Pursuing a career in materials science: Taking the road less travelled

About the author: Simran Malik is a graduate in materials science from National University of Singapore. She completed her bachelor’s in nanotechnology from SRM University and went on to pursue a master’s in materials science. She talks about the role internships have played in her career path.

I love examining everything at a nanoscale. Therefore, when the time came for picking a course in college, I went for a bachelor’s degree in nanotechnology. Since India does not have many jobs for candidates with a background in nanotechnology, I wanted to opt for a master’s abroad. So during the four years of undergraduate studies, I spent my time boosting my profile. I studied hard and secured a gold medal in nanotechnology. Despite the tedious schedule, I never refrained from participating in co-curricular activities and volunteered for national-level conferences on nanotechnology. I also undertook trainings and interned at different firms.

I did my first internship at the Central Scientific Instruments Organization (CSIR). Given that it was my first internship, I did not have any prior experience. Hence, I was selected based on my grades in the university and my CV. My role as an intern was to synthesize IRMOF-3 (iso-reticular MOFs) using the fast precipitation method and characterise it with UV-Vis, PL, DLS, FTIR, and Raman Spectroscopy. Towards the end of the internship, I worked on a report which was submitted to CSIO and my university. 

Next, I interned at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, which was a huge learning experience for me. The selection process took place in two steps — resume screening and interview round. Since I was going to work with Silvaco TCAD software, most of the questions during the interview were about the same. My to-be mentor also questioned me on solid state physics and electronics, which are two important categories in nanoelectronics. When I joined as an intern, it took some time to get used to the prohibition of handphones and the monkeys on the campus. When things fell in place, I was grateful for the interactions with great scientists working in my field of interest. In my role as an intern, I simulated devices such as diodes, MOS capacitors, BJT, transistors, etc., and obtained their characteristic curves. 

After this internship got over, I landed an internship as a research assistant at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). I was selected among several applicants from all over the country through a hiring process that involved CV screening, interview round, and recommendation letters. During the interview, they asked me about my past experiences with analytical instruments and any papers I had published. Other than the interview, the main criteria of selection were my SoP and LoRs. Coming to my responsibilities, I fabricated carbon and spiro-based perovskite solar cells and enhanced their efficiencies using PbO as a paste. My internship at NTU was the best experience. It was the first internship wherein I got hands-on experience in innumerable equipment, presented my findings to researchers, and fabricated my own device. I was also not required to spend a single penny on my accommodation. Additionally, my mentor guided me through thick and thin and our research uncovered a new potential for the research group.

After completing these internships and graduation, I began my master’s in materials science from the National University of Singapore (NUS) last year. My first week at NUS was absolutely amazing. Getting accustomed to a new routine was definitely a task, but I was willing to go all-in for it. Since I was staying off-campus, I was required to commute every day for 45 mins. To secure an on-campus accommodation, I decided to work as a Student Assistant. This helped me stay on the campus, and it also paid me. I also engaged in golf and archery before Covid hit. 

During the pandemic, I started looking for virtual internships. I applied for some internships via Internshala and landed one at Vernacular Internet Pvt. Ltd. At this internship, I was tasked with performing extensive research and answering 480 questions on the Bolkar app. These questions were raised by non-English speakers who have limited access to technology. 

For my next stint, I started looking for internships in materials science. I was ecstatic when I found that Internshala had a separate category for materials science, which was a rare sight on most websites. I started applying immediately and secured a work-from-home internship as a research assistant at IQApex Labs.

I was pre-screened based on a few questions. After clearing this round, I had an interview wherein they asked me about my previous experiences and coding knowledge. I also shared a few work samples.

Despite not being in the lab physically, I have gained immense knowledge about the subject and acquired additional skills. My responsibility was to process and sharpen images of food colour solutions. Subsequently, I had to retrieve graphical data using a MATLAB code for the images. Writing a MATLAB code was definitely a task for me as I did not have much knowledge about it. I consulted my coder friends, researched about it, and practised questions. This helped me learn and understand codes better. I could even get graphs with the help of my code. The fact that I could actually write and execute my code gave me immense pleasure. Apart from these responsibilities, I also worked on an extensive literature review.

Everyone I encountered during the internship was very welcoming. The feedback which I got was always constructive and delivered with empathy. After the feedback process, the mentor ascertained that all the deliverables complied with the guidelines, and everyone offered their support until the task was done. Furthermore, weekly discussions with the mentor helped me push my limits and provide the most creative solutions to every problem statement. Hence, decision-making and creative thinking are some interpersonal skills I built during the internship. Overall, working at IQApex Labs helped me push my limits. Now, I am confident about my dexterity in analyzing data. 

The internship helped me upskill myself and attract similar employers who find my CV relevant. Additionally, I have also developed a penchant for coding, which has broadened my horizons. Besides this internship, my other internship experiences have instilled a passion for research in me. I am so inclined towards growing in this field that I have decided to pursue a PhD in the future. Eventually, I want to set up my own start-up and commercialise my researched products. 

Do you want to get some hands-on experience in material science? Then, register on Internshala and check out these material science internships

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