Friday, February 25, 2011

Internship request letters

Just a quick note to alert you all to the links posted in the comments section of yesterday's post. This forum thread is a classic -- I had seen it before, but I couldn't locate it yesterday (thanks, Shyam!).

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I haven't kept count, but I think some 15+ undergrad students have done an internship in my group, and that experience has been positive enough for (at least some of) them that they stay in touch with me to this day. At least seven of them have gone on to graduate school.

In the 1990s, I used to select the summer interns from the bunch that wrote to me -- and I can recall only one from this group going to grad school (those were also the times when the IT industry was like a super-sponge, absorbing engineers from all disciplines].

In the naughties, students came to my group almost exclusively through references from their teachers (I have also had a couple of them coming in through JNC's Summer Research Fellowship program). And almost all the summer interns who went to grad school are from this group.

In my experience, I have seen two types of students: some are genuinely keen to develop their research skills by spending some time in a research-intensive environment, and some who want to escape from the requirement of "in plant training" at an industry [in metallurgy / materials engineering, most of the industries are in some of the hottest parts of India!]. If there are other motivations, I have not been able to figure them out from my interactions with the students who came to our group.

In any event, I have enjoyed interacting with them, and as I said, the students also seem to have had a positive experience. I still don't know how important this summer internship business is for the students -- other than that they get to see a research group in action, giving them a chance to assess whether a research career will work for them.


  1. Ungrateful Alive said...

    In an ideal world it is surely nice to be able to expose college students to how research is done. However, the typical IIX is doing this big time already. E.g. most IITs have mandatory MTech project. In a batch of 100 MTech students, perhaps 10 at most may be really cut out for research, and still IITs overinvest in defining a research program for them, with extremely poor yield. But as long as IIX policy remains that way (as against MTech by coursework, for example), faculty members are likely to have little or no free time to gamble on external students. It's a simple matter of triage. The faculty members are paid for primarily taking care of registered students, after all.

  2. Pratik Ray said...

    "I still don't know how important this summer internship business is for the students"

    Could be pretty important for *some*. My internship in your department was at a juncture when, a little frustrated with the way BTech was going along, I was toying with the idea of jumping on to the software bandwagon after graduating. The internship was an opportunity to explore a topic which seemed interesting to me, and in the process add to my skills doing stuff that I wouldn't do in a regular undergrad course. But, at the same time, the internship was also an opportunity to try out research and make an informed decision as to whether I should drift away from metallurgy or stick to it.

    This last part, I suppose, is a third type of motivation for some students for these internship. I know three other friends of mine who did a research internship to try out whether this was their cup of tea. One out of those three got hooked to research, while the other two have eked out bright careers in the industry.