Kunwar Preet Singh

Kunwar Preet Singh
You are at a stage of life which allows for exponential growth, development and a lot of fun. Make the most of this time before it slips away!

Hey There! This is Kunwar Preet Singh,  a Junior Undergrad in Computer Science and Engineering department here at IIT Kanpur.

I interned at the National University of Singapore in my Sophomore Summers (Summer of 22). I will share the complete experience, from the motivation to apply for a research intern in the first place to the fantastic experience of travelling abroad and exploring Singapore in this blog. I hope this blog will be interesting and helpful for readers currently in their second year ;D

I am the kind of person who naturally enjoys solving problems that pose an intellectual challenge to the solver. I always thought research would be a good fit for me as a career, but after entering college and learning about all the possible directions I could pursue, I was left too confused to have any concrete plan for the future. All of these career directions are so interesting that rejecting one for myself without even experiencing it firsthand didn't seem fair. Since getting a good corporate internship or starting up a new company in sophomore summers isn't very easy, I decided it would be nice to experience the field of research firsthand this summer. And add to all of this the excitement of travelling abroad and visiting new countries in the summers!

Application Time!

There are two ways via which one can apply for a research internship. The first is via internship programmes at different universities. The second is via directly contacting a professor whose interests intersect with yours via email. I'll provide a link to a compilation of these university-offered programmes at the end of the blog. Some of these require a LOR for application, so you may want to be a bit active in class discussions or, in case you are interested, pursue a project under a professor so someone knows you personally and can write a good LOR for you. (BTW, I couldn't arrange a good LOR, so it isn't the end of the world for you if you are reading this blog a week before the deadline :P)

Regardless of the way you use to apply (programmes/ direct contact), you would require a good resume for your application. Invest some time in making a good resume, ping some seniors for advice on resume making and get your resume reviewed after you are done making one. Also, having done a project in the domain you are applying to is helpful as it shows your interest in the field. You can keep a look out for projects offered by SNT / Stamatics or contact a professor at IITK working in your area of interest.

UIn general, for sophomore summer internships, professors don't look for any prior research experience or advanced domain knowledge, just your interest in the field. So feel free to apply to a lab if you think you would enjoy working there. For students without any research experience, good grades in the relevant subjects help, so try to maintain a good CPI  if you are starting fresh in a new research domain :P

I applied to some of these programmes. But for the sad part, I didn't get accepted in any of the ones I applied to. (Pro Tip: Do fill up the preference order in the EPFL application even though it is optional. I think it has a good effect on your application. I learnt it the hard way ;-; )

After this, I thought I should try to contact the professors whose work I find the most interesting directly. "csrankings.org" is a convenient site to find the top researchers working in your area of interest. It lists different researchers working in Computer Sciences. You can filter the results based on your domain of interest. I was interested in Blockchains, Cybersecurity and Privacy-preserving applications. I found that work done in the security group at the School of Computing,  NUS, largely intersected with my domain of interest. So I spent a week reading about the group's work and seminal research papers published by the group. After this, I sent an email to the professor leading the group, introducing me, expressing my interest in the group's research and working with him for the summers. I soon got a reply from him that his PhD student would like to take my interview then we could go on from there. I got 2-3 papers to read and present for the interview. I spent the next two weeks (midsem holidays included, lol) reading these in detail. My interview was finally scheduled just the day before one of my midsems. I presented the papers, and I think I did them well. The next day, I got an acceptance email saying they were also interested and would like to work with me. (Yeah, that was soon a Party Hard day then)

An aside, maybe I was a bit lucky that I got a positive reply in the first email. I have heard that sometimes rejections may even hit triple digits, so have patience and do a genuine reading before applying to any group. Don't try to spam anyone's mailbox. Also, I was very late in starting the process. If you are interested, I recommend starting the application process as soon as in October.

Internship Experience

The internship was a fantastic experience. I got to work on what I wanted and was given complete freedom and guidance to do what I wanted to do. I worked in the domain of Privacy in the context of Graph Neural Networks. Experiencing research firsthand was also fantastic. Making and breaking things comes with fun of its own.

I also love travelling and exploring, so making most of this opportunity, I ensured there must be no place I leave unvisited in Singapore.   I also found a few friends from IITB who had also got internships at NUS. From walking along the Marina Bay Sands at 3 AM to making weekend trips to Indonesia, we had a lot of fun. Meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, trying the entire world's cuisine,  architecture, infrastructure and cars that give you the feel of living in a sci-fi movie, everything was mind-blowing and nothing short of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Summing up, It was an experience I wouldn't have wanted to miss for anything in the world, So if there is something you think you will enjoy doing, go shoot for it. There is a whole world calling out for you.

All the Best!

In case of any further doubts about research, application process, or having a casual chat feel free to dm me on Insta/ WhatsApp.

Links for programme's repositories: