Mayur Joshi is currently in his fourth year of Mechanical Engineering. He’s a Dual Degree student with Interdisciplinary specialization in Data Sciences. This is his second time with Chennai 36, previously having talked to us about his CERN internship last year. In his third year, he went on a research internship program through the DAAD WISE (Working Internship in Science and Engineering) to RWTH Aachen University in Germany. This internship is entirely funded by the German Academic Exchange (DAAD). 

Can you tell me a bit about this internship?

My project title was ‘Using Deep Learning for Scientific Pattern Recognition in Turbulence’. My internship was completely research-oriented. We worked on different deep learning models like Generative Adversarial Networks. We used this and different neural networks to train on DNS Data and get predictions about features in turbulence. For example, reconstruct high-resolution data from low-resolution data. My project had two parts – regression and reconstruction. The work was highly focussed to publish a research paper. My guide was a world-renowned professor in the field of mechanical engineering, and who is currently applying deep learning and machine learning techniques to solve conventional problems in the mechanical engineering field. This is the state-of-the-art technique in the application of deep learning techniques in mechanical engineering problems. My project was pretty hectic – starting with 8-9 hours a day, we then had to put in more than 12 hours every day towards the end of the paper submission deadline/project. We even stayed overnight at the lab to complete the work. There were times when we went to the lab at 9 am and returned the next day at 6 am. That was the kind of work ethic they followed in the lab. This was something I really liked. However, we also got some time to go around Europe. But this is not the case with all scholars as some had pretty relaxed timings of around 7 hours a day with Saturday and Sunday off. I like the research culture at IIT Madras too, but the kind of dedication and commitment they had at my lab in Germany was unmatched. The people who were pursuing research at the lab were passionate about contributing to society through it which was really inspiring.

What is the application procedure? 

This internship is covered under the DAAD WISE program. This is a program for research internships in German universities. It’s a highly coveted program and many students across India apply for every year. The process goes like this: First, you have to get confirmation from any German professor from any university in Germany. Typically, students opt for any TU9 universities. They are like the IITs of India. It is up to the student to mail any of the professors themselves and then the professor might take a technical interview before shortlisting the student. If you are selected, the professor gives you a letter of confirmation. It is only after you get the professor on board can you go to the DAAD application. The DAAD application is very similar to any other research internship application. It includes and SoP, CV, transcript and of course, the letter of acceptance from the professor. Here, the most important factor is the CV and then the letter of recommendation from a professor of your own university. CGPA is also a very major criterion. Around 60 students all over India are selected for this program.

Why did you choose this?

I had been selected for multiple programs last year including MITACS, RIYA and Honda YES as well. My first and the most major reason for choosing this was the project. It was really interesting. I knew this would contribute a lot to the research outcome in terms of a publication. Second would be the reputation and prestige of the DAAD WISE program. Although, I’d have chosen any of the other three if they had a project that I found more interesting.

Can you tell us of a typical day at your internship? 

My work was mostly theoretical. I didn’t have to do many lab experiments. I woke up at around 7 in the morning and cooked my own food since I am a vegetarian and didn’t like the food at their canteen. I used the reach my lab at around 9. I had a Chinese colleague with me who was really helpful. Their work ethic is also very strong like that of Indians. We used to ideate in the morning. We thought of new ideas to get better results in our project. This would go on until 12:30-1 in the afternoon. Then we had our lunch breaks. After that, we implemented what we had discussed in the morning. This could take any amount of time. If it gets done by 6, then we’ll all go home at 6, and if it gets done only by midnight, then that’s fine too, we went home at midnight. Every Monday, we used to have our weekly review. The professor used to critique our work. This review was the thing we looked forward to the most during the week. His experience in the field was really valuable in the review.

How was living in Germany? How did you manage the expenses? 

All the expenses were covered by the DAAD WISE stipend. The travel, food, stay and so on were all under that. Plus, you had extra money to go around Europe, only if you find the time to do so. You have more money left for some shopping and any other expenses too. The stipend was very adequate for a three-month stay with some traveling. During my stay, I was able to go to three places. The amount comes to around 2.5 to 3 lakhs, depending on your number of days you stay. The stipend is transferred to your German account (you’re required to make one) once you reach there. I spent around 70 days, so I got around 2.5 L.

Can you share any memorable experiences with us? 

A few of the most memorable experiences are from my project itself. But apart from that, I went to Amsterdam with my insti friends who were interning in different parts of Europe. Apart from that, there were around 60 more DAAD Scholars across Germany so there’s a good chance of meeting other people. We had a good group of around 7-8 people at RWTH Aachen. We didn’t live together, but we met frequently and had fun together. This group of like-minded people that were formed during my stay is really great and we are still in contact.

Any takeaways from this experience that you’d like to share with us? 

I’d say my most important takeaway would be the development I had in the level of passion for my work and in my work ethic.

Any advice for your juniors considering this opportunity?

I would advise them to start early with the process. It might take a lot of time to get confirmation from a professor. There are people who got their confirmation after sending around 50-60 mails. I got mine in around 15-20 mails because I got lucky. Your hopes start to dwindle when you don’t get a reply after repeatedly sending mails. So just start early so you have enough time for everything. I got my confirmation at the last moment. Applications start in August and ends in November. I got my confirmation in mid-October and then I had to rush my application in one or two weeks. So I’d advise others to start early so they could do the application peacefully. And regarding whether this internship would be too hectic, I’d say it depends on the professor you choose. My professor has worked with a lot of people from IIT Madras and India in general, so he expects a certain level of dedication. There are also other professors who are pretty chill and had their interns working from 9 am-5 pm. In general, I would say this is a really amazing internship opportunity which students should definitely aim for.