abroad and away from home, it took
a while to convince them for this. But at the end they agreed happily. This was followed by days of celebration until finally I boarded the plane and flew off to Geneva.

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

Sneha: After the results, I had to follow the various emails that were sent by CERN in order to complete the official formalities. These included selecting the internship duration (we had three options in terms of date of arrival at Geneva),sending copy of passport and flight details, contacting my supervisor as allotted by CERN for mutually deciding upon arrival dates and deciding my accommodation- whether I would accept the hostel provided by CERN at a nightly rent of 29 CHF or I would look for my own. Further, applying for VISA was an important task so that I could obtain it on time. In order to obtain the VISA, a travel insurance was required along with the confirmed flight tickets. Other preparations included checking weather at Geneva and accordingly arranging clothes, checking the flight baggage limit and making sure that it was not more than allowed for my ticket, purchasing food items as I am a vegetarian (it’s usually hard to find veggies abroad) and we were informed by CERN that we would be having kitchen at the hostel where we may cook our own food.

IF: So Sneha, 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?

Sneha: My project was to develop a web-interface for a physics analysis database, SQLPlotter. Let’s understand in brief, what SQLPlotter is? It is a C++ macro written using ROOT classes by Ms. Maaike Limper, my supervisor and
my task was to develop a web-interface for this class, so that users can input a SQL Query which is then executed by the interface. Finally some physics analysis is done on the database to get histograms. Currently, CERN uses ROOT which is a C++ framework developed by CERN physics community to perform physics analysis. This is a file analysis system which uses ROOT ntuples for analysis. The approach is time consuming and I/O intensive. It requires the users to setup ROOT and install libraries, every time the analysis is done. SQLPlotter explores the possibility of replacing this analysis with a centrally accessible Oracle database instead. The interface has been developed using simple web-technologies and makes it easier for the users to do analysis using a centrally accessible database (presently a subset of LHC data) with no need to learn or setup ROOT and to install any
libraries. The script does everything for the user! The project also enlightens the fact that in future, the system may be used as an educational tool for the students interested in studying particle analysis to find exotic particles. For an elaborated explanation of the project, you might have a look here.

IF: What was the best thing about the work culture and the internship? What all things you liked there?
Sneha: The work culture was very nice. People were really passionate about their work but there was a perfect balance between personal and professional lives which could be seen via the occasional barbeques and parties that were organized during the work hours. These social events provided an opportunity to all staff members (and their families) within a particular department to interact with each other on subjects other than those at work. I had my own office along with a key so that I could have flexible working hours. The entire database team with which
I was working was supportive of their interns and we were treated as if we were part of the team since ages. And this isn’t the end! Almost every weekend there used to be a party or workshop which was attended not only by students but scientists, post-docs and other CERN staff members as well to get relaxation after a busy week. I liked every bit of this welcoming experience.

IF: Were there any special events during the internships?
Sneha: Yes! There were ample of special events that make this internship memorable. As part of the internship, CERN organized visits to Zurich, Grenoble and CMS. At Zurich, we were taken to Opensystems, an organization associated with the domain of networking and having worldwide presence. This was followed by a tour of old and modern Zurich. The next day had another surprise. It was an intern exchange program with Google Zurich! We got the opportunity to spend an entire day at Google. Free breakfast, lunch and snacks at Google, tour of theme offices and a chance to learn about the work culture at Google was like a dream come true. Interaction with the Google Panel at the end was a cherry on the cake. But this isn’t all, we were taken to ETH Zurich as well. ETH, as you
would be knowing is one of the top global universities for masters in Computer Science. As I have plans to pursue masters in future from an esteemed university abroad, this was a perfect opportunity for me to explore various possibilities. Here comes an end of the Zurich trip. At Grenoble we were taken to Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) which is an internationally financed scientific facility using neutrons for research. Here, I saw
a nuclear reactor for the first time in my life! Finally, we were taken for visits to the various CERN facilities, CERN’s WLCG (Worldwide LHC Computing Grid), synchrotron, AD (Antiproton Decelerator) Centre and Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) where I could finally see one of the huge detectors that CERN boasts of! Besides the trips organized by CERN, we had exciting weekends during which we planned our own trips to places in and around Geneva including Cheese Factory and Castle at Gruyeres, Callier Chocolate factory (where we tasted delicious Swiss chocolates), Paris, Venice, Chamonix and finally shopping to make the most of this opportunity.

