Brown University - Abhiroop Agrawal, CH1

Updated: Feb 17



Application Procedure


I started emailing to universities in late August. Initially, the number of applications I was sending out was low, but in the following months, I realised that I had to step up the frequency if I wanted a good opportunity. Thus, starting December, I became more proactive in sending out my applications to professors. At the end of February, after sending more than 300 emails, I was offered an internship at the Tohoku University in Japan.


My internship was based on Biofuels, and thankfully I had some core course projects as well as an additional project that was based on biodiesel production. I think these things and especially the fact that I had conducted practical experiments to produce biodiesel from waste cooking in my project helped me clinch the internship.



COVID Situation


In March, as the pandemic kicked in and progressed aggressively, my excitement for going to Japan in the summer started plummeting. It crashed when my internship got revoked. I was honestly very disappointed, but at the same time, I understood the dynamics of the situation and initiated my plan B.


I reinstated my mailing process and consulted a few friends of mine on where I should apply. One of them suggested the computational chemistry field of research at Brown University, and since I always had a desire to explore this field, I applied immediately. Through a stroke of luck, the professor I emailed, accepted me for a work from home internship. We had a light conversation where I came to know more about the project, and we both came to know each other better.



The Internship


Before I started to work on my exploratory project, I went to Bhopal to visit my grandparents for two months. We had never anticipated that the lockdown would curb interstate travel, but that is what happened after a month of me being in Bhopal. The worst part being, there was no internet connection at my grandparent’s home. So I had to complete all my work using my mobile data network. My professor was very understanding of my situation and gave me full ownership of the project, which meant that I could work on my own pace.


My project revolved around determining the quantitative rules which could be used to predict Rydberg Binding Energy in different molecules. The Rydberg Binding Energy is the threshold energy required to remove an electron from a Rydberg state. Moreover, this energy varies in different molecules as they have varied structures and conformations. The underlying concepts of quantum and organic chemistry taught in high school as well as in the first year courses helped me understand the crux of the problem statement. The discussion and development of the project took place during the meetings, which were held three times a week.


During the internship, I used Density Function Theory (DFT) calculations through Computational Chemistry Software like DALTON, which generated 3-dimensional structures of cations. In return, it helped me to study the various molecular parameters which have different contributions to the Rydberg Energy.



Takeaways


My summer internship helped me gain a broad insight into the field of research. It also improved my presentation skills. Most importantly, it gave me a general perspective on how to approach any problem from scratch.



Article by: Victor Banerjee