Khushi Chanana (MS1)
Interned at Chakr Innovation
Domain: R&D in the field of Metal-Air Batteries
Motivation and Background:
Looking back at my journey at IITD, I had one regret: I had yet to explore the academic side that the institute had to offer. Regrettably, this was also reflected in my CGPA going into the third semester. Having been majorly involved with Enactus, I was building up a resume for consulting, but I had it at the back of my mind that I wanted to try core to see if it was for me. I was already involved as a Marketing Head in a startup, so I was not stressed about applying to any opportunity or mass-mailing. A low CGPA was problematic, as it made the regular options for research/core like research interns and SURA inaccessible to me.
Scrolling through IITD Notices, I came across an opportunity from Chakr Innovation that struck every bell I was looking for. It involved working on a Metal-Air Battery, which was exactly what I wanted – closely related to my Material Science Major, pro-environment, and involving research. I applied and, fortunately, was selected as an intern!
Process of Application:
The first phase of the process involved an assignment on basic battery concepts, especially general concepts of metal-air batteries. I had a fair background because of my courses in the third sem, but I knew the final interview would be based on the assignment, so I used every resource in my arsenal, like NPTEL, ChatGPT, and Google, to sharpen my knowledge.
The Interview itself was a core interview for the first thirty minutes, where I felt they valued my curiosity and way of thinking. Having also looked into hydrogen as a source of energy during my JEE prep purely out of curiosity and fascination, my enthusiasm about the environment and research was recognized, and I was selected as a research intern.
The interviewer was aware of my time with Enactus, which also gave me an edge.
Some material was sent to me before the start of my internship, but I didn’t have much time to follow up on it as I only had 5-6 days between my majors and the internship. I was confident with my course material in the second year; regardless, I was apprehensive about a lack of knowledge. My overbearing feeling of inadequacy had led to a rocky start, but that’s where my fellow interns and the team at Chakr Innovation helped me fit in. I had a Mentor figure who helped me internalise that they didn’t expect a depth of knowledge as a second-year intern – all they were looking for was enthusiasm and curiosity.
I was tasked with researching how to improve the power density of Metal-Air batteries – study research papers, and conduct experiments to enhance the power output. During my two-month internship, the first two weeks were me observing and trying to understand the process Chakr Innovation uses for research and how to read research papers. My mentor and a professor coached me during this process. After this period, I started with experimentation, which I loved. I was notorious for being that one intern who never left the potentiostat table and experimented six times before I could get favourable outcomes.
It was a new experience as I could bond with great people in their respective fields and learn from them irrespective of the age gap. We had specifically allocated discussion sessions where coworkers would teach others about their expertise from scratch. Everyone was open to my questions and discussions, so it was a great learning experience for me.
Learnings and Advice:
To someone apprehensive about going into the core and research side, I advise them to try it out before making that decision. It is a different feeling when you finally get a good outcome on the sixth try of that one experiment, and there are many things that one can only experience. Especially as an IITD student, we’ve all studied sciences since JEE, so one should be very clear that they don’t want to get into research. I would recommend avoiding online research interns and going for a project to get a clear idea. Even for someone who might be apprehensive because of academic underperformance, it is a great learning experience.