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Sanket Kadulkar is a 3rd year undergraduate pursuing a B.Tech in Chemical Engineering
Don’t step on the “M” else you will flunk a course is the myth here at University of Michigan. “Go Blue” is their greeting phrase. You can see countless posters with the scores against their arch-rival, the Ohio State University, depicting their pride and madness for college sports. I am halfway through my intern along with 3 other students from IIT Bombay. University of Michigan was the first university to offer interns through Placement Cell in this year’s internship season
Prof. Fogler, an esteemed personality in the field of Reaction Engineering under whose guidance we work has been offering internships to students of Chemical Engineering for the past 5-6 years. The selection procedure is quite straightforward. He prefers the top DRs of the batch. So if you are among the top 2 students amongst the ones who have applied, statistics reveal that your selection is inevitable. The selection of a third student is not sure though. The IAF opens by last week of July and final selections can be expected by midsem. The bottomline of the selection procedure is that your DR/CPI alone in your resume would serve the purpose.
The visa procedure though could take you long. The to do list for a US Visa is exhausting and time consuming. Most of the students visiting US get their Visa Appointment during the endsems. So, sooner the better.
Needless to mention that the research facilities here are stupendous. The labs are pretty lavish and hi-tech. The solicitude for safety in labs is noteworthy. One is required to pass two courses on lab safety prior to entering any lab. Though the university is established in many aspects, the internship programme for undergraduates is not very organized. The key facet in such universities is you get to interact with your research group and become conscious of their approach to their assignments and work. One thing I personally perceived is getting work done is important irrespective of your work time. It is immaterial whether you work for 4 hours or 12 hours a day as long as you complete your work. This stance of students here is reflected in their overall progress.
Internship with Prof. Fogler in a nutshell comprises of two types of work. One associated with Prof. Fogler and the other with the PhD students in his research group. My chunk of work this year with Prof. Fogler involves revamping modules with real life applications of Reaction Engineering and making a small video for one of the models as compared to the proof reading of Prof. Fogler’s book as done by the previous interns. His work can vary in terms of difficulty and effort right from reviewing simple concepts in CRE to literature search for methodology of an experiment. The work with Prof. Fogler might not be organised and could be on different lines throughout your intern.
The second part of the internship is the research work on a specific project. Your job on this project is mostly lab work but the PhD guides can allot computational or modelling jobs as per your interests, if any. It is indeed a great learning lesson in the labs where you appreciate their precision and sophistication. You are out of your 8 hour work day closet on certain days and may clock 12 hours in lab almost standing all day long. My research work involves modelling the effect of flow rate on asphaltenes deposition rate considering shear ablation in MATLAB. In the second half of the internship, I would be conducting experiments for the same. PhD guides here are very helpful and you get to learn a lot from them.
The take away message from the first experience of self cooking is appreciating the fact that cooking a meal two times a day is not a petty thing. I wonder how our moms manage this! With four vegetarians in our apartment, the best option was resorting to cooking at home. The food scenario is decent for vegetarians and this place is a real feast for non vegetarians, which was not surprising. There are about six Indian restaurants in the campus. You have easy access to Indian grocery as well. We also tried Mexican dishes here and one cannot miss out on the Chicago Deep-dish pizza. It’s just awesome!
Touring on weekends are the perks of any foreign internship. The location of the university is away from prime cities as it goes with most big universities. Big cities and tourist attractions nearby are Chicago, New York City, Detroit, Cleveland and the Niagara Falls. Your city count might be less than that if you would have been in Europe but every downtown is unique in its own way as is the peculiarity of this country with 50 states. You can also catch up on a baseball or soccer game in nearby cities or have a shot at skydiving, camping, trekking, river kayaking or hiking nearby.
“How are you doing today?” is the way everyone greets you, may it be in your office or the retail store you visit. Though the city is free from the hustle and bustle, the campus is pretty lively. The university is not only rich and varied in research but also in sports and extra-curricular activities. The sports scenario is well established here and fitness is an integral part of their life. Students from many countries study here and interacting with multi-ethnic groups influences your approach in many ways. You witness globalization in the real sense. You would be surprised to know that we play cricket almost daily with the Indian diaspora in the university. People in general are very helpful and rational in every sense. Nightlife scenes in the campus are awesome and there are many pubs and clubs lined up in the prime area of campus. Concerts are arranged frequently in the campus or in the universities nearby. We were lucky to have made it to Ellie Goulding’s concert in one of the universities nearby.
Finally as I conclude my blog, I would like to highlight the positives of a foreign internship. Apart from the academic work, you get acquainted with the rules, culture and lifestyle of a different country. The overall experience is enriching in terms of academics, personality and most importantly your approach to a particular situation in life. A foreign internship is a must for PhD enthusiasts as it offers an idea of what is lined up for the next five years and that was what this internship did for me. You would have no regrets if you make the most of this opportunity.