Caltech, SURF - Agrima Deedwania, BB1


Agrima Deedwania is an undergraduate student in the biotechnology department at IIT Delhi. Unlike some of her counterparts, Agrima is genuinely interested in pursuing research and landed an enviable internship as a research assistant at Caltech in the summer of 2020.


Application procedure

Distinguished from her peers, she did not send out emails by the thousands but focused more on what she wanted to do and under what professor. She started sending out a few emails at the end of October, but it was in November that she assiduously started the procedure. She invested quite a lot of time going over the profiles of professors online. She had only sent out around 3-4 emails when she was offered the internship in mid-December under Caltech’s SURF program. She claims that her CV’s highlight was a project she had started working on in her third semester under a professor in IITD. It was his glowing letter of recommendation that was pivotal in getting her selected.


SARS-CoV-2 situation (she’s in the biotech department)

When her internship under the SURF program was cancelled, the professor asked whether she’d be willing to work remotely without a stipend and she accepted. Apart from ruining all the travel and exploration plans, the work from home opportunity also changed her project. She wanted to pursue wet lab work in synthetic biology but worked on the computational and modelling aspect instead.


Internship and learnings

Agrima didn’t have an intensive background in coding and had only done C++ in her COL100 course while her internship required her to know python. However, her professor and the people in his lab were incredibly supportive- from helping her install the relevant software on her laptop to sending her python tutorials, they did everything. The interaction level was also excellent, and the professor always responded to her emails and messages swiftly. She learnt quite a lot about the human genome and python during the term of her internship, which will also be helpful in her 3rd-year courses, she adds. Her initial uncertainty about pursuing the research field was also resolved, and she is now sure that this is where her passion lies- she’ll be opting for a research internship after her third year as well.


Takeaways

Agrima’s foremost advise to juniors is- never lie on your CV, the truth will certainly come out during the interview. Had she claimed to have known python, the professor would’ve expected her to have a good grasp of it and wouldn’t have sent her the help and tutorials he did. She also says that doing projects during the 2nd year is extremely helpful, and it would be a good idea to try and get one during this time. Lastly, she asserts that if you are genuinely interested in going for a research internship and writing a good enough email reflecting that, you will be able to secure an internship.



Written by Gopika Arora

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