Akshara Viswanathan, a final year ECE student at CEG and the recipient of Mitacs Globalink Research Internship 2018 worked at University of Victoria, Canada in the field of astronomy for three months this summer. Apart from that she also did a research internship at SAC, Ahmedabad as a part of Indian Academy of Sciences Fellowship and Website Content Intern at Lunar Mission One during her previous summer vacation. Read on to know more about Akshara's experiences as she shared it with the Guindy Times while interning there.
Interviewee: Akshara Viswanathan
GT: Welcome to our Interview Session. Tell us about yourself.
Akshara: Hi. I'm Akshara Viswanathan, a final year student studying ECE at the Undergrad level and an aspiring astronomer. Adding on, I’m also a part of GT. (laughs)
GT: When did you plan to undertake an internship and how did you go about it?
Akshara: I got to know all about it from seniors and websites during my second year. I thought it was only for engineering but later on I found out that there were internship opportunities which catered to my interest too i.e. astronomy. My first internship was at the Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad which facilitated my second internship at UVic, Canada.
GT: You are from the Electronics and Communication department but your field of internship is different. Why did you choose astronomy?
Akshara: It's actually a funny story. It all started like a dream. Knowing about sky, galaxies, stars, etc gave me immense pleasure. It was during grade 6, when Science was divided into Physics, Chemistry and Biology. I still remember, the 4th Unit was Gravitation, which was when I fell in love with Astronomy and my love for it grew exponentially, every year. I used to read out all the topics related to astronomy as soon as I got my science books. Even my parents thought I wasn't serious until I got my first internship.
GT: You could have chosen astronomy courses in UG. But why didn’t you?
Akshara: In India, engineers are highly respected. I thought of choosing aeronautics but later I realised I was not interested in machines and I loved observational and instrumentation Astronomy. Also, B.Sc. was not appealing to me in terms of the infrastructure in India. The love for Physics is sufficient to pursue it in Masters was all I felt and CEG has been the best decision of my life till date.
GT: What were the problems you faced while applying for this internship?
Akshara: There were not many problems as all the processes were online. The only tough task was choosing which projects exactly suited me and filtering it out of 7000 or so projects under diverse domains. Then I had an interview with the professor concerned through a video call. When my interviewer asked me the reason behind choosing that particular project, my reply was, "I saw your project description. I didn't understand anything out of it. So I thought I would learn a lot from this project and placed it at the top of my preference”. She started laughing and was impressed with this unexpected answer. And I think that fetched me this opportunity. Smart answers are always a plus.
GT: How did you get accommodation for your stay during the internship period?
Akshara: I booked accommodation outside the campus. The organization that sponsored me was very supportive throughout the process. Although it was a paid internship, managing the financial resources were quite challenging as the cost of living is quite high here. This intern didn't just teach Astronomy but also independent living.
GT: Did you ever face any issues there? How did you overcome it?
Akshara: Yes, as I was the only Indian in my department it was quite difficult to blend in with the other students in the beginning. But gradually I became comfortable once I started attending meetings and Canadian International Conferences with them. My department is one of the best networks that I got.
GT: Your internship period is three months. So by the time you come back to college won't you find it difficult to cope up with academics? How would you manage?
Akshara: Yeah! Such issues are always there. By the time I come back, I will probably have to face assessments directly in a week or less. But you must learn to manage things and I know my friends will help me a lot too. And our University is great that they provide On Duty for the whole tenure which even most of the IITs fail to do.
GT: How different are your two prominent internships?
Akshara: Both were different. I worked on experimental Plasma and whistler waves at SAC. Now, I work on Observational Galaxy Mergers and Active Galactic Nuclei from Hawaii, Herzberg and Mexico Telescopes here at UVic. Right from living independent, the way fellow lab mates help you, the way your conversations go with the Professors, the stipend you get, the friends you meet, people around you, ambience, everything has atleast a tint of difference in national and international research internships. I personally loved the latter, and it’ll also play a prominent role for my Masters application anytime soon.
GT: Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences with us. It’ll be of great help to your juniors.
Akshara: Welcome. Pleasure is all mine. I’m ready to help any juniors who is interested in research and specifically in this domain.
The Guindy Times thanks Akshara Viswanathan for her time and patience and wishes all the best for her future endeavors.