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Varun Sridhar, a 4th year student of Electronics and Communications Engineering at NSIT, shares his experience about his internship at the esteemed Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
You are amongst the very few in college, who have managed to grab such an 'incredible' internship. What is your success mantra?
I don't think there is a success mantra as such. I was pretty sure by second year that I wanted to study further in my field. Once that decision has been made, all one has to do is pick out one's area/field of interest and begin working in it. Good research projects contribute greatly to the resume. And of course, that little bit of luck is necessary.
What was this internship/summer program all about? How did you get to know about it?
The program is one designed specifically for undergraduate students and was aptly called the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. It is supervised by the ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) Department at CMU. The Training and Placement here at NSIT sent out a mail in the beginning of January with a link to this program.
How and when did you apply there?
I applied just before the 31st January deadline. The application required filling up of general information about the applicant, area/field of research interest, college GPA up till the point of application (this I left blank and wrote my percentage in the comments section) and a brief Statement of Purpose.
Were there any qualifying rounds? How did you fare in these rounds?
There were no qualification rounds. I was notified in the beginning of March that I had been selected.
How tough has this program been? Also, how did you manage to fund this internship? Did CMU provide any allowance in expenditure?
The program was a fantastic learning experience. I learnt an enormous amount in the field of computer vision. The work was tough and challenging as can be expected but it was rewarding at the same time. The program was funded by the ECE Dept. at CMU. The money provided was enough to take care of the stay as well as day-to-day expenses.
Did you do any other internship or project? Please throw some light on it.
I haven't interned anywhere else. I have worked on other projects though. In my 4th semester, I started a desk research project under Prof. Harish Parthasarathy on Stochastic Processes and Stochastic Calculus. I worked on this till the end of my 5th semester. At the start of my 6th semester, I started work under Prof. Sanjit Kaul at IIIT-D on network optimization in Wi-Fi/CSMA networks. This project I had temporarily suspended when I went to CMU but I am now continuing it as my B.Tech. Project.
After such a top-notch internship, what is your future goal - top-notch placement, MBA, MS or anything else? And, how are you preparing for it?
I am interested in pursuing an MS in ECE. I don't feel like working right now and so didn't sit for the placement session. I am through with the necessary qualifying exams required for an MS which are the GRE and TOEFL. I am now going to start with my applications to US Universities. Deadlines are usually December 1st onwards.
Briefly describe your experience socially at CMU.
Well, it was summer at CMU so there weren't too many people on campus. But in general, the people there were really nice and friendly. There are events like trips to baseball games and amusements parks that are organized for all the interns so one gets to interact with the others. Overall, it was great fun meeting and interacting with new people.
What advice would you give to your juniors who frantically search for these internships but are unable to grab them?
I would say to them that they shouldn't get disheartened. The rejection should only serve as an extra motivation to work harder and one should never lose sight of his/her goal. Like it has been said innumerable times before: "Good things come to those who wait" and I am sure there is something good out there for all those willing to work for it.
Plus, I just had 3 weeks between 2 attempts. So it was just practicing questions and doing tests