Advait Mani, PH1
Interned at: SURA, IITD - Computational Optics
Why SURA over Foreign internships and a broad comparison.
I did not mail a lot of professors abroad. I started sending emails pretty late. While applying for Foreign internships, you have to mail in a more general field and not be fixated on a specific field. I was explicitly interested in Computational Optics and Holography, so initially, I checked professors working abroad and mailed them, however, they did not reply. That’s when I realised I might not have a chance at getting an internship in my preferred domain. I initially did not know about SURA before the email from IITD came. I knew one professor whom I could approach and do a SURA project under him.
Firstly, you have to convince a professor to be your facilitator. Usually, professors are friendly and help you with your idea, which sometimes requires slight changes, to be worked upon, and we could generate a decent research output. Then once your project gets fixed, you have to submit your proposal, after which you have to give a presentation and have a viva with professors where you have to answer a few questions. The selection rate this year was about 40-50%, and CGPA mattered. Overall the process is pretty objective. IIT guides you through the process, contrary to selections in foreign internships where it depends on the professor.
The project was on computational optics as I desired. I did it with a friend from my department. The main objective was to “ Model refractive index’s variation using holograms by using holography and phase retrieval.” There was a lot of knowledge that we did not have regarding the same, so the professor (Kedar Khare) gave us reading material beyond our curriculum, and we would meet the professor weekly with some results. The overall learning curve was steep but not rugged. I also learnt a lot about MATLAB, image processing, Fourier transformations and phase retrieval algorithms. The professor would often encourage us to fiddle around with the algorithms to get something new. A lot of our research was based on the fact that we tried something new, noted the results and made some deductions based on that. Since what we were doing over the months could be done in weeks by the Ph.D. students, I feel that professor Khare had given us this project intending to teach us since we were receptive students and wanted to learn something new. Another good thing about SURA is that professors understand your constraints, know how much exposure you truly have to research and have a fair idea of your knowledge based on the curriculum, which is why you don’t have to pretend to know a lot of things.
I learnt a lot about research in general, my perception about research changed a lot. I used to feel that research had an empirical procedure, but a lot of times, you have to do trial and error too! It also gave me exposure to the research atmosphere and I realised that even research is a competitive field. I would suggest that if anyone has the slightest of doubts in their mind about trying out research, SURA is an opportunity to look out for.
Interviewed by: Pratham Pahuja