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

Sneha: My supervisor, Ms. Maaike Limper is an extremely talented data scientist with the knowledge in field of both physics and computing. Before I reached CERN, she had already given me an insight into what was my project was going to be. At CERN, she gave me a few physics lessons and lessons about CERN to help me understand my project better. She was a perfect guide as she gave me a direction to look for but allowed me to explore and do things at my own pace. During weekends or when we couldn’t contact in person, she was always reachable via email. I learnt many new things under her guidance such as about clusters, writing complex SQL queries, writing C++ macros and remote shell login CERN Administration was supportive right since the announcement of the selection results! We were sent all relevant information via emails before and after our arrival. We could always contact the authorities for any problems we had. And this isn’t the end. Every Friday, we had an informal ice-cream/coffee meet up at the restaurant with the administration team where we could resolve any queries that we had, in person. In fact, during these meetings, we could all plan our weekends and the administration team gave us ideas as to which all places we could see, festivals that we must join etc. Everyone was just an email away, so we never had any problems finding our way around things at CERN.

1005IF: 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?

Sneha: Well, as such there are no negatives in regard to this internship. I feel that unlike many Indian cities, Geneva, is a very safe place for girls. Night usually sets in at 10 PM, so one can easily roam around at night as well. But yes there are a few things that one can take care of. Firstly, when I booked my flight tickets for this trip, I hadn’t paid much attention to the amount of baggage allowed. For me it was just one bag of 23 kg as check in luggage. While when I went from India to Switzerland, it had just 16 kg of luggage but when I returned from Switzerland to India, the luggage was more than the allowed limit. I had to shift my things several times between the check in and cabin luggage to be finally able to get it right! So, I would advise all to book a flight that allows you a greater amount of check in baggage. Further, I forgot to carry Indian spices with me. It was expensive buying spices
in Switzerland but I was somehow able to manage with the help of friends that I made there. Another important thing is to always carry a small backpack that can be useful when you have to go for small trips. I forgot to take one with me and then had to borrow one for my trips to Venice and Paris.

IF: Anything you would like to tell us please. Feel free to share any interesting
thing that happened.
Sneha: There are a lot of interesting incidents that happened during this internship. I would just mention a few. As I already mentioned, every weekend we had parties. This was one such dance party. Actually it was my first party at CERN. It was around 10 at night and I was a little tired and hungry. So foodie as I am, we (I and my room-mate Bingo) decided to go to this party where we could get free snacks. So we went but we were stupid enough to go there in our night- suits. The party was full of dancers, young and old, having fun at the stage. We were just admiring this scene when one of the French guys came and asked me for a dance. Now two things-I am a non-dancer and I was oddly dressed! But I couldn’t say no. We went on the stage and the guy taught me a few steps. This was followed by a ball dance with a few other people including an aged man. Everyone tried hard to teach me but a hard nut as I am! This was my first ball dance on a stage and I will always laugh remembering this day because I felt like a naughty kid who gets everyone’s attention as he can’t mend his ways! Another funny incident was when I missed my flight for the first time in my life! This was more a kind of lesson for me and Bingo. So, we had gone to Paris for our weekend. Our final destination over there was the Palace of Versailles. In the evening, we had our flight. But lazy as we were, we left the palace late and this was followed by a series of unfortunate events-technical fault in the train to the airport, Bingo losing her transport ticket and mine not being read by the security system (the ticket was required to cross the security barrier between the train station and the airport!). We ran as fast as we could but only to find that we had missed the flight. It was 9 at night and we had to reach office, the next day. Our flight tickets were non-changeable and non-refundable, so taking another flight was a solution too expensive. The problems didn’t end here. We had used up all our euros in shopping and only swiss francs were left with us. All exchange machines were closed by that time. We enquired at the train station for a night train. Luckily, we found one. But alas! We needed euros for the ticket! The authorities were not ready to accept francs. So, we left for the centre of Paris and decided to visit the train station over there. We went all around the station, requested the train manager but nobody was ready to listen! Finally, we found an innocent Chinese guy who agreed to exchange francs for euros. We caught the night train and met another guy who had to reach Geneva early morning. Together we booked a taxi from the point where the train dropped us (the train wasn’t direct). The taxi left us at the entrance of the Geneva from where we took a bus to finally reach CERN! This was a lifetime experience for me and I shall never be lazy again especially when I have a flight! There were other such incidents that make the trip memorable for me but to pendown all of them is beyond the scope of this interview. You can actually read the entire internship story  here.

