About the Author: Nivya Sharma, a student of BITS Pilani, proved that nothing is impossible. She talks about the efforts she put in to bag her dream internship.
Being a biology student, I always had an inclination towards research. What aroused a zeal for invention in me was a visit to the pharma labs in my college! The extensive research work that was being carried out there left me amazed, and I decided to intern at a research institute to get an exposure of the practical aspects of my course. I had heard a lot about National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), and I began my quest to score an internship there. I started taking relevant courses, gaining insights into the research works of various professors, and learning to operate different instruments in the labs. I would enter any lab and inquire about the research going on there and read standard operating procedures of the lab equipment. I made a project on High Throughput Biosensor using Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles for an international competition called Biomod. I worked on processes and techniques like Gel Electrophoresis, Zeta sizing, Stober’s process, LaMer and Dinegar model, Scanning and Transmission Electron Microscopies (SEM and TEM), etc. I led a team to present a project named Bioengineered Water Purifier which emphasized on nanofiltration. I also did a project on Liposomal Drug Delivery System for Colorectal Cancer Treatment and Nanoscale Drug Delivery Area.
It was a winter morning when one of my classmates informed me of the NCBS fellowship program in Neuroscience which was to be taken by professors from Harvard University. Harvard and NCBS in one program – a complete privilege for anyone who’d be a part of it. I enquired about it and asked him to email all the details to me. I received the email after waiting for an hour with my Gmail account open in front of me. I had goosebumps as I read that email; this was what I had been preparing for with all my might.
To apply for the program, I needed a letter of recommendation from a faculty member, Statement of Purpose (SOP) which included my impetus for being a part of the internship and the research work I had done so far, and my resume. I had an attractive resume owing to all the projects I had undertaken but preparing a concise and precise SOP made me anxious. I went to my HOD seeking help and he agreed to proofread it. After several rectifications, I sent my application and waited for a revert with mixed feelings of anxiety and confidence. Finally, one afternoon, I received my selection letter. My hard work had born a fruitful result, and I was overwhelmed to be one of the twenty students selected for the internship.
After carrying out all the formalities, I reached the NCBS housing complex on December 29 – a day I’d been waiting for too long. I was introduced to the professors and my fellow interns with whom I involved myself in discussions from the very first day. We visited all the labs, learnt about various brain neuronal movement recording techniques and hi-tech equipment like fluorescent microscopes, and were given hands-on sessions on them. The professors walked us through the basic concepts of all the research that was going on in the field of neuroscience. Apart from acquiring a profound conceptual knowledge of neuroscience, I performed experiments like the Backyard Brain Spiker Box experiment using two kits – one for measuring EMG amplitude to study the movement of human bicep muscle and another for measuring muscle movement in a broken circuit’s leg. I also performed a dissection of sheep’s eye and an optogenetics study in Drosophila (fruit fly) to analyse the effect of light on its movement. I got an opportunity to attend research talks by several professors. I cherished some fun moments like catching crickets and holding sheep brain. I also inculcated in me the skills of teamwork, time management, leadership, and communication. Interning at NCBS was a life changing moment and enriched me with an ocean of learning. I hope to work in one of those highly equipped labs some day.
Waiting for your dreams to come true? Check out these latest biology internships and set out to chase them.
Editor’s note – If you also have an interesting story to share, you can now participate in Your Internship Story Contest 2017 and win cash prizes and goodies worth INR 1 Lac!