Saumya Singh

Saumya Singh

Hey everyone! I am Saumya Singh, a fourth-year undergraduate student from the Aerospace Engineering Department. I hope you are doing well.

So before I jump to the main topic of my research internship, I want to tell you how much I procrastinated. As far as I remember, these guys contacted me in mid-July to write this blog, and I had to give the first draft around mid-August and right now, it is the end of December.

# Part 1: Application

To start with, let me go back to my second year when I belonged to this confused species of people who kept oscillating between Research and Industrial work. At the beginning of my fourth semester, I was determined to get my summers sorted, so I took a project under the AE department and was trying through SIP to secure an internship for the summer. I skipped SURGE since I had recently started a project which I planned to continue in the summers. **I will recommend you to apply for SURGE as it guarantees, to some extent, the completion of your project.**

I had a couple of failed interviews in SIP, but I had the momentum to keep trying. But then COVID happened, and motivation is volatile. Initially, I was enjoying myself at home, and I thought everyone was at their leisure and the situation could not be helped, so I didn’t realize I was wasting my time. When I did realize it, it was already May. I frantically started trying everywhere to secure an internship, but in vain. All I did in four months was a few courses on Coursera and some failed attempts at CP. I felt I was lagging behind, and I wanted to give up. It is difficult to get out of that feeling. **It is okay to not get an internship, don’t lose hope**

It was August already, and after frittering away four months I had only added four Coursera courses in my CV (✷‿✷). I registered for the SPO internship drive. Being from the AE department, what followed next was the “non-dept-biased” shortlisting and a series of failed interviews. I had weak communication skills, and you know how hard I prepared during the summers. I survived because of my friend Shrestha. I used to shoot all my complaints at her. And she always said **Jab lagna hoga tab lag jayegi**.

Due to COVID, a number of research programs were suspended. So I focused on the few options I had. One of them was MITACS. I found the application procedure pretty straightforward—a number of projects to choose from and a mandatory LoR requirement. Other parts of the Application included answering some questions on the MITACS portal. These questions are a key part of your application and should be answered carefully within the specified word limit. Even though I had not done any significant work on my project by then, my Professor was kind enough to provide me with a Letter of Recommendation. For the projects, rather than looking at the project topics, I focused on the skill requirements. I applied in the projects where my profile matched with the required skills and sorted my preference list according to the university ranking (**okay, this is not recommended, always sort according to your interest**). In my case, I was okay with exploring something new. It can be risky, however.

The shortlisting procedure is never disclosed. So don’t blindly believe what previous MITACS interns tell you. Luckily, I got an interview email for my first preference. All the failed SPO interviews did come to help me this time :p. I would say it was more like a conversation than an interview. But the hard part is the long dry wait. For a month or two, you would not get any updates on your application. **Be patient**

#Part 2: Experience

Keeping aside all the hopes of visiting Canada, I started the internship in a virtual setting with a huge time zone difference. The first few weeks were dry with a few literature reviews, since my internship started in mid-May and the MITACS sessions did not start until June. When the sessions did start, they used to be scheduled late at night, even at 3 AM in the morning. Lockdown had already turned me nocturnal, so it was not difficult for me to adjust to a new sleep/work schedule.

My project was based on Soft Robotics, which I was not familiar with. It was fun to learn about a new emerging area of research. The work initially was lab-based but we modified our objectives keeping in mind the virtual format. I interacted with my Professor over zoom calls, once in a week or two, and we exchanged updates over email. I was supposed to get hands-on experience in the lab, but had to console myself with the simulations.

MITACS provides each intern with a mentor as well. Normally, mentors are there to help you adjust when you are in Canada but in a virtual setting… :’). I had a couple of meetings with my mentor and it was fun to have a little chit-chat with her.

Research works are usually slow. I did not reach the expected outcome in 12 weeks and sometimes it did get frustrating but I learned a lot. The best thing about my internship was I am no longer oscillating between research and industrial work. I know I want to pursue a Master’s degree and then I’ll think about the future :p.

#Part 3: Reach out to me

Despite the online nature of things, I had my fair share of learning, interaction and fun in those twelve weeks and I am glad. (Okay maybe less, actually no, travelling and visiting places that MITACS interns normally do :’) )

Feel free to reach out to me if there is anything you want to discuss. Bye and take care.

Edited by: Nitya Aggarwal