Khorana Program for Scholars – Dibyendu Dutta, University of Hyderabad

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InternFeel ID: IF15015

Hi, Dibyendu_Dutta2I am Dibyendu Dutta, a student at the University of Hyderabad. I hail from Kolkata, and have completed my education upto 10+2 there. I am currently in my fifth and final year of my Integrated M.Sc in Systems Biology. The course is similar to that of the IISERs and actually was started a year before the IISERs, so it too has a common course structure for the first two years of Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Biology, after which the students split into the different streams. Before joining UoH, I never actually imagined myself doing Biology. I actually wanted to do Physics and had even joined B.Sc Physics Hons in Presidency University in Kolkata. But I left for UoH, after I got a chance, since I really felt that the Integrated Masters course would be a really great experience, contributing to both my academic and social life. After the first two years, I rediscovered Biology which I left after my 10th, and decided that the Systems Biology would really be apt for me to follow. Since it showed the promise of integrating knowledge from various fields like Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science into one whole. And here I am now in my final year aspiring to be a Researcher in Systems Biology!

I got selected in the prestigious Khorana Fellowship, a joint venture of DBT, Govt of India, and IUSSTF. It selects around 40 (30 funded and rest as partially funded scholars) and places them in different Universities mostly in Middle East and East USA. I was placed in University of Wisconsin-Madison. I was selected as a partially funded scholar (scholarship of $2000), which basically meant free lodging and Health Insurance while at the USA and around $400 as cash to take care of food costs incurred.

InternFeel: So, let’s know more about his amazing research internship experience abroad!!


 InternFeel: How you came to know about the internship?

Generally what was your way of being in touch with the media to get the information about the various internships? Dibyendu: I came to know of this internship through a few of my friends, who heard of it when they went for summer internships.My source of knowledge about internships was mostly through my friends and seniors. My source of knowledge about internships was mostly through my friends and seniors.

 IF: How much competitive is the selection process? What things you feel are looked for in the applicant by the selectors?

Dibyendu: This particular one is quite competitive. It mentions outright that a minimum average CGPA of 8.0 and 80% in Board Exams is required to apply. Though I do feel this kind of polarises the entry since, marking is not so lenient in many State Universities, unlike my Central University. I felt they were really looking for individuals who have a flair for science and would like to pursue a future in Research.


IF: What qualities of yours – educational / otherwise, you feel helped you in having an edge over the selection process?

Dibyendu: I think, my average high grades and good recommendation letters helped, along with a well written Statement of Purpose (SOP). Also, I felt that my coming from a Central University helped my chances.


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

Dibyendu: I got the news via email in the first week of February. There wasn’t much celebration though, except a good day out with friends. It was because I had already received an offer for an alternative internship abroad, a month ago. So, there was a dilemma of which to choose.


IF: What all preparations you did (academic/otherwise) before joining and after the results?

Dibyendu: After the accepting via email, it was few days before I was contacted again and told what to do next. In the meantime, I tried searching for previous years scholars through the Social Media (Facebook), and as the official list got out, all the selected scholars started finding each other online and we created a group online to create combined wisdom. I did no special preparations before applying.


IF: Any common mistakes which you feel students should avoid while searching and applying for internships? 

Dibyendu: Definitely one should not copy and paste SOPs from online resources and just write their names in it. They should remain truthful about their goals and aspirations and give a proper personalized SOP for each internship.


IF: With this internship being foreign internship, we would like to know what problems came in getting the visa, travel tickets, and any journey related problems which your juniors may avoid?

Dibyendu: My visa was stuck in Administrative Processing for more than 6 weeks, because of which I missed 2 weeks of my internship. I think if the necessary forms were disseminated well in advance, it could have been avoided. I cancelled my initial tickets and booked my tickets again on the same day I left! Thankfully I was lucky to land a last minute airfare deal, else it would have been very expensive.


IF: So Dibyendu, 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?

Dibyendu: I was majorly involved in the analysis of RNA Sequencing data obtained from Pre and Post drug resistant cell samples from a patient suffering from Multiple Myeloma (Blood Cancer). The project aims to identify the structural variations in Cancer Genome in order to find the mechanistic cause of Cancer and hence its treatment.


IF: What was the best thing about the work culture and the internship? What all things you liked there? The difference you found in comparison with the work culture of our country? 

