“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” – Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption.
Well, I guess this summarizes my philosophy in approaching this internship.
I had an interesting summer last year at NYU Tandon School of Engineering which exposed me to the wonderful ocean of opportunities called 5G. However, I wanted more. I took the decision of staying back at IIT Kanpur for another year as a Dual Degree student and started working with Prof Rohit Budhiraja, who currently is my thesis supervisor. I also decided to give another shot at a research internship abroad. As it turned out, I got selected for the 2019 cohort of the SN Bose Scholars’ Program and took this opportunity to secure an internship offer from Prof. Xinyu Zhang, University of California, San Diego. I was already acquainted with the visa procedures and with all that done, I safely landed in the US on 11th May. I lived with Srinath Muralidharan, a Khorana scholar from IITM also interning at UCSD, in a shared apartment with a UCSD undergrad located in La Jolla neighbourhood. I ended up undertaking two mini-projects with Prof. Xinyu, details of which are probably not required in this space.
Throughout my internship, I was working with Tejas Sadarahalli, a Masters student at UCSD. We were helped and motivated by Renjie Zhao, a first year PhD student in his lab. As someone who had no exposure in working on actual hardware before, the experience was very enriching, transforming and I ended up learning a lot, thanks to Renjie’s patient guidance. We also collaborated extensively with Prof. SujitDey’s lab, and I must make a special mention of Mr. Sabur Hassan Baidya, a PhD student at UC Irvine and prospective postdoctoral fellow at UCSD, for his drive in getting the work done. Besides this, the group meetings and talks and conferences I attended during my short visit shall all be firmly imprinted in my mind. UCSD felt very much at home courtesy Prof Dinesh Bharadia, who happens to be an IITK alumnus, and his group, comprising seniors from the IIT ecosystem. Prof Dinesh and Prof Xinyu are a part of the same integrated group, and I had the fortune of being a part of many informal gatherings, most notably
a lab graduating lunch by the poolside! While I did have some exposure to research already, my experience this summer taught me the values of patience and systematic approach. Being unfamiliar with systems work, I often made silly errors in the setup and every day during my internship, I learnt loads about how to debug errors, both software and hardware, and how to ensure foolproof design by treating each part separately. However, in the process, I started soul-searching and thinking about what should be my next step. As of now, I have decided to have a short stint in industry before a possible switch to a PhD programme. One problem which I have faced both my summers as an intern in the US is that the schedule is always tight for faculty and often they do take their well-deserved vacations in this period itself. Hence, it is wise not to have too high expectations of output in the short duration of an internship, in my opinion. Sometimes, it might be possible to continue the work remotely, which can lead to a fruitful outcome (a publication or patent).
Besides lab work, I honed my cooking skills this internship and how! Most of my days ended in me looking up some or the other recipe on YouTube and getting to work in the kitchen. After my return to India, I even cooked a dish and offered it to my grandma, and she loved it! Cooking is an essential survival skill in the US and definitely has nothing to do with one’s gender! With the limited stipend amount, I also learnt to manage my expenses so that I stay within limits and don’t break the bank. San Diego is aptly described as ‘America’s Finest City’. Every nook and corner of the city is breathtakingly beautiful, with its wonderful California beaches and absolutely lovely weather all year round. Many mornings and evenings I would simply take a casual stroll and drool at the lovely buildings all around, hoping to save enough to buy myself a home some day. There are quite a few places to visit in and around San Diego. However, a severe handicap to this was that I didn’t know how to drive. Hence places far-flung were out of bounds. Still, in the brief duration that I was there, I managed to visit Tijuana (Mexico), Los Angeles and must-visit San Diego spots such as Cabrillo National Monument, Balboa Park, Gaslamp Quarter, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and the Secret Swings! All in all, 9 weeks flew by faster than I could imagine. With many lessons learnt and many memories to cherish, I left for home on 12th July.