Feb 14, 2016|3 minutes
NITR’s very own sports phenomena, the silent and endearing Shaswat Bisi took up an inter-continental venture when he decided to intern at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. Without any surprises, being someone who is known for all his smooth and efficient handling of affairs within the college – he had absolutely no trouble making himself at home there. He spent precious minutes from his busy schedule with Team MM, to tell us about his experiences in a far-away land!
Team MM: What was the procedure you followed to bag this internship?
SB: When I was looking for internships, I did not go through MITACS, because it is meant for students who have only two academic semesters left, and since I am part of a Dual Degree program, I assumed that I was not eligible for it. However, later I found out that there were exceptions to that particular rule; but by then it was too late. I zeroed in on an institute, and then a professor, and then proceeded to choose a project under him that was pertinent to my interest and subject. I approached him directly with my CV and statement of purpose, and managed to bag this interview just in the nick of time, after the mid-semester examinations!
MM: What kind of support did you receive from the institute in the process?
SB: Before this one, I was also working on another internship, for which one of the professors from my department showed a lot of interest and helped me out. He called me for regular follow-ups and helped in the correspondence. Unfortunately the entire procedure did not pull through, and I had to fall back on this internship, instead. However, this would not have been possible without the letters of recommendation that I procured. One of them was from a professor who had taught me two subjects, from my own department and another professor was from the Electrical Department, who had also taken my product development lab.
MM: How did you prepare yourself for this huge opportunity?
SB: The whole process was rather hurried, and I barely had any time for preparation, to be honest. Despite that, once I got to know about the project, I did do some initial reading up, while I was still here. Once I reached there, however, I decided to do something completely different! It took me quite some time to wrap my head around the intricacies of it and much of the learning was on-the-go. The professor who was guiding me was very patient with me for the first two weeks, when I just familiarized myself with the expanse, scope and implications of the project by going through research papers and articles on the same.
MM: What was your first impression of the University you were interning in?
SB: It was an overwhelming experience for me – to intern in the University of Saskatchewan. It’s a small town, but it’s a huge University; with not only well planned and developed facilities, but also state-of-the-art infrastructure. Their methods are certainly far more advanced, as compared to ours – they even had a Pilot Plant, within the institute! The bureaucratic procedure there is transparent, systematic and very student-friendly. Despite being a stranger to the place, it didn’t take me much time to settle in. Once you start the academic processes, you know what comes next and it barely took me any time to fulfill the formal procedure.
MM: What was the exact nature of your work?
SB: I interned under the department of Chemical and Bioscience Engineering for two months. My project primarily comprised of a study on Activated Carbon. Currently, steel plants pay a fortune to release their effluent gases having a high percentage of carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. Monoethyleneamine is the current substance that is used to absorb the carbon dioxide and help reduce emissions. Our study compared its efficiency as an absorbent, to that of activated carbons. Using ASPEN HySys simulations, we compared the economic and environmental background of various activated carbon samples with the prevalent monoethyleneamine. The results clearly showed that activated carbon is a far superior absorbent of carbon dioxide.
MM: How is the work culture there different from the one prevalent, here?
The work culture here is slightly school-like – there are fixed timings and you have to adjust yourself to those. Whereas, in Saskatoon they have no such strictures, and it’s a far more flexible process! You are allotted a certain weekly load of work, which you can finish at your own pace and convenience. Of course, if your work is incomplete, there are serious repercussions but you are given the complete freedom to schedule it according to your preference.”
MM: What was the amount of the stipend you received and what other provisions did the Institute take care of?
SB: They paid me 1700 CAD for the two months that I spent there. My professor made subsequent arrangements for me to stay as a paying guest, under one of his Ph.D. students, so it was more of his prerogative, than the Institute’s!
MM: Describe your overall experience there.
SB: It was an enriching experience. I was on a learning curve, initially and then I had a lot of fun because I got an opportunity to interact with so many different people from different walks of life! The environment and culture there is very adaptable and it makes you feel comfortable. I started playing football at the University and even participated in a tournament during my stay there – that in turn allowed me to get to know another wide array of individuals on and off the field. I did a lot of things for the first time, there and there wasn’t a single moment that seemed tedious, not even the work itself. It was a process of constant discovery – every day started with renewed enthusiasm, it was most certainly exciting, too. All in all, I’d call it a good and fulfilling experience.
MM: What are some of the lasting impressions of your entire trip?
I learned two important things from them, in the course of my internship. The first was that they are absolutely dedicated to their work, and the second is that they balance their work, in spite of having a wide array of engagements in the form of sports, social life, partying and its likes!
How they manage everything, and still remain sincere and efficient is truly appreciable! My work there was made memorable by the professor under whom I was interning. He was amicable, frank and very approachable. In fact, he regularly asked each of us if we were facing any problems in our daily work and took us out for occasional drives and picnics. It’s very hard to see professors forge that kind of a comfortable relationship with students, here and he definitely had a key role in making the entire two months I spent there, worthwhile.
MM: How would you advice other students from NITR to bag similar internship opportunities or prepare for them?
SB: There are three integral parts to applying personally to a professor or institute – CV, letters of recommendation and statement of purpose. Firstly, your CV should be comprehensive and should represent you, strongly; secondly the letters of recommendation that you get should be from noteworthy professors who have a reputation that precedes them and is acknowledged by the university or professor that you are applying to, and finally your statement of purpose should be an honest and well-researched expression of your interest in the project, as well as your keenness to work under the guidance of a particular professor. They only know you by what you write to them – so it is of utmost importance to ensure that your message is conveyed.
MM: What are your future plans?
SB: My internship opportunity not only helped me learn about the applications of a simulation software like ASPEN HySys, but also understand the importance of developing a non-porous material, both of which is relevant to my department – Ceramic Engineering. I intend to continue my summer project on non-porous materials, since I have really found interest in the subject.
MM: What is your message for MM readers?
There is no alternative to working hard; also, you should try and make your CV impressive, so that anybody looking through it has a fair idea about you. Besides, if you really want something and are determined about it – I don’t think anything can get in the way of your success!
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