Pursuing Dreams With Persistence: Anwesha Panda At NTU, Singapore
There are few things more powerful than a life lived with passionate clarity.
Anwesha Panda, a final year student of the Metallurgical and Material Sciences Department is one such person whose clear aim in life and focus prompted her to be persistent in the field of research which eventually led her to a research internship at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Young and research-intensive, Nanyang Technological University(NTU), Singapore is placed 11th globally, and 1st among the world's best young universities for five consecutive years (QS university rankings). Team MM caught up with Anwesha amidst the backdrop of Hexagon Restaurant to know every detail about this internship, here is an excerpt from the interview.
Monday Morning (MM): How did you come to know about this internship and what was the application procedure?
Anwesha Panda(AP): I got to know about the internship at NTU through a website, ‘Internshala’. The NTU IndiaConnect portal opens in November and the last date to apply is December 31st, the application procedure consists of selecting three projects and three professors under whom I wanted to work out of a total of sixteen projects. For applying, you need a NOC from University, Letters of recommendation, transcripts and a passport. One important point is that you don’t need a visa to go to Singapore for this internship as they issue a Training Employment Pass which serves as your visa for the entire journey.
MM: What were the selection criteria for this internship?
AP: The selection happens at two stages. In the first stage, the India Connect committee selects a few students based on your CGPA and the LOR (Letters of recommendation) that you have provided. The applications of the shortlisted candidates are then referred to the suggested faculty for the second stage of selection, selection in the second stage depends on how well you suit the professor’s research interests and how relatable are your past projects with the area that he is working on.
MM: Was it a paid internship?
AP: Accommodation facility was provided in the campus and the miscellaneous fees were paid by India connect, I had to bear the travel expenses and there was no provision for any kind of stipend but my professor paid us a lump-sum amount of 600 SGD. This was sufficient for food and travel.
Apart from these, conferences and talks are happening in the institute regularly where you get to meet distinguished and talented individuals. another perk of such events is that you can easily get a lavish spread of delicacies for free. I managed to meet two Nobel laureates in such conferences where I had originally gone for the free food (chuckles). Also, there are surveys conducted at the university, participating in which you can earn money by just answering some simple questions.
MM: What other facilities and perks did you receive?
AP: NTU has a very dynamic and evergreen campus and is, in fact, one among the 10 most photogenic campuses in the world. The hostel rooms are quite big but I hardly spent any time in my room. There were two libraries equipped with big LCD screens and big sofas, they provided us with headphones and one could watch movies all day in the library. The library had big racks filled with DVDs on movies and documentaries apart from books, there were sleeping zones in the library with bean bags and pillows to sleep on the grass. The campus has supermarkets, malls, food courts and multiple food chains like Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonalds, all provided at a subsidized rate. Being a non-vegetarian, I loved the food but my vegetarian friends don't share the same sentiments. Indian food is not good there, for example, they serve weird combinations like parathas with Bournvita or Oreo. But other cuisines like Thai, Japanese, Korean and mala are nice. It’s a great opportunity to experience multicultural living.
MM: What was your field of research and what project did you work on?
AP: In NTU I worked at the Centre for Biomimetic Sensor Science under the School of Material Science and Engineering. I worked on the Separation of Biomolecules on Lateral Flow Assay, in this project we synthesized and characterized gold and alloy nanoparticles. Our research also included examining the binding of proteins to gold nanoparticles to BSA with an aim to separate target biomolecules that aid detection of oral cancer.
MM: Tell us about the work culture at the NTU and how was your experience working with your colleagues?
AP: I was mentored by Garima Goyal, a PhD student there and was reporting to Prof. Bo Liedberg, my supervisor. I was working with two other interns from different IIT Kharagpur and IIT BHU, the work there is very planned and structured. We had team meetings every Wednesday where we had to show our progress and there were no strict timings as the labs were open 24*7. A lot of attention is paid to safety and cleanliness. My colleagues were quite supportive and a delight to work with. We often watched Cricket World Cup matches together in the lab after work.
MM: What were the most prominent differences that you see between the research equipment and infrastructure at NTU and that of NIT Rourkela?
AP: Obviously, the infrastructure and equipment are far better there but we are not lagging in terms of the amount of research output that we produce. For example, The lab that I work here, i.e. composites lab has research output at par with foreign universities.
