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Navigating The Path To Opportunity—A Guide to Summer Research Internships by ACM-W Manipal

On 23rd January 2020, The Association for Computing Machinery’s Council for Women in Computing (ACM-W), Manipal, presented students a guide to applying for summer research internship programmes, both within the country and abroad. The Vice-Chairperson, Akshatha Kamath, gave participants a run-down of the best ways to approach the application process while briefing the audience about various programmes available across the world. “When I was applying for internships, I wasn’t aware of a lot of opportunities,” stated Kamath while addressing the gathering. “It is important to be informed of the various scholarship programmes, especially for women, and internships available all around the globe.”

The talk began with a discussion on research internships under university professors, which serve as opportunities for students to innovate while gaining practical experience in their chosen field of study. These internships come with a plethora of advantages—access to resources, better networking, experience, and exposure. They also help steer students towards an opportunity of obtaining a Master’s degree and a possibility of releasing their own publications.

The workshop presented details on internships of two kinds—paid and unpaid. Paid internships abroad would provide just enough financial support for the student’s upkeep. A few indigenous internships that were presented included the Summer Research Fellowship Programme, found at IISc and various IITs, the Narendra Summer Internship, offered by IISc, and other opportunities offered by institutes such as IISER’s Pune & Trivandrum campuses. Besides being witnesses to a plethora of opportunities, the audience was also made wary of fraudulent organisations that swindle students into paying to be an intern.

The presenters mentioned that applications to internships can be made both online, as well as by sending emails to professors. Forms available on an institute’s website were said to be best submitted much before the deadline and often have requirements such as SOPs, LORs, essay responses, past experiences, GPA, and any publications by the student. Another point noted was that deadlines in India are set much before their Western counterparts.

The workshop then went on to present the means by which a student may approach a professor and work on projects under them. The students were advised that, upon learning about their work from college portals, they should email the professors directly. Noting the lack of a written rule as to what should or should not be mentioned in an email, the audience was directed to keep in mind that they must address the professor properly and state their objectives clearly. Further mentioned was that emails must not exceed three paragraphs, must not contain boastful comments and should be few in number. Subjects worded differently were said to avoid the professors’ spam folder. The students were then made aware of the importance of knowing the work ethics followed in the country they wish to intern in and the information they could receive by following the work of employers on sites such as LinkedIn.

The students were informed that citing papers published by professors and pointing out flaws, or presenting possible improvements in their research, could show how invested one is in the subject concerned. Contacting a Post Doctorate student under a professor was also stated to be helpful. Applying for an internship for the first time would necessitate that the employer or professor is assured of a potential intern’s capabilities.

“This was a great learning experience that has taught me what to do to prepare for such internships in the future,” remarked first-year IT student, Aman Priyanshu, who attended the workshop to learn more about summer internship programmes. Harshita Binani, Chairperson of ACM-W, Manipal, commented “The turnout was pretty good, considering the fact that a lot of other meetings are being conducted at the same time. The audience was very responsive, and they seemed extremely interested in the information we had to offer.”

When on the path to making one’s career, it is essential to make use of all available resources. Students must be certain of the specific field they have chosen to conduct their research while optimising their reach across various platforms. This workshop by the ACM-W Manipal was a fantastic way to help give students an idea on how to prepare for future internship opportunities, leaving the audience enlightened while briefing them through another possible road for the future.

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