Swotting Beyond Horizons: Aurek Chattopadhyay's Internships Abroad
Many students have kept their flame of wisdom and zest of annexing erudition bustling, amidst this comprehensive pandemic! Challenging the chaos, several undergraduates from the National Institute Of Technology Rourkela have endorsed online-internships despite being confined to the milieu. Unambiguously, the coeval corporate world demands internships from engineering disciples to graduates. Internships not only confers hand-on experiences to the undergraduates but also signifies expected vocation prospects.
Aloof from the familiar internships, bagging a foreign internship is not everyone's cup of tea! Aurek Chattopadhyay, a final year undergraduate from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, has moulded his summer research internship trail through sheer perseverance and obstinacy in the esteemed University of Cincinnati, United States.
He outshined when he clutched the summer research internship from the Umea University being a freshman! He is a classic instance of consistency and allegiance as he extended his legacy of foreign summer research internships for three consecutive years. Currently, he is interning at the University of Cincinnati from a distance and all set to accomplish new maxima in Computer Science.
Team Monday Morning got an occasion to catch up with Aurek Chattopadhyay, for an interview on his exemplary life and achievements.
Here are some of the excerpts from the interview.
Monday Morning (MM): Were you always inclined towards Engineering or had a broad array of options open for you? Share your life before joining this institution.
Aurek Chattopadhyay (AC): I have been interested in Computer Science since my childhood. I have always wondered how such a beautiful machine work on just the 0's and 1's! I was also known for being techy and good at Computer Science. I am from Durgapur, West Bengal. Hailing from a CBSE background, I was introduced to C++ first during my 11th and 12th standards, where I was very good at programming and also known as an expert programmer in my school. I loved Physics and was sometimes confused about taking up Physics or Computer Science as an option, but I preferred Computer Science, and I made the correct choice in doing so. My parents have also always supported me and encouraged me to do whatever I choose. I am very thankful to them.
MM: Being a freshman, you clinched a summer research internship from the prestigious Umea University. How did you come to know about this? Also, elaborate on the application procedure and field of your research there.
AC: I had applied for an internship at IIT Kharagpur in my first year. For which, I had sent personal emails to the professor under whom I wanted to pursue the internship. One of the professors asked me to apply through the IIT Kharagpur website. So, I applied through their website and got selected as an internship student. I was excited and set to go there in the summer, but unfortunately, at the beginning of May, I tore the ligament and cartilage of my knee while playing football. I had to get the operation done immediately following the rest of at least two months. Ultimately, I had to cancel my internship, which turned me sad. The professor at IIT Kharagpur knew some professors at Umea University suggested that I reach them. I contacted the professors of Umea university, and one of the professors there agreed to take me for a research internship in July.
After going to Umea University in July, I was assigned with three projects,
- Memory and speed efficient statistics for genome assemblies.
- MinHash detection of contamination in Sequencing Data.
- Fast hierarchical clustering of gene expression data using topological overlap.
But at that time, I faced lots of challenges as I didn't know much about research papers and the Linux operating system, and I was also unaware of the version control. But I am very thankful to one of the PhD students who guided me. He helped me to overcome those challenges. I am still in touch with him as he gives me valuable suggestions even now, as and when required. Also, because of the short duration, I could only complete the first project on time!
MM: Following the Umea University, you embarked on another internship in your sophomore year at Monash University. Elucidate us about the internship, along with its application procedure and your field of work.
AC: Monash University is a very prestigious university and ranks among the world's top 80 universities. It is a very competitive university to get into. While searching for universities offering internships, I came across Monash University. I went through the research papers of one of the professors at Monash University. After studying it thoroughly and understanding what can be done on it further, I contacted the professor. She appreciated my efforts, and she agreed to take me as an internship student in the summer. My previous research experience and the recommendation from the guide of my previous research internship helped me get an internship at Monash University. I was assigned work related to software testing in the internship.
MM: Continuing your bequest, you fetched a foreign research internship at the University of Cincinnati, marking the end of your pre-final year. What are the preparatory demands/procedures one needs to go through for aiming for an internship here?
AC: A good profile with research internships will boost one's profile, and it will show that a student is competent enough for an internship. Without any prior research experience, it is usually difficult to get into.
