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Charvi Rastogi is a 4th year Undergraduate student pursuing Dual Degre in Electrical Engineering.
Here I am, at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere on my way to Syracuse writing about my internship which is almost at an end. I’d be lying if I told you I can’t wait to be back home. These have been comfortably paced (almost) 9 weeks with plenty of learning, within the confined spaces of the lab and without.
The where, how and when –
Getting right to it, first things first. Where am I interning? Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY. How did I land this internship?
At the beginning of the third year, there hung the dangling sword that apping is. For the uninitiated, apping is the term used for the anxiety inducing, nerve wracking, utterly exasperating and completely unexaggerated process of sending mails to professors in remote corners of the world, politely asking them to take you on as a part of their research group for the summers and fervently praying to all your gods for a reply. My suggestion – Do your homework, don’t spam. I started with the drudgery around October which is deemed a good time to begin by general consensus. A noteworthy occurrence that is now an inconsequential detail- a prof whose work was well aligned with my interests had offered to host me with much enthusiasm only to give me the ‘easy let down’ in the fag end of January, which really put me off the whole process, yet again, because well I didn’t bother with apping after October whiling away with a false sense of security (the prof sounded sincerely enthusiastic, I swear).
Moving on, having a specific area in mind for research related work I hadn’t signed any JAFs, leave one or two maybe. Since there weren’t any internships coming in through PT cell for me, which might turn out to be the case for some of you, I resumed sending out more mails. This mainly involves narrowing down the field(s) you want to be working in, signal processing for me, searching for professors in said field and keeping an eye out for those who have taken interns previously and, most importantly, drafting a decent cover letter. In my case, talking to seniors helped. A hearty shout out to Sagun Pai! He suggested I mail this particular prof since he has hired summer interns before and heads the center for advanced systems and engineering (CASE) over at Syracuse and also has a sensor fusion research group which is actually much more diverse than just that- with people working on game theoretic crowdsourcing, compressive sensing and deep learning. I digress. Long story short, I mailed him, turned out one of his PhDs had been working on sampling problems, an area I had worked in last summer. Soon, we had a Skype call discussing my second year summer project, their current project, they gave me some papers to read and closed the deal a week later over mail. To say the least, I was relieved. But wait, not quite, remember the prof before this one? I wasn’t falling for their antics again. Another week of torturous silence on both sides, till I heard from the admin of the EECS department. Okay, now I believe you.
The ensuing paperwork for the visa (we are near mid Feb now) was *almost* hassle free for me since I started early enough. No thanks to Amreeka for making things easy. If you want to read about real visa troubles, head to Harshit’s post.
(The replacement bus is here, so now I won’t die a little ways from fake Amsterdam in the middle of nowhere, yay! Sorry, explanation – my bus enroute to syracuse broke down which is what prompted this writing spree. Picture to prove I am not lying – )
Cut to the internship –
The first two weeks were focused on surveying the literature, catching myself up to speed and understanding the code he had been using. The work in this area (performance of different sampling techniques for surrogate modelling) is quite underdeveloped theoretically and most studies are mainly heuristic. This presented me with an open ended problem statement and an upcoming overdose of trial-and-error runs. Before I forget, this project is not CASE’s baby, but a data science institute’s (Lawrence Livermore, California). So apart from the weekly meetings with my host professor, I have (bi)weekly meetings with the researcher from over there and my PhD guide to chart out the pathway for further work.
Moving on to the numbers. The timings are of my own fancy, I can be lazy on Monday mornings and on the rest of them if the weather’s too nice to get out of bed, or maybe just enough to reach the porch. So, no numbers, ha! Syracuse is essentially a small university town so it gets dead quiet around here in the summers since school’s out (not the general lowed humdrum that we all know USA is, even worse). I had to go all the way to NYC just to hear some bustle. (Which is *not* where I mean I am staying when I say ‘New York’, for the hundredth time). Upstate New York is wondrous and charming if you like being outdoors, with lakes scattered around the region and the Adirondack mountains to the east. The countryside is a dream and being the sucker for Kerouac that I am, ten hour bus rides are actually a day well spent.
Summers in Syracuse mean no undergrads, and undergrad interns here are a rarity (I’m the only one that I know of) which limits the possibilities of social circles. Looking up the right Facebook groups helps, which is how I happened to hike up to the highest point in the state of New York. Fun times. Although, my thighs have a whole different story to tell. Getting around even a small city on your own can be difficult, so getting a bike is the smart move, plus it’s helpful to tell yourself when you are gorging on the huge portions that they have here loaded with butter and cheese, “I bike everyday, okay!” Let’s talk a little more about the outdoors here, cuz you know what I really am bowled over. No overstatement. The skies are blue and endless in their expanse, the forests vivid green and untouched. I can totally understand Thoreau’s love for New Hampshire now. In cities, they have parks, SO MANY parks. The culture is carefree and laidback, it’s a delight to watch the magnificent display of life that parks are here.
Central park <3
You aren’t supposed to work on weekends, since this is your only focus throughout the week (other than Internet lukkha till your eyes have a glazed look) which is enough. Word of caution to those with weak hearts and easily induced anxiety and/or questionable views on meaning of life- DO NOT download Instagram in the summers if you’re bored. That’s NOT going to help you if you want to stay in bed and read/whatever while everyone else appears to be having the experience of a lifetime. Although, here’s the cheat, you can take your books outside too. 😛
Cue ad- *cheap (relatively, of course) travel and stay in Amreeka brought to you by Airbnb and greyhound.* Being not too far from Buffalo, Niagara, NYC and Boston, I could explore quite a bit and could attend multiple pride parades (everyone was so cheery and the city, more wonderful with all the colours!) and the fireworks over at Boston (one word – amazeballs) among other things. *lenny face*
Only good vibes.
This has already gone on too long and the bus ride is almost at an end (like my stay here :/) There’s so much more to document but I suppose I shouldn’t subject the readers of Insight to more unskilled photographing. Anyhoo. Takeaways- get apping soon if you know what you want and it’s research oriented, don’t rely on PT cell (if that’s what the trend suggests for your subject), talk to your seniors, and don’t feel too guilty about not caring to save (note to self). If you are not into research and still take up a univ intern, it’s a great traveling opportunity like we all know, if you take up a univ intern AND you are even slightly serious about research as a possible future for yourself it’s still that but even better you get to get your hands dirty (figuratively) and be a part of real research with the possibilities boggling your mind and a great sense of satisfaction (that’s what they told me, don’t look at me)