1002IF: Was this your first internship?

Sneha: No, this wasn’t my first internship. Of course, this was my first International internship but I have had a chance to intern in India as well.

IF: It would help the readers if you could bring a comparison among your two
different experiences.

Sneha: I think it won’t be really fair to compare the two internships because one was in India and other abroad but still I would mention some of the important differences. In India, I had a chance to intern at C-DOT (Centre for Development of Telematics, Delhi). It was my first industrial experience so it holds a special place in my heart. As compared to CERN, travelling to C-DOT was a problem for me. I had to travel via metro from my place at Faridabad to the office at Chhatarpur. It took me nearly 5 hours to and fro to make this journey which was tiring in the hot summers at India. In stark contrast to this, my office at CERN was within the campus premises and we had been provided with free CERN bicycles to move around. The weather used to be pleasant. It took me just 10-15 mins to reach the office daily. Another important difference is definitely the work culture. Though people were friendly and cooperative at C-DOT yet there was a gap between the staff and the interns. At CERN, interns were as much part of the team as the other permanent members. I never felt the difference between the two. As far as guidance is  concerned, both my guides at CERN and C-DOT were good. Another important difference is that internship at C-DOT was not paid but at CERN as mentioned earlier, I used to receive a stipend of 90 CHF/day. The trips and other events at CERN that made my internship interesting definitely give it an edge over C-DOT but then it was Switzerland! Despite all the differences, I am happy that I got a chance to experience both the internships.

IF: To which all people you would, like to thank in context of this internship?
Sneha: Firstly, I would like to thank my college professor. Hadn’t she motivated me, I would never have gone for this internship. Further, I am thankful to my friend at NIT and Internshala because of whom I got to know about this program at the first place. I also owe my heartiest thanks to my cousins, family and friends for supporting my decision and encouraging me to go for it.

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?

Sneha: This internship has left an indelible impression on my mind. Not only this experience has strengthened my will power to pursue masters abroad but also taught me a lot about the work culture in different countries. While I would always say that ‘East or west, India is the best’, but there is always a scope for improvement! I found that people over there were very polite and honest. There was no one to force them to buy a transport ticket or pay their bills. Everyone took responsibility to follow the generic rules and abide by the law. The four- wheelers gave way to the pedestrians without any hassle. This is quite rare in India! I really wish that such things can be seen in India as well in a few years or so but that is possible only when corruption and other such evils find can be evicted from this nation. Another good thing over there was that people took good care of their health. People in their 60’s were as active as their younger counterparts, taking part in almost every activity from travelling and shopping to studying. I am already trying to implement all good qualities that I could imbibe in my lifestyle after this experience.

1008IF: 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.
Sneha: My advice to my juniors is that look out for opportunities. Keep your eyes open. Even if your grades are not good or you are not studying in one of the top engineering colleges, never lose hope because it’s better late than never. Participate in events that you are fond of, learn new technologies and make your resume better. At last, hard work is the key to success. But the need of the hour is to be smart as well so that you can make the most out of the opportunities. Never give up your dreams. This doesn’t mean that you should live in a fantasy world. Instead follow your dreams passionately and nothing will go wrong.

IF: What are your future plans after this internship and how much impact this internship will have on it?
Sneha: As I have already mentioned, in future I wish to pursue masters in Computer Science from one of the esteemed universities abroad. This internship has given me an insight into the work culture abroad, helped me build some social contacts and has given me friends who can guide me if I find myself in some trouble during this process. At present, my plan is to gain some experience and knowledge while working in the industry. And I believe that this internship can also help me fetch a better job opportunity. This internship has helped me learn several new technologies and I can apply my new found skills in my job now.

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

Sneha: I think that this initiative of InternFeel is commendable! Being a college student, I know the importance of internships and such initiatives can definitely be resourceful for many students who are in search of good internships but missing out on same due to lack of guidance. I think many of us including me have passed through this phase where we are hopeless and clueless. Such interviews can be motivating and revive hope. I think that InternFeel should workout to reach a greater audience to make this initiative a huge success.

IF: Sneha, we are at the end of the interview. From the entire team of InternFeel, we thank you for sharing your experiences with us, for everyone and we wish you best of luck for all your future endeavors.

Sneha: Thank you InternFeel for giving me this opportunity to share my experience with many others like me, out there, in search of internships!

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