MM: What was your area of research in this recent summer research internship?
AC: I worked on a project based on Natural Language Processing. As the research paper is not published yet, so I cannot reveal more details about the project.
MM: Considering this comprehensive pandemic, what were the challenges that came up your way during the internship?
AC: I faced lots of challenges because of this pandemic. Because of this pandemic, I couldn't go there, and I had to work remotely from home. I couldn't attend the lab meetings, seminars, etc., which would have helped a lot. The meetings and discussions with the professor were held over Skype. A face to face discussion and interaction always has its perks as compared to online discussions. As I had to work from home, so I couldn't interact with other PhD students who usually help a lot. Minute problems and difficulties are usually solved by PhD students, as professors are usually very busy. Since I didn't get the opportunity to get in touch with the PhD students, so I had to depend on the professor to clear out all my queries. However, my research guide was very supportive; he encouraged me and always cleared out the problems and difficulties I faced.
MM: You have always been up to research internships. What urges you to keep research internships at the top of your priority list?
AC: I have always been interested in pursuing research in the field of Computer Science. I have planned to go for a direct PhD in an eminent foreign university after my B.Tech. But getting a PhD is very competitive, especially directly after a BTech unless a student has sufficient research experience in his/her undergraduate. So, this has always motivated me to look for various research opportunities.
MM: As far as your career is concerned, how do you think this online-mode internship will be worthwhile?
AC: I think online internships hold the same importance as that of offline internships. Everyone in the unfortunate time of the pandemic had no option but to go for online internships. Also, many students were more productive in online internships as compared to offline internships. I think the work which you do in the internship matters more as compared to whether the internship is online or offline.
MM: In what ways does this pre-final year internship prove to be alluring? How was it different from the other two internships you pursued in your 1st and 2nd year?
AC: This internship was very different from the other two; it is because of previous experience. I already had the experience required for the internships. I knew very well how to work effectively through research papers, work on projects, etc. I also had more knowledge about the subject as compared to my previous internships.
MM: For ensuring a summer internship from foreign Universities, pupils have to develop an exceptional CV. What was your approach to this?
AC: Yes, a strong profile is very much essential. I worked on various projects on my own out of my interest. I also read various research papers and articles. I also have taken lots of additional online courses available on websites such as Coursera, Edx, etc. I have also tried implementing the published research papers on my own.
MM: Do you believe that the previous foreign summer internship gave you a boost in bagging the internship at the University of Cincinnati?
AC: Yes, definitely. Prior research experience is usually the ice breaker for getting an internship at a top research-oriented university.
MM: Describe your internship experience at the University of Cincinnati. How did this grant you global exposure? How was it working with various other bright intellectuals proficient in that particular field?
AC: The internship experience was great. I learned a lot as my guide was helpful and supportive; he always encouraged me. But because of the pandemic, I didn't get the much-needed global exposure, unlike my previous internships. I wasn't also able to interact with other students working at the university.
MM: How does the curriculum and academics of NIT Rourkela help in fetching such internships and then giving your best towards the projects you take up there?
AC: The curriculum and academics of NIT Rourkela help in laying one's foundation on the subject and helps in developing a strong background knowledge, which is essential. The curriculum also helps us in choosing the domain of the project in which we want to pursue research.
MM: What are your future aspirations or goals?
AC: I want to go for a direct PhD after my Btech in a prominent foreign university. I have lots to learn and explore in the field of Computer Science. I want to keep learning and improving my knowledge and skills.
MM: What is your final piece of advice to the students intending to pursue foreign research internships?
I would suggest them to stay motivated and work hard. Try to build your profile by doing various projects in the field of your choice. Enroll for online courses offered by Coursera, Edx, Harvard open courses, etc. There are many project-based courses, which will also help to build one's profile. Go through research papers and articles published by various universities in the field and domain of your choice. Read papers published by the faculty members of our college as well. If possible, approach the professors of your department, they will take you in one of their projects, in which you can contribute. There are various universities offering internships at various times of the year. Research about them on the internet and keep track of them. Also, feel free to contact me if you need any help. I will be happy to help you out.
Team MM compliments Aurek Chattopadhyay for his research accomplishments and wishes him the very best for his future endeavours!