Satya Sundar Patra from the Department of Civil Engineering did his summer research internship at the prestigious Purdue University in Indiana USA. The Chennai36 team caught up with him through an interview where he talks about getting interested in research, how to apply for foreign interns, life at Purdue and much more.

 Were you interested in research beforehand or Did you want to explore it?

In my second year, I founded a startup called CAVAL, and then from the institute internship portal I got a winter intern offer from ECS for a consulting role. So, I thought that having founded a startup, done an industrial intern so might as well try a research intern. Also, in my 4th semester, I worked on a project with the transportation engineering department on developing a sensor to accurately predict travel time, which I credited in my 6th semester under ID3100 course. So, I had prior experience with research.

What made you choose Purdue and how was the selection procedure?

Actually, Purdue was the only university I applied for because its application was the first to come, at around October-November. The summer internship at Purdue is offered under the PURE (Purdue Undergraduate Research Experience) program. From the PURE website, we have to choose 3 topics/domains with an order of preference. They will give a set of research areas along with professors in each department to choose from, and also it is interdisciplinary – you can take up a project from any department provided you have some previous experience working in the said field. You have to reflect this in your SOP, which should be convincing enough for the university. My prior experience, with the Transportation Department Project, helped me confidently write in my SOP that – “if you are looking for a person who has worked in a combination of CS and Civil Engineering, I would be the best choice!”

Once you finish the application form, you have to mail it to your H.O.D along with your C.V, who will select and nominate your names (which also becomes your recommendation) to I&AR. I&AR will then mail the nominations to Purdue, where another round of shortlisting occurs based on the professor’s requirements.

Although they expect a minimum CG of 8.5 and above, I myself had only 8.4 but still applied and got in! Even if your CG is not enough, you can back your profile with previous research experience or projects.

Research Profile at Purdue

At Purdue, we are creating an open source platform to monitor and quantify air pollution levels based on particulate matter (P.M 2.5), SO2, CO levels, almost like “Pollution Forecaster” for specific areas. I’m actually involved more with the CS department since, it involves setting up the platform – API codes, sensors etc.

Comparing IITM and Purdue

Although I’ve stayed here at Purdue as of now for 3 weeks, I can definitely say – in terms of academics, IIT Madras and its students are better than the contemporaries at Purdue. But in terms of research, due to the huge amount of funding available for research projects at Purdue, it fares better than IITM in this aspect.

Life apart from the intern? Recreational activities in Purdue and surrounding areas?

I’m a big foodie, so I went around visiting a lot of restaurants and trying different cuisines. I also visited nearby cities of Indianapolis, Chicago, been to the world-famous Indy 500 race and also attended a Taylor Swift Concert! It’s a lot of fun, and a research intern experience is not only about work, you do get free time and can explore a lot if you deliver your work on time.

Advice for aspirants of Foreign interns in the Civil Engineering Department

First of all, don’t be afraid of your CG, but try to maintain a decent enough CG of 8.5 and more than that is always welcome, but don’t get discouraged that you have only 8ish and so I won’t apply for such Interns. Try to involve yourself in Research Projects with insti profs during 2nd and 3rd years, and there are courses like ID3100 which can provide you credited projects. These things help you to get a feel for research since it helps you to write research papers, do literature reviews which can be of immense help during your actual foreign research intern. You can definitely approach our department professors if you interested in a research project, and they don’t expect you to know a lot about the field and more on learning on the go. Whereas credited research projects require a degree of discipline and naturally the prof expects timely updates about your work. I myself am a DD student from the Civil department and not a lot of core companies that are open for B. Techs come for DD so  I would recommend everyone to equip themselves with coding skills, this could help you crack non-core industrial interns.

Author:  Pranav Hari(DD-CE’22)

This article is part of the series – The Intern Guru. To get regular updates on our articles, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/chennai36 and Instagram @chennai36_iitm