About Author: – Ashwin is a final year B.Tech student of Civil Engineering at NIT Rourkela. He pursued his Summer Research Fellowship with IIT Madras.
It all started on 3rd of May 2012, when at around noon I got a mail from Dr. Arun Menon, asking me if I was willing to work under him during the summer but by then I already had finalized my internship in IISc Bangalore. I half-heartedly exchanged a few more mails with him later that day and he revealed the topic on which I would have to work. So I had a choice of doing my internship under him in my field of interest or in IISc on a topic which was not my favorite, and even though each and everyone I know suggested me to go with the latter, today I look back and I am happy that I chose my interest over the brand of an institute.
In the next few days my internship in IIT Madras was finalized by a letter from the Dept. of Civil Engineering and the most amazing summer of my life started on 15th May 2012. I met my team which apart from me, had 6 students from NIT Trichy and 1 from NITK Surathkal, a project officer(Ms Deepti) and a project consultant(Ms Uma, whom I met later during the project). It was a big team but then, so was the task. It all started with an introduction to the concepts for which Dr. Arun conducted 5-6 lectures to start with, because we had to work on Earthquake Engineering and none of us had that in our curriculum earlier. So a few days into the project we were clear on the subject and so the task in hand now looked doable. What we actually had in hand was a Pan-IIT project sponsored by National Disaster Management Authority of India, addressing the issue of seismic vulnerability of various building types in India, and IIT Madras was in-charge of the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. We were expected to conduct pilot surveys by rapid visual screening method in some selected districts of these state covering typologies most prominent in each locality to give a gross idea of the construction practices followed.
We were welcomed by a team of government officials and students from local institutes wherever we went, and they would assist us in the work. The biggest plus point of this project was that we got to travel a lot, we got to meet many new and dynamic people, and learn civil engineering from a whole new perspective. But the best part was that all of this brought me so close to members of my group that some of them are my best friends today. And apart from all this there was a unique aspect of this summer program which makes it stand out from the rest, that is all the professors of the Civil Dept. who took interns under them also took lectures for us in their field of interest, so I not only got to learn from my guide but also got to interact with most of the professors in the department. The department even took all the summer fellowship students to CSIR-SERC, Chennai and NTPC power plant in North Chennai. Thus the whole time the focus was on promoting ideas and creating an environment ideal for learning and all round development of the fellowship students.
All the summer fellowship students stayed in hostels within the campus and we even received a decent stipend. To top it off it was a 5-day week culture with the whole weekend at your disposal to wander off and enjoy the city. All-in-all it was better than the best summer internship I had ever dreamt of, mainly because I had the coolest and most knowledgeable person as my project guide and some of the best guys as my project mates.
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