Johns Hopkins University- Ashutosh Kumar

Being a small but yet, the largest city of State Maryland, Baltimore proudly claims itself to be the greatest city in America (as is pretty evident from the graffiti on the bench). Should you walk around the city you will find yourself surrounded by the brick-stoned anatomy of the place and likewise the JHU Campus, red bricks piled one over one other with white lining and marble engraved scripts adding a touch of gold to the entire realm


Prof. KT Ramesh of the Hopkins Extreme Material Institute Lab, Johns Hopkins University had approached the PT Cell sometime around mid-October. It was like a miracle when I saw JHU on the portal. It was a well-known university, especially for its medical domain and being particularly inclined towards Bio-sciences, this was a golden opportunity for me. Though the work was on the brink of mechanics, material science and data analysis, Prof. Ramesh had also partly researched in the field of Biomechanics; thence I had way enough motivation to apply. After the shortlisting process, we had to submit a Statement of Purpose, following which, the interview was supposedly going to be the final scrutiny. But to our surprise, on the day of our interview, we were further asked to make a small presentation on ourselves. The interview, though, was a pleasant one, more on our interests and hobbies, followed by some straightforward questions to gauge our technical aspects.

Pre intern

Following the ecstasy of selection, the visa process was a bother in a league of its own! After a seemingly infinite wait for the offer letter and the DS2019 form from the University’s side, I finally reached the visa application and interview part of the process  (From a first-hand experience, honestly, this is the worst part, US visa processing being a long tedious job and if at all you get stuck on hold because some kind of luck leads you to just the wrong kind of interviewer, you have to go through the long administrative processing which may take up to 6 weeks or more and it is like casting a dark cloud on your  intern). Nevertheless, forgive my rant, but I did finally get my visa and thereafter, thankfully, it was a smooth journey The accommodation was no fuss at all, there were many Facebook groups for the same. To put things into perspective here, note that the university accommodation is pricey so it’s safer to go for subletting apartments and you can easily find a lot of those.  Sadly, a little googling (we all stalk the place before our interns!) gave me some very awful news! Saying Baltimore is just unsafe would really undermine its crime prowess, so highly infamous was it for its thievery and homicides! That did unnerve me, but luckily it turned out that this was lesser of an issue around the campus! Security guards in an around the Homewood Campus, which was going to be my place of work, made it safer for me to stay in the neighborhood and that’s what I eventually aimed for.

First Impression

Tickets, accommodation and visa in place, I finally arrived in the city of Baltimore! Well, I was a bit disappointed initially but yes there was a beauty in the place, in the parks, the buildings, the weather and the best of all its free transportation! Say bye bye to trains, rickshaws, and Ubers and hello to free rides via the campus shuttle service throughout the evening and most of the night and free bus service, the Charm City Circulator (Baltimore is nicknamed the Charm City, go figure), the rest of the time. That made sight-seeing a way lot easier! And things were finally truly in control till this fascination met yet another- Giant, a shopping mart here, and then it was like this amalgamation we were quite eager to exploit. Needless to say, a free shuttle to carry our shopping bags of groceries, candies, and desserts wasn’t quite helpful for our savings! And yes, did I mention how confusing it was to stroll around the streets with those baffling traffic lights?  Thankfully, the car-drivers on the road are really kind to you and let you pass! 

Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute, Malone Hall, JHU-Homewood Campus

The Work

Well settled in the new city? Let’s turn to what I actually had to do here work-wise. The project, I  initially assumed to simply involve application of data analysis, image recognition, and ML because we were pre-informed that we had to work on the data to generate necessary parameters for input in a material’s physics model. But it turned out that it was much deeper than just that! I was working on AZ31B Mg alloy and was studying what is termed as the Spall process. So just imagine, you are in the No Man’s Land, inside a battle tank- feeling pretty safe and cocooned till now? Excuse me, high speeds bullets can hit your tank, nothing new; what’s the tank for? So what if I now tell you that due to the high-velocity impact of the bullet a part of the tank can fragment off? ! Definitely not a good thing right?. This occurs due to a metal defect type termed as the spalling of metals. Moreover, currently, tanks are made of steel which is almost 8 times denser than Mg; lighter the better?; and so there’s why we study Mg. I thus, work to extract possible parameters for the Spall model from the Computed Tomography or CT images, a bit of image segmentation, plenty of coding, especially in the field of image analysis merged with an extensive literature review to understand the deep physics behind the processes, to finally extract the necessary properties of MG directly from the scanned images of its microstructure via an ML implementation. Not what I had imagined, but extremely enlightening nevertheless! But oh no, all the work could hardly deter me from sightseeing!

