This series is an attempt to capture the memorable experiences of students who have spent their summer doing interesting work. It has evolved from our previous series – ‘Internship Stories’ – to accommodate summer stories apart from those on conventional research or industrial internships. Find all the articles of the series here.
In the past three years, students from IIT Kanpur (IIT-K) have been invited for a research internship at University of Melbourne (UniMelb), Australia as part of a collaboration effort between IIT-K and UniMelb. However, for students of our college, this was the first year of participation (as per the MoU between IIT-M and UniMelb, the internship program is expected to continue for at least two more years).
Tejas Kulkarni, a fourth year student pursuing the B. Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering shares his experience of interning a summer abroad at UniMelb.
This summer, I had the opportunity to pursue a 10 week research internship at UniMelb. As part of the application process, I was required to submit my academic transcript, resume, a letter of recommendation from a college professor and a personal statement detailing my research interests and the professor/laboratory I wished to work with at UniMelb. Since I had developed an interest in computational fluid dynamics in my third year and aspired to work in areas involving its application, I inevitably expressed my desire to work in the area of computational combustion.
After waiting eagerly for about a month after submitting my application, I received an email from the International and Alumni Relations (IAR) office informing me of my selection for the internship at the University of Melbourne. I was to work with Dr. Mohsen Talei, in the field of combustion noise. Prior to my arrival in Melbourne on 19th May, I had a couple of Skype calls with my supervisor with sufficient time to catch up with the necessary background material. My work was in the field of computational combustion, which involved developing post-processing tools for visualization of DNS data of sound generation by a turbulent premixed flame. The tools were developed within an open source visualization tool known as ParaView, and were used in identifying acoustic sources in the turbulent flame. My exposure to numerical methods in my Honors project and a course in Computational Fluid Dynamics helped me during my project.
Quite unexpectedly, the period between my selection and my departure for Australia turned out to be the hardest time of my life; I faced all sorts of hurdles ranging from a delay in the visa process due to various reasons (which included a rather ominous earthquake affecting the Delhi High Commission office) to the horror of almost losing my passport on the day of my flight! (This would make for a very amusing story indeed, but I would rather avoid the digression and save it for another time.)
I must give full credit to the Program Co-ordinator at UniMelb for excellent accommodation and lodging facilities arranged for us. I shared a two BHK studio apartment with two fellow interns from IIT-K; we were awestruck with the lavish apartment which was arguably even more comfortable than my home! Apart from a few problems that I faced on account of being a vegetarian, all the arrangements were quite spectacular and meticulously done.
Although staying so far from home wasn’t easy in the beginning, I never felt homesick thanks to my co-interns (even though they did, at times)! Once I was ensconced in my ‘new home’, time just flew by. Though there were no fixed working hours, I would usually go to the Lab daily at around 9:30 AM and work till 5:00 PM (with a 30 min. lunch break at 12:30 PM). As it was Australian winter there, the days were quite short. By the time I would leave my Lab, It would already be sunset. “Icy cold nights” prevented me from doing much at night after work. However, I utilized all my weekends to travel around Melbourne. Melbourne has a widespread network of trams and although it is quite expensive, it is extremely useful if you purchase a daily pass. I visited all the places I could find around the city – zoo, aquarium, museums, beaches, local festivals, what not! I had the opportunity to attend a magic show by Pop Haydn towards the end, and most importantly, I had the good fortune of visiting the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)! Though I did not get a chance to watch a cricket match at this iconic venue, I did have the opportunity to witness an Australian Football game at MCG. I have to admit that Melbourne is a place where I would not have gotten bored even in a year! There are plenty of things to do around the city and it’s quite lively in the weekends. The Great Ocean Road trip was just mesmerizing, and due to its popularity, varieties of cheap tour packages are available. If you ever go to Melbourne, my advice to you would be to not miss the Great Ocean road tour!
This internship was my first experience of working in a research group full time and I found the environment quite lively and friendly. The research group was an incredible mix of students from various parts of the world such as France, Iran, China and even the US. I observed scholars from various ethnicities working harmoniously. This really helped in getting rid of my preconceived notions towards different cultures. I got to know all the researchers in the group closely during a couple of social outings and farewell parties at the end. In addition to this, I got the chance to observe and learn about research culture during my internship through the weekly group meetings. These weekly meetings definitely were an excellent platform for me to get to know about the on-going research of other scholars. I was fortunate that I never faced a problem which is quite common with these short internships; that of the intern rarely getting to interact with the professor with whom he/she is working. Dr. Talei invested his time in me and treated me just like his PhD/MS students.
This internship was a life-changing event for me. Not only did it boost my confidence but also made me think about my future plans of choosing to study further. I developed an interest in combustion and propulsion which I am continuing to pursue by taking a few relevant courses in these areas this semester. The internship has certainly helped me decide about my future; I have decided to pursue higher studies in these fields. I would definitely recommend this program to the juniors because the work culture at UniMelb is awesome.
A word of advice for my juniors who are targeting research internships abroad – apply to all the opportunities that you get because you never know where you might get selected. At the same time, do not spam professors all over the world seeking internships! Don’t give up if you get rejected in a few programs, there are plenty of opportunities out there. It took my close friend two hours to convince me to apply to this program, as I had almost given up after rejections from MITACS, SN Bose and other research internship programs. If he hadn’t talked sense into me, I would have missed out on a wonderful opportunity!