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‘Howdy’ is the “official greeting” of Texas A&M University, where I interned this summer. They have an official mascot, a dog named Reveille. Dark maroon & white are the official colours of the university. The students have a strong pride for their university and they hate UT Austin (University of Texas at Austin) passionately. These are some novel things about university culture in the United States.
2. Materials and Methods
I can say that I have done hard-core apping. The IITs at Kanpur and Gandhinagar have nice tie-ups for internships with Texas A&M University as well as others, but we have to try by ourselves as IITB’s PT Cell has a shortage of good contacts at universities. I have always been among the PhD-enthu junta. So, I exclusively opted to do a univ intern. It is kind of difficult though, if one does not have a fairly handsome CPI; because for a professor, CPI is one of the major factors to get an idea about the capabilities of an unknown applicant. I had sent about 800 emails to professors at top universities around the world. The process of finding good profs having the same research interests is compelling as you get an idea about the current research scenario in the field. Some of the replies you receive are rather amusing!! (Fig. 2.1, 2.2) My intern was finalised in late March after a long email conversation with the professor. The stipend was enough to cover food, living, VISA and travelling costs; the basic necessities.
The labs there are very hi-tech, as you might guess. The exposure was awesome and the research experience was intellectually stimulating. As it always is in most labs, one can decide one’s own work hours. There is a research group meeting once a week (or less frequently, depending on the size of the research group; we were 5 people). A noteworthy remark: keeping in mind the accuracy of the results as well as safety, the Biochemical Engineering labs there, use many disposable things. About a hundred pipette tips are used and thrown daily in a lab with just 4 people. Nitrile rubber gloves are to be worn once only, and have to be worn always in the lab, so about 10 pairs a day are used by a single person!
My project involved Cholera Toxin (protein)-binding on cell membrane which was mimicked as a lipid bilayer. I was supposed to establish a protocol for coating the lipid bilayer onto silver nanocubes, using a newly bought instrument, doing numerous experiments. After succeeding in this project, I also looked into Amyloid Beta, the peptide involved in Alzheimer’s Disease.
At the end of the internship, I was suggested to make a presentation, for my own sake. It was scrutinized by the whole research group in order to make it the best possible for research presentation competitions that I may take part in, henceforth.
The greatest extra-curricular achievement from my internship was cooking! It’s a real nice experience to be totally self-dependent, right from buying groceries and trying out new recipes (of even silly-looking things) to deciding what to cook! Trying out dishes ranging from Khichdi and Upma to Thepla and Sabji was pretty cool. I now am a self-proclaimed Master Chef when it comes to pulao!
Being a vegetarian, options for eating out are a lot fewer. But, being a Gujju with a sweet tooth, I enjoyed the delicious desserts: donuts and cheesecakes, crème brûlée and caramel apple empanada. I sure I am gonna miss having buckets of ice cream at home; at least for the next one year.
Texas A&M University is located in College Station, a university-town which is a 2 hour-drive from Houston airport. With almost all UGs gone for the summer, the city seemed a bit deserted and boring, but people say that helps focus on the work at hand. The city goes to sleep2 at like 7 PM, a punter3 such as myself might say.
The cities worth visiting in the state of Texas are San Antonio and Austin. San Antonio has 2 amusement parks with crazy rides as well as the River Walk (well-groomed streets on an artificial river). Austin, the state capital of Texas appealed more though, being the Live Music Capital of the world! On 6th street, one of the major roads of Austin, there’s a mile-long patch where both sides of the road have pubs lined up. And in every pub, there is live music! We were fortunate because, on the day we visited Austin, there was a bike rally, which might have consisted of every kind of motorcycle that runs on earth. There was also a free concert on a crossroad, near 6th street. With live music and well-dressed people( :P), roaming around in the pubs, every Friday is far #BetterThanMoodI in Austin.
I also had the chance to enjoy the famous 4th of July fireworks along with concerts at the George H. W. Bush Memorial, College Station.
Besides all the big time fun, small stuff like hunting and then managing an apartment, learning the laws of a different country, interacting with people from around the world (Taiwanese Prof, American PhD students in the lab; I even got rides from a Malaysian and a Zambian) were some other things that I got to learn. I should emphasise that it certainly is the best idea to do an intern at a university and get yourself acquainted with the life and culture in that country, if you’re looking to do a PhD abroad, not to mention the foreign intern perks!
1. Mafia. Also, Citi never sleeps. Never.
2. Pun, Hunter et al., Always
3. Name, Authors, Publication year
4. (If you still need it) I’ve written this article as a research paper.