The Greatest City in America

Our very first Baltimore day trip was to a place known as the Inner Harbour from very a group of assorted tourist spots were quite accessible via a “water taxi”! Fells Point, Fort McHenry, and whatnot! – From the food point of view, a must mention are the really delicious Baltimore specialties – crab cakes and lobster rolls. The National Aquarium, close to the harbour, was one of those interesting places which you might never want to leave – with a display of captivating amphibious and aquatic life ranging from sharks to jellyfish, dolphins to octopus, weirdest and brightest of all you have ever heard! – But the best part was when I could actually touch the stingrays and jellyfish; an unbelievable experience! 

Jellyfish and Stingrays at the National Aquarium- Baltimore

Another attraction of the state was the Maryland zoo.  I never thought I could ever witness penguins and polar bears from so up close, along with a plethora of other interesting bird and animal species! Well, apart from the many attractions, I could  say that I am going to miss simply sitting around one of the parks and gazing as the sun sets at the extensive horizon of Baltimore

Journey to the lands beyond!

From Baltimore, we then visited THE city of USA, New York! Surprisingly, the breathtaking Manhattan skyline wasn’t the only beauty of the place! Lazing at the Brooklyn Bridge Park gazing at those little twinkling lights illuminating the grand skyscrapers with the Brooklyn bridge adding a hint of completion, walking around the 5th avenue exclaiming at all the brands lined up, the enormous charging bull at the crowded Wall Street and the wafting aroma of delicious street foods.

Wait, the best is yet to come!  The feeling I had when I got my first-ever glimpse of the Statue of Liberty from the ferry; it is truly indescribable how it felt to actually stand in front of something that you have just read about till date! Furthermore, the Empire State Building, its inexplicable grandeur, its illuminated spire and its mesmerizing view of the sunset and the city sparkling with night lights had me awestruck. The grandest of all though was the World Trade Centre – so tall, majestic, that I am pretty sure I sprained my neck straining up to look at it. How could I forget the rest, the Central Park, the Top of the Rock Observatory, the famous Times Square, the city at night – full of life and lights, it all was simply just insane! 

The Statue of Liberty- Liberty Island        View of NYC from Empire State Building

Even though we enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the grand city of NY, no trip to the USA would have felt complete without visiting the great Capital, and that too when it was simply an hour’s train ride away!, I was really fortunate to be able to visit it on 4th of July, the American Independence Day, thus, to be able to watch the streets turn even livelier  by the Independence Day Parade, to be able to watch up close the magnificent Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial with the entire sky lit up by a volley of never-ending fireworks, those colors in the sky like glittering stars…They had just turned the night into a captivating painted canvas.- No words can describe that moment- that sight. I wish to relive it again, just to melt away in the thoughts of the grandeur of the States, the beauty and the power.

The Fireworks on July 4th in DC at the Lincoln Memorial; The Capitol- Washington DC


The free shuttle rides, procrastinating our visit to Starbucks (imagine not yet being to a place which can be seen around every block!), discussions about what to cook, where to eat and how to spend the weekends, late night-outs at Carlyle rooftop (Mrunmayi’s apartment), our infinite trips to Giant supermarket, the unpredictable thunderstorms of Baltimore (read it as a simple 5 minutes downpour which is laughable for those who have witnessed Mumbai showers), mine and Mrunmayi’s lengthy discussions on which restaurants to try next and Aayush judging us all through whilst unsuccessfully trying to keep up our spirit of dieting, the weekly visits to Papa Johns to exploit its 50% discount offer (a result of the Baltimore baseball team Orioles scoring more than 5 runs – a rare feat, sadly), counting how many Starbucks and Dunkin donut outlets passed by and the very best –  impromptu stops at McD for the $1 McChicken and unlimited coke(diet coke – in America you need to keep a check on those calories maan!) and those must mention video calls back to India.

A great internship which definitely couldn’t have been better without both of them and yes, without the Greatest City in America!

Adieu Baltimore, the Greatest City in America

Sadly but yes you will be missed 

Thank you Aayush, Mrunmayi & Rishabh for making the summers so awesome

Thank you HEMI, Johns Hopkins 

2 years ago