MM: How important is the role of CG in getting selected/ not getting selected for this internship?
AP: There is no mention of a CGPA criterion for this internship, but I talked to my professor at NTU who informed me that in the first stage of shortlisting, CGPA is a very important criterion for India Connect and having a minimum CG of 8 is required. But even if you have a lesser CG, you can directly mail the respective Professor and if you have a very good research background in his field, the professor can still accept you for the internship.
MM: What were the previous experiences that you had on your CV before applying for NTU?
AP: I have been working with Prof. B.C. Ray since my second year in the field of material science and composites and I had three internships on my CV when I had applied for this internship. One was at NALCO (first-year winter); in the second year summer, I did two internships, one at IIT Kharagpur under Prof. G.G. Roy and another at New Materials Business department, TATA steel Kolkata.
MM: If a student has no significant previous experiences, is it still possible to get selected for this internship?
AP: In that case, a student must have an exceptionally good CG. You need something impressive on your CV to show to the recruiters, either a good number of projects or CG. Because there are a lot of people applying and your profile must stand out if you want to bag the internship.
MM: At what point of time should a student start thinking of his field of interest and start building his CV as per the field?
AP: I was about to do an industrial internship in my third year and had no plans for NTU, It was during the end of my fifth semester when I realized that I had an inclination towards research and decided to go forward with a research internship. I chose projects at NTU that were close to my research background.
To determine one’s field of interest, I feel, one should first explore the options available to him and then start preparing accordingly. It’s never too late to start working towards what you love doing.
MM: You were also selected for the women of the mettle Season 2 program at TATA. What was the application procedure for that and why did you leave it?
AP: The application procedure for women of mettle starts towards the end of the 2nd year. Students need to rank in the top 25% of their respective branches to be eligible for TATA WoM. First, we had a test that contained questions related to psychometric, technical and mental ability. We had to clear this round to appear for the next one where we were given a topic and a mentor. It was a case study on the topic and we had to prepare a well-researched PPT on the given topic which had to be presented there. This round takes place in 2nd-year summer vacations. I was pretty happy to make it to the top 30 and I eventually got the internship offer in 3rd year. But eventually, I realized I was more inclined towards exploring research. Also, I wanted to broaden my outlook and perspectives. And there is no better way for that than getting foreign exposure. According to me, college is the best time to take risks and explore different options. This is what made me choose a research internship over an industrial internship at TATA steel.
MM: What were the other internships you had applied for and what were the criteria for shortlisting those internships?
AP: In my first-year winter, I didn’t want to sit idle at home, so I went on to do a winter internship at NALCO (National Aluminium Company), there were no selection criteria for this one. In the second year summer, I did two internships, one at TATA Steels' new material department which was suggested to me by one of my professors and overall it was a good experience. My other internship was at IIT Kharagpur which I preferred personally as I wanted to complete an internship from a reputed college. So I was based in Kharagpur and mailed my work progress on composites to TATA steels. My second-year winter was dedicated to research work with my professors at NIT Rourkela itself. For my 3rd year internship, I chose NTU because it comes under the top 3 universities in the world for the material science department and I wanted to experience working in one of the best universities in the world. According to the QS rankings, which publishes 50 young universities under 50, NTU was ranked No1 for the last 5 years so this pulled me to apply for NTU. I applied for NUS also by emailing professors as there was no direct application program. I did get a reply from one professor but due to lack of funding, I chose NTU.
MM: Did you have someone who guided you with regards to the internship procedure and tips? If yes, how important was their role?
AP: For internships, I read Monday Morning articles regarding experiences of other interns but personally Prof. B.C. Ray was and still is my guide throughout. My seniors, too, help me at every point.
MM: What message would you like to give to the students who aim to get such prestigious internships in the future?
AP: If you are into research, aim to do at least one foreign internship as this broadens your outlook immensely. This helps you in many ways, you come in contact with many bright researchers from all over the world. Try building your network and meet new people having the same interests as yours, feel free to explore different areas while you are still in college. You need to know your niche and according to the projects that you have already undertaken shortlist projects for your internships. Try shortlisting universities that have a good reputation and top ranking in the field that you are interested in. For instance, I chose NTU as it was ranked No1. In material science. Similarly, choose a well-ranked university and try to contact the professors regarding research work under them.
Team MM congratulates Anwesha Panda and wishes her the best for all her future endeavours.