Daily Winner for: – 31st August 2013
Name of the intern: – Nishita Mohan
Institute: – Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Organization interned with: – University of Cambridge
A PORTKEY to CAMBRIDGE
Hot summer afternoons, a week full of taxing end semester examinations and power failures- that’s how the summer of 2013 began for most of the students at IIT, Madras. ‘Just a week more’, I said to myself as I gritted my teeth through the last week. I had something brilliant to look forward to, over the summer. I had contacted Sir Tom Blundell at the University of Cambridge, earlier in 2012 and was absolutely thrilled when he wrote back to inform me there was room for undergraduates in his lab. The next few months had me constantly keeping in touch with him, selecting a project in the area of my interest, arranging for funding and accommodation, and sorting out my SoP. Initially, I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to come across one of the most distinguished scientists in the Department of Biochemistry at Cambridge. This increased my resolve to work hard in his lab and contribute as much as I could to the research at Cambridge.
In the last week of May, I set off to Cambridge- My journey was quite uneventful except for one incident, when a couple of very well dressed, tall Englishmen came up to me and asked me in the typical British accent – ‘Excuse us, is this the flaaaight to Heathroouuuwww?’. I couldn’t help but give them a toothy, retarded grin.
Cambridge was a fairy tale world to me. Surreal, beautiful. The museums, architecture, greenery and not to mention, the weather (A drastic decline from 40 degrees in Chennai to 5 degrees in Cambridge) were heavenly!
I was to begin my work the following Monday. My work majorly involved protein modeling. My project supervisor, Dr. Bernardo Ochoa had constructed a pipeline to build the Mycobaterium Tuberculosis proteome. Initially, I set out to analyze some of the models that were built and look for errors in the pipeline. I also looked into the polymorphism data available on Mtb and performed analysis on the different types of mutations on the proteins. Since, I had previously worked in the same field and was fairly well acquainted with the tools, I enjoyed my work thoroughly and found it quite challenging.
Since, I was interning for a period of just 8 weeks, I couldn’t travel around much. One particularly memorable weekend spent at London is certainly worth mentioning here. A diehard Harry Potter fan that I am, I waited in a ridiculously long queue to take a picture at Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross. I also spent half the stipend I had received for the week on Harry Potter merchandise (Totally worth it!). Like conventional tourists, a friend and I, visited The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London but the icing on the cake was a surprise visit arranged by a couple of friends to Warner Bros. Studios, as my 21st birthday present!
Towards the end, I discussed further scope of the project and my future options with my professor and my supervisor, two truly wonderful people and the greatest mentors I have had so far. The work experience and interaction with people in the lab helped me figure out what I want and has certainly given me what I was seeking in the first place- Insights into the field of research. It also helped me explore my options and at the same time figure out what I want to work on, in the future. More than anything, it was an honor to interact with world-renowned scientists and a privilege to see such brilliant minds at work. Safe to say, it was by far, THE most rewarding experience I have ever had.
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