Aashita Gupta, CE1
Interned at: Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business
Area of Research
I am from the Civil Engineering Department, and I am not trying to be dismissive when I say this; I don’t have an interest or inclination towards Civil Engineering. This is mainly because I had less exposure to my department until the middle of my second year and wasn’t motivated to go in that domain. Coming to many conventional fields that people apply for like AI, ML, or data analysis in research. My past experience voted against it. During my first year, I did a project with a professor in the Department of Management Studies- IITD, which gave me a taste of data analysis. I also tried my hands-on machine learning and NLP & image processing during Covid lockdown. The little exposure I had to each of them made me realize that I could do them, but I didn’t enjoy them. My inclination towards business, finance, and entrepreneurship dates back to when I was in school, which is why I chose the business domain over any other. It was purely based on my past experiences and personal interest.
I started to work on my internship early; I started applying around October. Applying for an internship is an overwhelming and tiring process, mainly because you need to go through web pages of different professors from different colleges, sift through their work, and find if their research orientation matches your area of interest. I also went through at least one of their research papers and jotted down the abstracts and conclusions. The process of mailing a lot of professors and slightly altering your CV and Cover letter according to their preferences is gruelling. Another thing I would suggest is to not apply to all the professors of a single college. Maybe you can apply to the other professors of the same college if you don’t get a response from the first ones even after a month or two. Also, always write a reminder mail to the professors. For say, you applied in October, sent a reminder in December, again asking them about their thoughts on the proposal. I applied until December or mid-January, but I ended up doing a research project with a professor I mailed in my initial phase of applying, October. I did my project in Scheller College of Business, Georgia Tech, in the Quantitative and Computational Finance department. I can’t say that my early application got me the internship, but I don’t see any harm.
The CV and Cover Letter
I went about the process of making my CV and cover letter, both of them oriented towards research. Anything that I ever did in college, I tried to find a research aspect of that, be it extracurricular activities. I believe it’s very subjective to the person going through a CV as to what he is looking for in a candidate and towards what sections he gravitates. If we talk in a general aspect, your resume needs to show research or academic inclination if you wish to work on a research project as an intern. At the same time, your resume must be well-rounded. In simple words, when you are trying to write your cover letter, for example, in the research domain, you must emphasize why you are choosing to do a research project? I believe that’s what reflects your passion and fascination for the applied discipline. Even if you are applying for a domain you have no prior experience with but are interested in it, that’s where your cover letter is crucial. Try to justify through your cover letter briefly your passion in the domain. In my opinion, what made my CV stand out was that I did a project in economics about business cycle dating and building business composites. This exhibited my interest not only in research but also in economics and business. Secondly, I was a part of Enactus, under which I was involved in two projects that showcased my entrepreneurial interests.
My role as an intern
The project I worked on was green jobs and firm responses to climate change and disasters. Green jobs do the required work in a way that positively contributes to the environment. Firm’s response to climate change and disasters is how firms react in terms of asset pricing, or loan pricing, or in terms of community relief provided by the FRM, and also in terms of green jobs. I joined the project in its initial stage, so we had a very fluid research problem and tried to concrete it. Initially, my role was to go through research papers to understand what research exists on the subject and explicitly concerning green jobs. The second half of my work used SHELDUS data, a hazard and disaster database for the entire USA. I went through papers to classify disasters that could be utilized to understand Firm reactions. The third part of the job surprisingly took me back to Machine Learning ( yes! hilarious). I left the project when I was done writing the ML program. The duration of my internship was from mid-May to mid-July. Even though the internship has officially come to an end, the professor has still invited me to work with him during the semester at my convenience.
The work experience
In one word, tremendous. I admit that working in an online mode did throw a few curveballs. For instance, if I had a doubt regarding some topic and wished to discuss it with the professor, he would reply after hours, and by then, the doubt might not even be relevant anymore. Communication with fellow interns is almost non-existent, so it’s mostly like working in an isolated environment and brainstorming the problems on your own, which might lead to frustration. But in the bigger picture, the drawbacks weighed nothing against my indelible experience at Georgia Tech. It has a lot to do with the professor I was working with. He was gracious and understanding. If I told him that I could not complete a particular thing as per the deadline, he would give me time and ask me to reach him whenever it’s done. The work environment wasn’t him teaching; instead, the two of us worked together on a problem and had healthy discussions. He also took an interest in other aspects of my life, like my higher studies. He would give suggestions about various schools and how I should apply for them and encourage me to pursue my interests and not mind-numbingly follow others. To be very frank, I had expected professors to be uptight and strict, but to my surprise, I was welcomed into a very supportive and flexible environment.
Key Takeaways and Suggestions
I would advise people to choose a domain they are interested in rather than following what others are doing. I know there is a prevalent mindset in IITs saying, “ IIT me hai toh foreign intern hi karna hai.” There are a lot of good institutes in India concerning research in the business domain; there is the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and various IIMs. It’s good to try and apply for foreign institutes, but if towards the end, you are closing into your internship period and you don’t have an internship in hand and you wish to do a research internship, you can start applying to places in India. You also have an opportunity in SURA in the college itself which is a paid internship and an excellent opportunity to do research.
Interviewed by: Anukriti