UC Berkeley, USA – Chinmay Deo

Hey Guys !
My name is Chinmay Deo. I just finished my third year in the mech dept(wohoo) and I’m a dual degree CADA student. I’m doing my summer internship at the University of California, Berkeley.
I got this internship the good ol’ way i.e. mailing. I got it pretty late (around mid-March) . I don’t think I need to tell you that you should have a passport by the start of the third year. Apply for one anyway, it doesn’t hurt.
Getting your behind to Amrika:

As you must have guessed, the visa is time-consuming. Give yourself two months to do this. So unless you have an intern offer by april start maximum, its going to be a push to get the visa.This is an upper limit obviously.You’ll be here on a J-1 visa,which is meant for short term scholars. Your host university needs to issue a form, called the DS-2019.This can sometimes take 6 weeks, especially if it’s a big university that generally has a lot of visiting researchers in the summer.However once you do get it, you shall be slightly disappointed, since its just a 1 page document.

In the meantime, you need to prepare some documents from your side(transcripts,bank statements etc) and fill out another (long) form online. The interview is very chill, no pain there,and you can collect your passport the next working day after the interview.
One point :If your project has applications in the areas of biotech, military uses etc, you need to be a little careful. Talk to your professor and say the right stuff during the interview, or they might put your visa in the “pending” status i.e a delay of 2-3 weeks.
Use the vfs-usa website.They follow the procedure to the T.
After that, just book a ticket and one looong flight later,you’re there.I mean here.

My take on research project:

I’m working in the Mechanical engineering department here at UC Berkeley. My project involves Solid Mechanics and Vibrations. The facilities are unbelievable and the labs are great.I think ill just jot down a few pointers that I’ve picked up in my first 2 weeks regarding “research”.
1. Coding is inevitable. No matter who you are in the lab,you will have to code.Something.Your project will most likely not progress without it.

 

2. A good rapport with your lab group is vital. They are the ones who will help you out most.
Don’t be shy and ask for help whenever you need it. Remember, YOU are the intern, you aren’t supposed to know everything.Pain maaro unko,most lab members will be happy to help.

3. Your interaction with your professor will be…wait for it…extremely limited. Don’t expect a lot of time with him. Hell, even most PhD’s/Postdocs talk to their professor only during the weekly group meeting.Professors in modern labs(atleast in US universities) are more like project managers and less like researchers.
Translation: Make sure you have something concrete to present to your professor when you do meet him.
In view of this, your lab members are even more important, especially the grad student you’ll be directly working with.

4. Your time is your own to manage: Don’t be afraid of leaving early or coming late on some days.You should obviously ask beforehand if you want a holiday. But no one will think any worse of you if you leave early or something. As long as you get the work done, nobody cares if you come in at 11am or 11 pm.

5.Point out problems: If there is a problem, no matter how silly you feel it is,tell your grad student about it asap. No one will judge you.However, if you have a problem and you tell no one about it for a week,well, let’s just say it isn’t the smartest thing to do.

6.Follow procedures: This applies to you if you’re doing experimental work. People here are paranoid about procedures, regulations and safety. Stick to ‘em, and you’ll be fine.

These are my observations.Ive tried to be as general as possible. You may,of course, have a different experience from mine.

In my opinion,most labs now-a-days function very similarly to companies, what with the weekly reports, group meetings,annual evaluations etc. Not unexpected, since labs are funded by the industry which cares more about results than research.More from Cal later.Take it easy.

 

 

10 years ago