Indian Institute Of AstroPhysics: Swayamtrupta Panda

Sometimes you make the choices and sometimes choices make you! For me it was the later. What more can you expect from an institute of international repute which also is coincidentally of the field of your interest.

1.Was your approval as an IIA intern, by chance or by choice?

One of India’s leading centres for Astronomy and Astrophysics, it is located in the heart of the country’s Silicon Valley – Bangalore. IIA (as it is fondly referred to as) is a home to budding astrophysicists and engineers who are really into their research in respective fields. Be it solar astronomy or galactic extinction, be it Dark matter findings or be it exoplanetary research, name a field related to it and you are sure to find someone working on it here. 

My interest from the beginning of my undergraduate studies was inclined towards studying the processes and emissions from super-massive black holes at the center of the galaxies. And owing to the field’s reputation, there were only a handful of distinguished institutes which took in undergrads as summer fellows. Apart from IIA, I had my eyes on IUCAA (Pune), NCRA (Pune), ARIES (Nainital) and some others. I’d say that it was sheer luck and the sync of the interests of my mentor and myself which landed me the Summer Research Fellowship here at IIA.

2.How rigorous was the selection procedure?

Indian Academy of Sciences Summer Research Fellowship Programme 2014 – this was the platform that landed me as an SRF at IIA, Bangalore. 

Indian Academy of Sciences (Bangalore), along with Indian National Science Academy (New Delhi) and The National Academy of Sciences (Allahabad), collectively the IASc-INSA-NASI Summer Research Fellowship is a summer fellowship programme held annually selecting interested students in multiple disciplines (Physics, Chemistry, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Earth Sciences and Engineering). The selection procedure begins around the month of November which marks the first round with an online submission of a proforma which includes mandatory details of the student with their academic and research credentials. The applicant is asked to fill upto 6 names of the desired professors/scientists/faculties from a huge list based upon his area of interest. Added to that, one needs to provide an SOP (Statement of purpose), which is indicative of the applicant’s interest. The application needs to be submitted online as well as a hard copy of the same needs to be sent to the Academy for selection. The results of the selected candidates in the various fields and the faculty under whom they would pursue their summer research are published around the first week of February. If selected, one needs to acknowledge his/her selection by e-mail, followed by a series of procedures regarding accommodation, stipend etc. The SRF (Summer Research Fellow) has to perform their project for a period of at least 8 weeks followed by a submission of the final report. One also needs to submit a 4-week report.  Both these reports need to be uploaded on an account specifically created for each SRF selected under this program.

3.What is the minimum criteria of getting through to the institute?

There are no such particular hard criteria for the selection under this program. Although a decent CGPA, earlier projects done, work in the specific field is particularly important or atleast the candidate fulfilling these credentials are preferred over the others. But the criterion that is THE MOST Important is the applicant’s SOP and the choice of his/her field of project along with the selection of the guides. One should prefer having a guide whose research work overlaps one’s interest. If that does, one is pretty sure of bagging the fellowship.

4.How was your experience as an intern at IIA?

From Day 1 itself, I got much more than what I expected. The first glance of the Institute and one can simply utter – “Wow! This is where I belong!” The institute–charismatically built, the hostel–no less than an apartment, the Canteen – one should address it as a restaurant instead, the food-the word ‘restaurant’ says it all, the faculties-inspiring and worth spending your quality time with, the scholars and interns-one cannot ask for better people to hang around with. Overall, IIA – It’s worth every ounce every penny of your 2 months!

My mentor (Prof. Prajval Shastri), is an eminent researcher in the field of Active galaxies phenomenology who happens to head a research group here in India on a global survey on the Active galaxies. I’m grateful to be the newest member of the committee. I worked with Ms. Maitrayee Gupta (a research intern who completed her MS from University of Sussex) and was later joined by Mr. Sundar M.N. (an M.Sc from Jain University, Bangalore) and Mr. Vikram Radhakrishnan (an EEE B.Tech from Bangalore University, working in Broadcomm).

“Physics of Seyfert galaxies” was the project I was working on.

The work was inspiring, the environment and the people around added to the beauty of it.

The additional benefit of being an IASc SRF working in Bangalore was the array of inspiring lectures from distinguished faculties both from India and abroad in multiple disciplines held at IISc. Campus followed up by a grand and exquisite dinner. I was invited to attend a symposium on C.V Raman’s work which was held on a later date in the same place.

In the final week I gave two consecutive talks on the work I did and the inferences that were drawn along with the future prospects of the survey at IIA and IISc., respectively.

I’ll rest my case (basically the work) but the fun, and places I visited during my stay, the memories I made in this beautiful city are a thirst that can’t be quenched. Namma Bengaluru!

The abstract of the project:

“Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) are accreting supermassive black holes. AGNs exhibit prodigious luminosities from their nuclei. They are classified as “Radio Loud” and “Radio Quiet” based on the relative amount of radio to optical emission. Seyfert galaxies are radio-quiet AGNs which are typically found in spiral galaxies and have low-powered jets. In Seyferts unlike the higher luminosity Quasars, the host galaxies are clearly visible, because the Seyferts are relatively nearby. This study focuses on a sample of 128 Active Galactic Nuclei for which a survey to determine the emission-line morphology is on-going. We characterize the physical properties of the sample with multi-wavelength data.”

5.Any final message to the students.

To culminate I just have to say this - Friends, live your times, enjoy every moment, study a bit, learn a lot and as the saying goes “Learn something of everything and everything of something.” Cheers!!!