National University of Singapore
During the summer after my 2nd year, I interned at the School of Computing, National University of Singapore. This internship turned out to be an opportunity for me to gain a very valuable research exposure. Being a mechanical engineering undergraduate but a data science enthusiast, this internship helped me put a step forward to pursue my career in data science, a field essentially quite ‘different’ from my major. My previous experience in the field helped me in securing the internship.
Having decided to apply for a research internship, I actively looked for professors whose research inclined with my interests. I later contacted the professor expressing my interest in his research work and inquired about any suitable project available with him. Fortunately, he had some projects available which I could assist him with. Finally, we had a short Skype session, in which he asked me about my interests in his research work, and Data Science, a field ‘different’ from my academic background. The informal interview checked if I could fit in for working on the project.
My project for the internship was related to social network analysis. It was on the ‘Analysis of Subjective Sports’ in which I identified the social behaviour in subjective sports using data of ballroom dance sports. Under the guidance of the professor, I worked on the research project from the data collection till the causal analysis to establish the results of the project. I also worked on writing a research paper to publish the conclusions of the project. The project helped me to learn many new concepts like econometric analysis and get a hands-on experience on methods like data collection.
For example, prior to this internship, I had never worked on data collection. For all my previous experience in data analytics, the data was ‘somehow’ already available with me and I just worked on the analytics part. I learnt about the methods for data collection in research projects and collected 10GB of data to work on the project using web crawling and extracting from APIs.
The work atmosphere was great as I got an opportunity to interact with several research students and fellows, and got to know about their work.
I lived in a dorm nearby, and I was lucky because my roommates were of diverse backgrounds, academically as well as ethnically. Living with them added to the diverse exposure I gained during the stay of my internship.
Singapore is considered to be one among the best places to visit as well as the best places to live in. During my free time, I did explore the city and visited some of ‘touristy’ must-go places of the city. Also, the campus of NUS is infrastructurally one of the best college campuses of the world. Getting to work in such a college was like a ‘icing on the cake’. In Singapore, one can easily find all kinds of food and at prices not very high as compared to India. So being a ‘pure’ vegetarian too was not a problem during my stay, though I had limited number of options nearby.
The overall internship experience was great. This internship experience has helped me decide and give me clarity about choosing the career I would want to pursue further.
Tips for Application
To someone who wants to apply for a research internship, I suggest the following tips:
- The most important thing is to make sure that the research interests of the professor you approach, are really inclined to your own interests. That, I believe, is quite important for the professor to be interested in giving you the project and for the internship for you to be ‘fruitful’. Browse through the research works of as many professor you can, to find the professor(s), you believe you can approach for any projects available with them.
- After selecting the ‘right’ professor(s), send them an email expressing your interest in-
- the field you want to do your internship in,
- the research work of the professor, and
- working under their supervision on some relevant project available (if any) with them.
- Preferably, don’t send any ‘mass email’ (in which you just change some specific details and send it to every professor) because most of the professors do get many such emails, which probably are not given much consideration. Make your request for the internship opportunity unique so as to be taken into consideration.
- Also try looking into research internship programs like Mitacs Globalink (Canada), DAAD-WISE (Germany), Charpak (France), SN Bose Scholars Program (USA), etc. The chances of ‘converting’ are higher through such internship programs. You can follow websites like internshala to know about any potential internship programs. Try to know about where people from your college have done their internships in.
- I believe, there is no ideal time as such, to contact the professors because all that is needed is that the professor you are contacting, has a project available for someone to work on. Albeit, the earlier the better because the visa procedures and other paperwork does take some time.
- Contacting the professors through their research/teaching assistants can also be considered an option and might be of sometimes better because professors generally have quite busy schedules to check all the emails and thus your email might not be ever opened at all.
- A prior experience in the field you are applying, might not be mandatory; but it surely boosts up the chance for your application to be considered.
- You should also try looking into the research work of some of the professors in Indian universities. There are very brilliant researchers in India as well.
Any internship provides a great platform to know one’s field of interest better by helping to gain a hands-on exposure in the related field. A research internship is a very good opportunity to explore one’s career interests. And an international research internship adds to the diverse exposure one would gain during the course of the internship.
Securing the chance to work under a professor of a reputed university does depend on luck, because you need to find a professor in your field of interest, who has some open projects available. So don’t feel disappointed, even if you are not able to get a research internship in an university abroad. You can always work on very good (sometimes better) projects in India, as well.