A Pragmatic's Walkway To Michigan: Sobhan Subhra Mishra
Sobhan Subhra Mishra, a final year student, pursuing Int MSc in Physics and Astronomy, is a resolute researcher landing up to the University of Michigan, completing 2 internships successfully. With a mind for research and eye for success, he has carved a niche for himself in the field of Photonics and Plasmonics. Team MM caught up with him on wintry midnight, to find out about his experience of life, internship and much more.
Monday Morning(MM): Walk us through your early days and how did MSC physics in NIT Rourkela happen to you?
Sobhan Subhra Mishra(SSM): I was born in Bhubaneswar and did my schooling from Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandir up to class 10. Then I joined Mother's Public School for my intermediate. In my first attempt, I got some 60000 rank in JEE- mains and my advance rank was 10000 in consideration to my board percentage. Hence I decided to drop a year and again with some 20000 ranks joined here at NIT Rourkela. I wanted to pursue a career in Physics or Computer Science. With my mains rank, I didn't qualify for the CS branch, so I opted for Physics. Overall, it was by choice and I'm pretty content.
MM: Share the experience of your very first-internship at IIT Bhubaneswar.
SSM: I was looking for some internship in my 2nd-year winter because I didn't want to sit idle. And luckily, a friend of my father from IIT Bhubaneswar introduced me to a physics Professor of the same institute. I went to him and he gave me some papers to read because I was just in my 2nd year and had no knowledge of Photonics and Plasmonics. Going through those intensified my interest and I decided to delve more into this particular area.
MM: How did you come to know about the internship at the University of Michigan and what was the application procedure?
SSM: I was looking for some foreign internship in my second-year summer so I mailed a few professors. I got a chance to intern at the University of Auckland, New Zealand but due to some visa-related issues, I couldn't join. But I did some remote theoretical research. In my 3rd year, I wanted a foreign internship that would prepare for my chosen career. I did not go through any portals or applications. I mailed the professors, I knew would be perfect for me, to ask if they would like an intern for the summer. The mail included my resume, research interests and any research proposals that I had. Luckily, a professor from the University of Michigan accepted it and took an interview.
MM: Was it a paid internship?
SSM: Accommodation facility was not provided on the campus. There was no provision for any kind of stipend but my professor provided me with 4700 USD for 2 months. I had to bear the travel expenses and had to manage the stay on my own. The University is situated in Ann Arbor, one of the cheapest cities in the US and hence I could save around 800 dollars in the third year summer. In the fourth year, he gave me a lump sum amount of 5300 USD for a stay of 2.5 months but as the flight rate increased rapidly, I could save only around 500 dollars.
MM: Brief us about your project?
SSM: The third-year summer project was based on Plasmonic color filters. The major focus of my work was to do the simulations. There was a core-shell structure, core made up of silicon and shell of titanium dioxide or ferric oxide. According to the dimensions, we can generate different colors, primarily colors being red, green and blue. I did the simulations using COMSOL and RSFOT software and had to submit the record for different dimensions to the experiment Incharge. The fourth-year project was quite similar but the substrate of Silicon dioxide coated with gold or germanium was taken to be tested. I also worked on the humidity degradation test of some semiconductors in the same year wherein we put the semiconductor in different humidity levels to observe the change in its resistance.
MM: How was your experience working at the University of Michigan?
SSM: Professor Dr.L.Jay.Guo under whom I worked under was a Chinese National. I was the only intern and Indian in that group. The Chinese are much more meticulous than us and are very hard working. At the start of my project, I was guided by a Ph.D. student. He explained to me about the project and made me acquainted with the simulations. I mostly sat in the room of the group and hence could only communicate with my PhD supervisor. We had a group meeting every Monday where we had to show the progress in our work from the previous week. The professor was very interactive and used to meet me personally asking me to share my troubles. In the fourth year, as I already knew about the project and had read the required literature it was a lot easier and also more communicative for me as I knew some people from that group and I also explored the lab and experiment world as I was assigned to do some experiments.
MM: What was your area of research in the second year summer internship and how was that internship helpful?
SSM: The area of research was photonics and I was working under Professor Dr. Rajan Jha. The project was based on a biosensor using surface plasma. When you put a light on a coated substrate, some light reflects from the above layer and some light goes through the coating and reflects. The interference of these lights helps us to detect the substrate.
Such a professional experience on my resume enhanced it a lot. I did not have a direction then but it helped to find my interest and helped me put things in perspective and also it was the main reason behind getting the internship at the University of Michigan.
MM: What are the differences that you see in the lab facilities of NIT Rourkela and the University of Michigan?
SSM: The instruments in the lab at NIT Rourkela are not up to the mark. They have easy access to other labs, for which you just have to get permission from the professor in charge of that lab and you should be accompanied by a Ph.D. student. Getting access to other labs in our institute is very difficult. Lastly, the lab timings, they don't have any such rigid rules for the timings. The labs are open 24 hours and I used to work for the whole night in the lab.
MM: How can such internships benefit students and when is the right time to start working on the various fields of your branch?
SSM: The first and foremost benefit is exposure because their research is quite extensive rather than only focusing on reading research papers. These internships can count as valuable work experience, you gain on the field experience, and a chance to build helpful connections. Successfully leveraging what you have learned - as well as the network you have built can help separate you from others. The right time to decide the field you should choose is at the starting of the third year because the third-year internship is the most crucial internship one will do.
MM: What are the clubs, you are a part of and how do you strike a chord with academics, research, and extracurriculars?
SSM: I was the video and photography manager of E-cell. My brother is an amateur photographer and that skill brushed up on me and hence, photography happened. I was a part of spawn since my sophomore year. They taught me C, C++ that was quite helpful and also my communication skills improved a lot. Academics at NIT Rourkela isn't a hard nut to crack. If you attend the lectures regularly and attentively, it won't create much trouble. I am regular to the class and listen to the lectures and after coming back I go through those topics for 45 mins and then 2 days before the exam, I study sincerely. So that is not too difficult.
MM: Your word of advice for the NITR junta.
SSM: If you are interested in research then find your research interest as early as possible and build some experience in that area. That would build your CV which will ultimately help you get into your research fields in countries abroad. Try to build some network and meet some people with the same interests. Try to get an internship in some reputed universities which will enhance your CV.
Team Monday Morning wishes a stroke of good luck for his future endeavors.