About Author: Ankush Kashiwar is presently a Masters student (Metallurgical & Material Science) at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He interned with Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany twice, in the summer of 2011 and 2012 as a Student Research Assistant.
How thrilling would it be to get an internship offer to work in one of the leading German institutes, you are just 21, you fly abroad for the first time and a renowned scientist himself comes to receive you? I know it because I felt it, when I flew to Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany in the summer of 2011 for three months for my first ever foriegn internship.
My work: Nanotechnology! I decided to apply for internships abroad in the summer of 2010, took time to make my resume and webpage consulting my seniors. In all, I sent over 700 emails and I never dreamed that I will receive an internship call from one of the leading institutes of nanotechnology. The visit was completely funded by the KIT including the travel expenses and it was really a great time for me when I earned the very first salary of my career in Euros! I had a hearty welcome at Karlsruhe from my group and I can’t express how overwhelmed I was to officially become a part of an institute with people from across the globe coming together to make inventions by overcoming differences in religion and nationality.
On the very first evening I got an invitation for dinner from my supervisor. I find it so funny to tell you all that it was the first time I had dinner with fork and knife but somehow managed before him! He had very cute looking kids. I spent my first two weeks getting introduced to the research work of my group. It was like learn and earn. I had open access to all the laboratories in the institute. I had plenty of exposure to many advanced equipments and techniques used for nanotechnology. In return, I was assigned a task which was to be finished during my stay. Also it was fun to be a part of German work culture as I didn’t take too much time to adapt. Apart from learn and earn, it was fun as well, especially on the weekends when I had the opportunities to be on outing with my supervisor and sometimes with the whole group.
In that summer, I visited many of the nearby cities, visited lots of music concerts, festivals, museums, plays etc. In spite of working very hard on a software for two months I couldn’t reach very significant results and was a bit nervous. When my mentor asked me for the presentation of my work, I was under extreme pressure and somehow made a presentation with whatever I had. Result: most of my results proved to be incorrect and my mentor looked very disappointed and I was too. But then I worked hard with sheer determination and generated some very accurate results in the last two days of my stay, which got me an invitation to a royal lunch from my mentor. I gave my group exactly what they wanted to add to their existing work, the results of which are getting published soon. I have the very first paper of my career with Germans.
Moral of the story: Never ever give up; stop not till the goal is reached! And that’s what research is! I visited the group again in 2012 summer as soon as I finished with my Bachelors. This time it was more of fun along with work. My group invited me to a four days outing to Austria. We lived in huts amidst the beautiful Alps. I had a chance to go hiking on the snow clad mountains and river rafting on the Inn River which gave a beautiful glimpse of the landscape with the cold waves coming onto us. I also hiked on the stony mountains in the Berchtesgaden. The most fascinating thing I found over there was that there were cows on the mountains and we had their fresh milk; perfect combination when you are too tired of climbing! I also visited Switzerland. All of it for the first time! Now I have a very good network with the German scientists and professors and will certainly be looking forward to collaborations with them in the future.
The main outcome of my internship was that it gave a perfect direction to my career. It taught me that the dedication of a scientist towards innovation can certainly change the world. This motivated me to pursue research as a career. I secured an All India Rank 4 in the GATE 2012 and now I am a Masters student at the premier research institute of India, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore.
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