Archith “Superman” Mohan is a fourth year B.Tech student of the Electrical Engineering Department.
In the words of Rebecca Bourque, Director of Strategic Accounts and Business Development, though MITACS stands for Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems, they shifted from those areas of focus long ago. Now, they have “bag loads of money” and fund anything and everything that is worthwhile. And they think it is worthwhile to fund students from India, China, Brazil and Mexico to do a summer internship at a reputed Canadian university.
The good thing about the application process is that you don’t have to go Prof-hunting. The MITACS Globalink program offers a few hundred projects that any pre-final year student can apply for. A portal is opened up where you can select up to seven projects and justify why you are qualified for them through your resume and a statement of purpose. The selection process hinges on your CGPA (as always), but you can make up for that with a good statement of purpose. From what I hear, MITACS employs post-doctorate fellows to read through the applications, select whom they want and assign projects. So I suppose saying stuff like, I want to do a PhD and join their ranks helps. No, really!
My project was on business case development for track worker safety in rail transportation. My guide, Professor Fred Lazar was at the Schulich School of Business, York, Toronto but I had to travel between Toronto, Hamilton and Mississauga to work on my project. Since I was to spend the majority of my time in Hamilton, I was put up at the McMaster University. There was insufficient data to apply an existing risk-assessment framework so we had to create one of our own. Then it was all about breaking the system down, thinking up failure scenarios, running simulations, assigning probabilities and costs of failure and then coming up with a risk figure. What I learnt out of it? Basically, everything to do with risk assessment. That’s another cool thing about MITACS, you get to do projects that you would not normally get a shot at because of your background.
You are given a sum of 1500 CAD towards flight reimbursements, 200 CAD a week as your stipend, a travel allowance of 100 CAD every month and free accommodation. Given that you spend about a 1000 CAD on food while you are here, that leaves you with more than enough to go knock yourself out. The accommodation is a suite style four room residence and is a delight.
The MITACS initiative is part of the Canadian government’s plan to attract grad students and the internship opens up the opportunity to apply for funding for a graduate program in a Canadian university. Canada is in the shadow of the States, most certainly, but um … well it has stricter gun laws, the economy is in a much better shape and it’s culturally more comfortable. This is a land of immigrants and there are plenty of Indians around and consequently Indian restaurants and stores where you can pick up groceries and the like that are decidedly Indian.
The place is beautiful and there are plenty of long weekends where you can escape into the wilderness or into the city (Toronto, in my case). Among others, we got drenched at Niagara, dried off on the sixteen roller coasters at Canada Wonderland, took in the sights and sounds of Toronto, tortured the patrons of Karaoke bars in Hamilton, fought for our lives on the rapids and enjoyed some salmon with the bears at Elora Gorge.
Oh yeah, and one thing that I feel never gets stressed enough. A pair of shades and some really good sunscreen is a must!