Dibyendu: The people in my lab were real hard workers, but still took out time to have fun. There was a certain level of informality which causes one to feel comfortable. Everyone was quite approachable and amiable.The most contrasting thing was that everyone you interact with was on a first name basis. The use of “Sir” and other formalities are done away with and people are encouraged to discuss freely, comment and criticize, in order to better themselves. One of the best things was the excitement and energy that my Guide (Dr. David Schwartz) emanated. He truly was very inspiring and fun to be around.


IF: What project specific problems you or your friends faced, during the internship, which became a bit hard to crack?

Dibyendu: For me, the hardest part was to absorb a large amount of information- the basics and the advanced of sequencing and how it works and how the different variety of tools work and which one should I use for my purposes. This took up a large amount of time.


IF: As with almost everything, what were the cons of the internship? The elements which you felt, if wasn’t there could have made this internship super awesome? 

Dibyendu: I guess, the fact that I was a partially funded scholar made it difficult for me to enjoy myself wholly, as I always had to think about managing expenses at the back of my head. Also, even though the overall project was quite interesting, the type of work I was given wasn’t the most interesting.


 IF: Was this your first internship?

Dibyendu: No.


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

Dibyendu: My previous internship experience was at CDFD, Hyderabad. This was through the Indian Academy of Sciences. The selection process in both the internships is similar, and require marks submission, SOPs, Recommendation letters. But the IASc programme requires one to select a maximum of 5 guides in the order of preference, and based on the availability of the guides,a student may be assigned. The Khorana Programme, does not offer the student the facility of selection of guides. It may be offered after selection, as in my case, but not to all. This maybe because of what type of work you express interest to do in your SOP and what type of People are available for working with.


IF: Were there any special events during the internships which you would like to share?

Dibyendu: Yes, a trip to the Schultz Family Farm was organized by the International Students Services, University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was both fun, and educative about the life in Wisconsin, and its culture. Other than this, we the interns got together to go and watch the Fireworks on the 4th of July (USA Independence Day) and also went for a trip to Chicago.Other than this, we the interns got together to go and watch the Fireworks on the 4th of July (USA Independence Day) and also went for a trip to Chicago.


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

Dibyendu: My guide was a jovial and energetic person. He was very supportive and friendly. The only thing was that I couldn’t interact with him for long since he was available for only about half of the duration of my stay, due to his pursuing a Sabbatical in Chicago.


IF: Any special experience which you had during this period, which you would like to share with us.

Dibyendu: The SOP is supposed to let the evaluator see a brief but complete picture of the applicant both as a suitable candidate and also as a person in general. The SOP should have genuine instances from a person’s life to reflect the motivation of the person. It should also be a true account of what truly interests the applicant and why. There is no need of populating the SOP with big terms or results from specific experiments. It should remain somewhat general, but should also be personalized according to where it is being sent. One must not send the same SOP everywhere they apply. The SOP should also reflect the research interests of a person, and why it is so.


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

Dibyendu:  I would like to thank my parents for taking up the financial burden and therefore making it happen. Also, I want to thank Dr. Aseem Ansari, Director, Khorana Programme, for selecting me, and all the other interns with whom I developed good friendship, and had great fun. I would also like to thank my friends at UoH, who not only brought the programme to my notice and helped me finish it and send it, just in the nick of time, but also supported me all throughout the way!all the other interns with whom I developed good friendship, and had great fun. I would also like to thank my friends at UoH, who not only brought the programme to my notice and helped me finish it and send it, just in the nick of time, but also supported me all throughoutthe way!


IF: How much difference this period of 8 weeks made in your intellectual capabilities and mindset. In broad terms what are your gains from this?

Dibyendu: It is difficult to put this into words, but since this was my first experience abroad, it helped me grow in many ways. I got to see and understand a lot many things. It also acted to reaffirm my confidence in myself. Moreover, there were many subtle differences in the way research is carried out abroad compared to India, which I could clearly see, and comprehend.


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

Dibyendu: As of now I intend to finish the final year of my Masters programme and also successfully complete the Research project assigned to me. The internship helped me strengthen my resolve of joining a PhD Programme abroad.


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

Dibyendu: This initiative is quite praise-worthy. It would go towards increasing the level of awareness amongst students about the different Internships and how it could help them.


IF: So Dibyendu, we are at the end of the interview. From the entire team of InternFeel, we thank you for taking out your time and sharing your experiences for everyone and we wish you best of luck for all your future endeavors.

Dibyendu: Thanks for making me a part. Glad to help in this endeavour of yours! J

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