Summer Internship in Chennai – My story of not landing an internship this summer

About Author: Rahul is pursuing his Integrated Masters in Physics at IIT Madras. He shares his really interesting internship experience of ‘not’ getting an internship. Confused? You will know as you read on.

I’m a 4th year undergraduate at IIT Madras, currently pursuing a BS & MS in physics. A couple of things that you should know about me are that; I am an extreme under achiever and that I have a lot of self-respect which sometimes borders at ego. Having said that, I didn’t do an internship this summer and here’s why.

Being in a pure science department in an engineering college, I never was fully into theoretical science. All through my 3 years at IIT M, I was running around conducting events during Shaastra, volunteering for Saarang, being an EML coordinator, and handling the Astronomy club here. And in between when I used to find time, I watched sitcoms, movies, and the whole lot. And then in my 5th semester when I had to start looking for a summer internship, I didn’t have a good enough CGPA to show off, I didn’t have any academic achievements on my resume nor did I have good relations with any professor to help me secure an internship.

So, starting January, I started looking for internships. Now, when I’m talking about internships, unlike the engineering interns where you guys work at companies or research labs (most of you do), we guys in the science department are supposed to work at a university i.e. we are supposed to do a project under a professor from a different college for 6 weeks or more. There are some colleges which help you with this process of working under a professor in their college but a lot of them don’t. Even when they do, their deadlines are in mid-Feb, and I was already late for the party. Eventually though, I did find an interesting program in my area of interest (astronomy and astrophysics) but it so happened that the I wasn’t eligible for the program because I wasn’t old enough i.e. not enough course work done. Thus I ended up starting my summer still looking for a project.

At this point, I was mailing professors working on my area of interest, wrote to them what I was interested in, what I wanted to work on and asked their permission to join them this summer. Not all of them replied to my mails. Among those who replied, quite a few told me that their college had an official program which recruits interns for the college in the summer and that the program is now full meaning I can’t be accommodated this summer. A few others replied back saying that they would not be in college during the summer and the last few told me that they already had enough interns under them this summer. So, I came back to campus in the last week of May with quite a few plans.

You see I’m an idiot. I did not ask my parents or my cousins, who are spread all over world – like most of our families are, to help me get an internship somewhere for the summer, just to get done with the credited intern. I wanted to see how strong my resume was, how good my ideas are, and how I looked on paper. Though I didn’t get replies from all of the professors I mailed, I did get replies from quite a few highly placed ones like the director of RRI, the Dean of GMRT, and likewise. I was a bit confident of myself. And the other thing is that I am at IIT Madras. Even if I didn’t get to go to another college, I can try work on campus for the summer because there are good enough professors here. So, I could gamble with my summer internship. Not many people will have this chance because not all colleges are good to stay back at for the summer and work and not all colleges have as good professors as at IITM. And worse, not everyone will have a second time to do the summer internship. I still have 2 more years of course work, so I can finish my credited internship next summer and still get away with it while B.Tech students will not have this chance. So, I suggest you try your best to get an intern, take the help of your cousins or any contacts you have and get the help from your department’s internship representative to get you into a company or a college for an intern.

So, here I was staying back at IIT M during the summer and working on an area of my interest. I didn’t mention that, did I? See, I had a backup plan all along. If I couldn’t secure a summer project outside the campus, I will work on a project on campus. I had already talked to the relevant professors regarding this and they were okay with me working under their guidance in the summer. Again, like I mentioned, not many people will have to chance to stay back and work with excellent people in their colleges and you might just end up staying back home all through the summer. So, be warned. Well, for formality, I’ll briefly mention my project. I am interested in Astronomy and Astrophysics; especially experimental Astronomy.

One of the projects which I had been putting off for a long while was to work on a radio telescope. A radio telescope is basically a TV antenna, which if designed appropriately will be able to pick up signals from the Sun, Jupiter, The Milky Way, Cassepioa, and a couple of other astronomical sources. I’m not bluffing. My summer project involved designing the antenna to be able to pick up signals from Jupiter or design of antenna in general to receive signals, designing an appropriate circuit which would give me gain in the range of 20-40dB as my signal strength will be in the range of UV from astronomical sources, and then comes the interface which would be used to transfer this signal data onto a computer so that I could do post processing like noise analysis, fourier analysis, and signal processing. You can find more information about what I exactly I worked on in my blog but I didn’t start writing this with my summer project in mind, I did not want to explain to you what I did during summer. I wanted to tell you what I should’ve done before this summer which might’ve helped me have a better one.

Every college will need a compulsory summer internship from its students. And most of the students pursue B.Tech degrees which last 4 years or 3 summers. The first summer is spent with your school mates, reminiscing your school days. The second summer is spent, if you’re really good at your academics, at a company in an internship. And for almost all of the students, it’s the decisive 3rd summer when you will finish your necessary credited internship. So, you will have one shot at it. One shot. So, don’t screw around. People will tell you that CGPA isn’t everything in college, but believe me it is everything. Do everything in your ability to get into a company. Like I said, ask your parents, relatives, professors, department, and everyone. And last but not the least; try working on something that you’re interested in. So, don’t be an idiot. Work hard, have fun and graduate!

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