Ohio State University – Raunaq Bhirangi

499 Views, Posted on: July 7, 2017

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About the Programme

The RIYA (Research Internship for Young Academics – yes, fancy name :P) programme at The Ohio State University is an initiative by Prof. Rajendra Singh, my advisor. It is funded by his Family Fund, and in my opinion is slightly unique among University internships. The reason I say this is because there is no tangible goal to begin with, and his primary motive is to expose undergraduate students from the IITs, to the ways of research. So, a lot of emphasis is placed on your approach and methodology in tackling a problem, rather than actually solving it. The programme started off with projects in the area of Acoustics and Dynamics, but starting this year, he has also included professors from domains like Biomechanics and Biotechnology. It is however, restricted to the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at OSU, as of now.

Before the Internship

Well, the third year always starts off with a lot of excitement and anxiety surrounding summer internships. As much as I like to claim otherwise, I had second, third, fiftieth thoughts about not signing up for the Day 1 internships. I did make it through though, and managed to remain fairly conservative about the JAFs I signed. By the end of first semester, I had signed a grand total of 5 JAFs, including Ohio State. Applying to Professors from American and European universities hadn’t really led anywhere, primarily due to my lack of effort. I did have the option of writing to my previous year’s advisor from Purdue University (The only way I managed to keep myself from signing more JAFs), but there was still a fair bit of anxiety going into the second semester.

The shortlist came out towards the end of December, and unless those were the only people that applied, it looked like CPI was a major criterion. Out of the 4 people on the shortlist, 2 accepted other offers. The selection procedure was then fairly straightforward for the two of us. There was a telephonic interview (more of an informal talk) with Dr. Singh, where he asked me about my interests and other general things (He offered to drive me to my uncle’s place in New Jersey, because that’s where his son stays!). Our selection was confirmed 3-4 weeks into January.

The Internship

My first week was ‘chill’ in terms of work, since both the Professor and my Postdoc mentor (Luke Fredette) were away for that week. I spent most of it getting done with all the arrival formalities and reading a paper I was asked to read. Come the second week, it really picked up pace, with Luke guiding and monitoring my work, and weekly review meetings scheduled with Dr. Singh. I did not start off with an explicit problem statement; the definition evolved with time. The project is focussed on the High frequency dynamics of rubber vibration isolators. Vibration isolators are devices used to isolate a device or equipment from a source of vibrations, but they’re not something everyone would want to read about, so PM me for details.

The working environment in my lab has been great. Working hours are flexible, you can come and go whenever you want to, if you want to. My work is basically an extension of Luke’s Ph.D problem and he’s very actively involved in guiding me. One of the best things for me is that both Luke and Dr. Singh are always very concerned about my takeaways from the internship. They’re often willing to compromise on the overall progress of the project, and focus instead on giving me a better learning experience.

The internship is fairly structured, with one presentation at the halfway stage and another towards the end. The first one taught me a lot about presenting my work in general, with both my mentors actively involved in helping me with my presentation for the entire week leading up to it. Dr. Singh has also been organising regular events like tours to research facilities in and around OSU, and sessions with tech entrepreneurs.

As I enter the final weeks of my internship, we’ve got down to performing experiments to validate the analytical work I’ve done so far. This is exactly the way I’d hoped it would be, and exactly what I’d mentioned to Dr. Singh in our telephonic conversation during the selection process. The progress has been surprisingly smooth; we’ve had hurdles along the way, but nothing that held us up for too long.

The United States and Columbus

Two months in a foreign country, living on your own, teaches you a lot. The US is a very heterogeneous community and interacting with people from different cultures across the world is a very enriching experience. Though I’m not particularly good at socialising, I strongly encourage interacting with as many non-Indians as possible. My most noteworthy achievement, however, was learning to order Mexican food (Tejas, Keni – I’ve kinda started liking Mexican food :P).

Columbus, on the whole, is a nice place to stay in. It isn’t in an awesome, expensive location like Berkeley, but at the same time, it isn’t in the middle of nowhere like Purdue. An insti senior, Rachit Aggarwal picked me up from the airport, the day I arrived in Columbus. He’s extremely helpful, and he’s just starting off with his Ph.D, so if you end up coming to Ohio State in the next 4-5 years, you’re going to have no settling troubles whatsoever.

There’s a fair bit to do in and around Columbus – Columbus Zoo is a nice experience, with animals from around the world, though some of their constricted habitats can be a little unsettling. There are quite a few parks in the city, sparsely populated and some adjoining the river, which make for a great evening walk.

I spent my first week in the US at my uncle’s place in New Jersey. I got to visit New York City for a day, which I spent walking through the streets of Lower Manhattan and taking in the vibe of the place (my American friend wasn’t particularly interested in doing “touristy” things, but it was good fun :P). It was a pleasant experience; we had the “BEST PIZZA IN NYC” (they all claim to be the best) and got some free hummus because it was National Hummus Day. DO NOT drive to NYC– we spent three hours looking for a parking spot, and the rush hour traffic is basically a scaled up Mumbai.

There was also a long weekend going around Chicago with some Insti junta. The deep dish pizza in Chicago is a must-eat. We ate at Giordano’s, but Lou Milnati’s is supposed to be just as good. There are a lot of places to visit in Chicago and I’d recommend taking out at least three days if you decide to visit.

Conclusion

All in all, Ohio State has been a very fulfilling internship experience. It exceeded all my expectations and I would definitely recommend applying for the RIYA programme to anyone who wants to get a good flavour of research in Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Singh is an Emeritus Professor here at OSU, and has a wealth of experience in both industry and academia. He personally invests a lot of time and energy into the programme, always making sure we get the best dose of exposure.

 


Darkest Dark Chocolate, Downtown Columbus


American Monkey at Columbus Zoo


Giordano’s, Chicago

Well, she tried teaching me how to pout

 

National Airforce Museum, Dayton

 

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