Prakshi Gupta, BB1
Interned at: Pennsylvania State University
I did my internship last summer at Pennsylvania State University. I am from the biotechnology department in the institute and deliberated to secure an internship under a professor in the same field. I initially browsed and read papers and articles published by top-ranking professors and managed to secure an internship in a project by a professor working in the same field, with a specific focus on genetics. I did not mail professors with a limited and detailed choice of topics of research. Instead, my approach was quite broad, keeping in mind that we had not completed many department-specific courses at the time of application and making of the curriculum vitae. It is always advised to be broad and open to a myriad of topics while applying for research internships in the second year because most students are unaware of the extent and fields of research in the department they are pursuing their major in. I was comparatively more anxious than other students during the internship application since there had been a time delay on my part. While students start mailing professors in universities in India and abroad during October and November, my mails were sent in the middle of April 2021, just in the nick of time for students to begin their internships.
Extensive process of application
I decided to follow the very general construct of applying for a second-year research internship. The chronological order of application of mails was in correspondence with the then-current QS University Rankings 2020. I was well aware that the top-most universities were unwilling to accept foreign students into their research projects on campus as they required physical presence, which was not possible in pandemic times. I thereby decided to move to the next batch of universities according to rankings. Apart from my internship under the professor at Pennsylvania State University, I also received letters of approval from two other university professors, one of them being from the University of Queensland. I had to reject both because Queensland required a direct supervising professor in IIT Delhi to continue the research internship, which I was not in a favorable position to arrange for. The other required a lot of background knowledge and skills that I was lacking. I prepared my CV and cover letter with aid and mentorship from my seniors at IIT Delhi, particularly the Board of Student Welfare, who conducted a workshop clarifying these topics and guiding us on how to go about it. Apart from my scholastic achievements, I added a summary of the papers written by the respective professors that I read. Through the precis, I also explained my knowledge and experience in the particular domain they were working on. Pennsylvania State University also required a letter of recommendation from a professor in my department, which I managed to arrange without difficulty.
The entire research internship was conducted in online mode, the major platforms of communication being zoom and emails. I would certainly have preferred an offline internship, but we all try to adjust to the surroundings we are thrown into. Apart from the specifics of the internship, the professor was extremely interactive. Most of the related matters had theoretical components. The professor in charge tried to give us a taste of the practical experience through zoom, explaining physical components to work with as much as possible through computer screens. I did my internship at a time when the United States was also in a dire situation owing to the exponentially rising cases of COVID-19. Hence the professors and other staff faced a back hand in the smooth conduction of the internship. Irrespective of this situation, my view on the internship is absolutely positive, the professor and other students working on the project were extremely helpful, amicable, and friendly. Despite the large distance between all those working on the project, it did not seem like there was any gap in communication and interaction.
Takeaways and suggestions
I did not have many backup plans in the event of not landing the research internship. I deemed it as something that was not necessarily essential in one's academic career and that it was just another addition to the skills and experiences one holds. In case one is extremely passionate about research and wishes to pursue just a specific topic akin to their liking, it is advised that you continue taking on and doing small projects, either personal or under professors from your institute itself. Iterating yet again, it is not a necessary feat that everyone has to accomplish. It all depends on what one is interested in and how the individual wishes to continue their academic career. Good luck to all those applying!
Interviewed by: Afreen Haider