MPI CB – Nirbhay Patil

575 Views, Posted on: July 5, 2017

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There’s only 3 weeks left in my internship, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. If I was asked this question back when I was in Mumbai, I would say that I would hate to have to come back. But right now I really want to. I miss Mumbai more than I thought I would, which makes me damn confused and conflicted against my earlier world view. But hey, let’s talk about the intern before I start ranting about my love for our city. (Seriously, really hard to not start on about it)

How I landed the opportunity

So this was a rather fortunate happenstance for third year me, but a very unfortunate one for second year me. I had been apping really sincerely throughout my second year (which I believe I did very nicely, if anyone needs help with that I’m open to questions) and one of the profs I wrote to informed me that his institute had an official program for internships and that I could apply to it. I gladly did so, and sat around waiting for the result to come. Come May 2016, I gave up waiting and took up a project on campus. Halfway through the summers I got a mail from the institute which said I had been accepted, and could come for a 10 week period starting in August. Now not like we have any commitments from August to November, but I thought it’d be better to maybe go to classes and the sort, so I negotiated going at the end of my Third year, and here I am.

Brief history of time (at the MPI)

My first day at the MPI started at a symposium of post doctoral candidates presenting their works and project ideas, which was a great way to warm into the huge inter disciplinary field that Biology, Physics, and Computer science create here. Soon followed the very first group meeting that I was a part of, the main objective of which (very flatteringly) was me (*cough* or to find me a project maybe but let’s keep it like that). Everyone pitched in their ideas and I told them mine, and I was given the liberty to choose multiple projects and work on whatever I feel like and see if it goes somewhere.

I am still working on two projects. For those interested in the technicalities, the first one is deriving the equations (and solving them, if possible) for Active Polar Gels under different boundary conditions and assumptions. The second project involves doing a linear stability analysis of different modes of a Non-Euclidean surface containing a fluid acted upon by external and internal forces, for which I have also been using Mathematica.

The institute has regular seminars in a wide variety of topics, which is great for people like me to familiarise with the biology background here (That stupid look on your face when you can’t understand anything sometimes looks like you’re concentrating really hard, same as when you’re zoned out, both of which bore well for me). There is a talk by an external speaker every Thursday and students presenting their work every Friday, the latter of which is followed by “beer hour”. Don’t be fooled by the name though, it can hardly be called beer hour – they’ve got wine, champagne, and lots of food and juices too. Socialising with drunk profs is a great way to end the week.

Living and acco scenes

While still in Mumbai I came across a Facebook group for Internationals in Dresden, where I found accommodation immediately. I had a video chat with my lovely to-be-flatmates, and got here, to what was clearly not a flat but a bungalow with a garden of its own. All was perfect and I started imagining a house by the Elbe in Dresden, with my very own garden and maybe a few cats. Disaster struck pretty soon, however. In the second week of my stay here, I fell in the bathtub and apparently broke it. The landlord went crazy, and while I was at the MPI I got a text saying it might cost as much as a thousand Euros to repair it. At this point my chest started hurting and it’s a mystery whether it was caused by the fall or by the news, though the bathtub is to blame for both. I consulted the people at the institute who told me to check my insurance coverage, and voila! It actually did cover falling in bathtubs due and angry landlords! (Rather specific of them if you ask me but hey, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, not when your insurance claims are still under process, lest the horse bite off your beautiful nose)

Short story long, I ended up having to pay almost 700 Euros out of my first paycheck(which I never got really, stupid misnomer. They just send the money to the bank :-/ ) It’s been 7 weeks since then, 7 weeks since I started missing not falling in bathtubs back in India ‘cause we never had any. Good old days. Sadly this incident shaped a lot of my interaction with my flatmates, the landlord, and my perception of life here itself. Pro tip: Don’t fall in bathtubs however enticing it sounds.


Update: I went to the flea market today and had my bike stolen. Life here is an adventure that I’m not too happy with right now for some reason.

Silver linings: traveling

Living two hours from the beautiful city of Prague (every building is picturesque), three hours from Berlin (The parties go on till noon, at least), and 9 hours from Budapest (you’re never too far to go to Budapest) I had a lot of stuff to do on the weekends. The only reason I’m finally writing this is because this is the first time I’m home on a weekend, and it’s as dull as I’d imagined it would be, albeit a good rest and change of pace.

Now traveling on an intern might come across as very insincere, but the travel has taught me more than my work did (Well that does come across as insincere doesn’t it). Living at the hostels in Prague and Budapest was a great experience (ask for suggestions, guaranteed discounts if you mention me), where I tried battling my social ineptitude by forcing myself to make conversations, which started off with weather talk but ended with insights into different careers, other parts of the world, and all sorts of people. There’s always more to relate than differentiate. And a little wine never hurts.


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