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Carnegie Mellon University | Internship Interview

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DTU Times interviewed Mansi Agarwal, COE, Class of 2020, who secured a Research Internship at the Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University through the SN Bose Scholars program and the Robotics Institute Summer Scholars program by CMU. 

The general perception of research is that it is a long and trying road and does not offer a quick payoff, which people are often interested in. Considering this, what made you pick research over other options you might have had? What do you hope to achieve at the end of your journey?

I have always been an inquisitive soul. It is this curiosity that urges me to push my boundaries. The reason why I like to research is that it helps me to quench this thirst of knowing more and doing more than what is thought of us. I do not know what the future holds for me but I want to delve deeper into understanding technology and make a constructive and commendable contribution to the society at large through the knowledge acquired in these fields. What Alan Turing once said keeps me going, “We can see only a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty that needs to be done.”

What ignited your interest in this particular field of research? Having an interest in something and actually pursuing the field are two different things. What edged you to start your research?

It initially began with working on small projects to get a good command over the field. The zeal to do these projects came from the fact that all of them somehow, helped the society. I believe when chosen to its full potential, Artificial Intelligence can help save the world and that is what urged me to pursue this field of research.

What are some necessary steps any individual needs to take in order to be eligible for your particular scholarship/s? What stage is ideal to start preparing for them?

As clichéd as it sounds, but the first step would be to breathe and believe in yourself. I have been in your shoes and seeing articles about your seniors might intimidate you. 

The “ideal” steps, in general, would be to first decide what you want to pursue. How do you do that? Explore, explore and explore. Your first year should involve engaging in a lot of events, both technical and non-technical. Communicate with a lot of seniors and do not hesitate to ask. 

Once you have determined the field of research (don’t worry, you can always change), try working with small projects on your own. There are a lot of resources online. Next, you should look for professors (not necessarily from our university) whose interests align with yours and drop them a mail talking about your previous work, maybe about an idea that you have, or an ongoing project that you would like to work on. A good mentor can mould your path to success. A lot of seniors might say that the GPA is not that important, but I highly disagree. There has not been one interview where I have not been asked for my GPA. So, along with your research, do focus on your college curriculum too. Keep an eye on the scholarships and opportunities you want to seek and lastly, do not lose hope. Enjoy the success, embrace the failures. Speaking from experience, things somehow, eventually always work out. 

What would help improve the chances of aspiring juniors looking to land a meritorious research internship? Are there any specific resources and skills you would like to recommend to aspirants?

I have gained invaluable experience by working with extremely sharp, motivated and hardworking scientists. So, my advice would be to work on a lot of projects! It is important to know the theory but you can only enhance your skill-set by coming up with innovative solutions to those dreadful errors. The resources depend on your field of research, so the best way to go about it is to ask your peers and seniors.

How has your experience been so far at the internship? How would you compare it with corporate internships?

Working with some of the best and the most experienced minds in the fields of AI and Robotics has helped me shape my thinking to be better able to contribute to the research community. The learning curve has been amazing and I learnt something new every day. Along with the research, I also got the opportunity to be a part of awesome workshops hosted by companies like DJI and Ubtech which are pioneers in the field of Robotics.

I prefer research internships over corporate ones as the former permits me enough flexibility to try something new and innovative and not confine myself to the company’s rules and regulations.

Where does DTU lack in terms of research? What, according to you, can be improved here to keep pace with other leading research institutes?

One problem I faced was the lack of awareness. People come to know about the opportunities when it’s too late. One way to deal with this could be using the university’s social media portals to update everyone about the deadlines. We could also form small research groups mentored by Professors of our University and have research-based labs where students can work and grow.

Posted by Anoushka Raj

I write here someTimes.