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Sanket Doshi is a 2nd year Undergraduate pursuing a B.Tech in Engineering Physics.
Getting Started :
After trying ITSP and a non-core intern in the freshmen summers, a reading project in the sophomore winters and some interesting courses during the fourth semester, I was pretty much convinced that I wanted to explore the research aspect of Physics, more than anything else. So, I started off in a very conventional way : searching for and sending emails to professors who research in the area that interests you. Since I wanted the project to help me make an informed decision regarding the core / non-core dilemma, I kept my search of professors restricted to only the topics I was particularly fascinated by Astrophysics, Cosmology and Particle Physics, and I knew research in the subjects I love was my best bet rather than trying out something new.
About the Selection :
A lot of people apply for SURP, especially a lot of freshies : either to explore research, stay in campus or just because everyone else seems to be doing something productive. Nonetheless, the selection process for SURP, to my knowledge, is pretty comprehensive. We were asked to submit our preferences regarding the projects on the SURP portal, followed by the SOP for each project, which were later filtered by the Academic Council and a few of us were finally set up for a personal meeting/interview with the professors. On the other hand, applications in research institutes have their own different procedures. My selection for the project in TIFR, however, was solely handled by the professor I wished to work under; I just had to convey my interest in the subject and complete some assigned reading work.
How I ended up doing both the projects at the same time is a silly story. Let’s just say that I did not intend to take up both the projects, well, initially.
The pre-project preparations comprised reading about theory related to the project topics : some chapters from a couple of books and a bunch of research articles, and learning a couple of programming tools for data analysis. This indeed helped getting a flavour of the things to come.
One real good thing : the places I had to work in, were both located in Mumbai and the projects were ‘work from home’ (with occasional meet-ups with the professors and co-learners). Mumbai being my hometown, food and accommodation never posed problems. Travelling during peak hours, however, is always a mess in Mumbai.
A Beautiful Campus:
Before I begin jabbering about my work experience through the projects, I’d like to share some things about TIFR, which, according to me, were really awesome. It definitely is one of those royal looking institutes and makes you want to be a part of the research community here. Located on the very edge of Mumbai, it has a beautiful sea facing view. From elegant interiors and art pieces hanging on the walls to calm researchers with their rooms filled of books and papers. As nerdy as it might sound, TIFR is a great place which naturally appeals to Science enthusiasts.
My project in SURP is (not yet completed though) majorly based on modelling of Heavy Ion Collisions through a data analysis framework – ROOT. On the other hand, the one in TIFR was focussed on collection and interpretation of photometric data from Supernovae.
Although I am not a big coding enthusiast, the projects were fun. Making hypotheses, collecting and analysing data and interpreting the result, this is a major chunk of the research routine and it was very exciting to be a part of it! And of course, when you have great co-learners, the process becomes smoother.
In the SURP project, we worked on a new model for particle multiplicity distribution, as proposed by the professor. We used the data from BNL( Brookhaven National Laboratory) to fit the hypothesised model and check if the answer matched to what has been experimentally obtained. But as of now, it’s still under progress.
In the project from TIFR, however, we had to perform a study of SNIa from Spiral and Elliptical galaxies from catalogs available online. We were supposed to interpolate for the inflection points of the light curves and see the pattern for the Colour Stretch versus the Colour Index , thereby checking for variations according to host galaxy morphology or anomaly if any.
A Summer Well Spent :
These two months gave me an incredible opportunity of exploring science and to interact with other people interested in similar areas of Physics. I also believe that the experience will help me make an informed decision regarding my academic choices ahead. For someone who wants to explore the field of research, I’d surely recommend taking up a project like SURP or in one of the plenty other good research institutes across the country, one of them, as in my case, being TIFR.
With medium workload and supportive guides in both projects, I was able to take out some time for my non-academic interests as well : Learn and play Chess, travelling and spending time with friends. All in all, it was a summer well spent!