Graduate Research Internship at University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Damodharan R (GT) – Information Technology – CEG
Subhiksha M – Biomedical Engineering - CEG
Madhumita S M – Industrial Bio-Technology – ACT
GT: What is the difference between a research internship and a regular internship? Why did you opt for research?
Madhumita: In my opinion, a typical company-based internship generally helps more in procuring a job. The things you learn there may not directly help with your studies, as there isn't much learning from your side. Those who want a normal internship usually look for a company so that they have better chances of applying for a job there. Meanwhile, working under a professor is a different experience altogether. This will help you get a broader perspective of the currently ongoing research in your field. Since I wanted to do a research-based Masters, I took up this internship.
Subhiksha: A research internship helps us when applying for our Masters and PhD For those, who want to look into core jobs, core internships will be helpful. I wanted to continue my research work, so that is the reason I chose this internship.
GT: What was the subject of your research internship, and what were the steps you took to prepare yourself for it?
Subhiksha: My internship is about the bio-printing of cardiac patches that will aid in MI repair. Since it is an online internship this time, we worked on a market analysis of tissue engineering and bio-printing. The steps I took during preparation included building a strong resume, choosing your field of interest very clearly and working towards skills that will help you in procuring the internship. As they cannot meet us directly, they'll mostly judge us based on these categories.
Madhumita: The field I interned in is cancer genomics where we perform gene targeting for cancer cells, using a pipeline created between circRNA and microRNA for gene expression analysis. So the first step that I followed during preparation was reviewing all the eligibility criteria. Make sure your passport is valid till you go there and come back. Then contacting the professors to provide a reference letter will be the next task in line. I customized my CV and collected my academic transcripts, and penned down my interests for research. My skills and past achievements also helped me get this internship.
GT: What is the procedure like when applying for research internships? How does this selection process differ from corporate internships?
Madhumita: There are many ways to get research internships. You can either contact the professor whom you want to work with directly or apply through common portals like Mitacs. For Mitacs, you have to submit the application and select a research project from the online database. Mitacs provides professors with a shortlist of students for their projects. Professors are then asked to review the students' applications, conduct interviews, and then rank the applicants. So, Mitacs links the students and professors accordingly.
Subhiksha: Mitacs is a good platform. We had to rank the projects from 1 to 7, based on our preference. After reviewing our profile, the professors will also do the same with all the applicants. There will be two rounds of selection and before that, there will be filtering based on our percentage and for India, it is 80%. There will usually be applicants will from around 10 to 15 countries. Finally, an interview will be conducted, and for those who haven’t got selected in the first round, a second one will be conducted.
GT: Could you share some of the experiences you had during this internship?
Subhiksha: Although it was a virtual internship, I got to learn many things. All the conversations were via mail and other modes of online communication. Mitacs made it feel more interactive and they even organized meetings with former interns to discuss our prospects for the future.
Madhumita: I had the chance of engaging with fellow GRI interns and the global graduate fellow alumni, and got to know about their inspiring experiences. As for my internship, we had weekly scheduled meetings with the professor to list out the work that had to be done for that week. Originally, it was a project based on wet lab, but due to the current circumstances, we went on with a computational project.
GT: How was this internship beneficial to you, and how will it help your future endeavours?
Madhumita: Mitacs helped me discover a lot about myself and made me realize my passion for cancer research. It motivated me to give back to society. They even provided us with the global graduate fellowship for pursuing a Master's or PhD in Canada alongside access to the DAAD WISE program which gives out scholarships in Germany on completion of this internship.
Subhiksha: This internship helped us realize what we are interested in, which was helpful for us. If you are planning on pursuing higher studies, this would give you a very solid foundation to start off with.
GT: What advice would you give to your juniors in terms of internship preparation?
Subhiksha: Never miss any chance you get, even if it is a trivial one, and use them wisely. You can try learning many new things outside your syllabus through attending webinars, events, and so on. Develop both your interpersonal and professional skills and expand your professional network through platforms like LinkedIn. Apart from that, to brush up on what’s happening in your field you can start reading research articles from Google Scholar. You should also be confident during your interviews as they are the only gateway with which we can have direct contact with professionals in the field.
Madhumita: Applicants are generally assessed on several factors which include their CGPA, the quality of the statement of interest, and the reference letters. So the more your skill set fits the need of the research project or professor, the better chance you will have of getting the internship. You have to associate with a professor who works in a similar field as your interest. Also, make sure you get your reference letters from a person who's interested in your field. A tip while selecting professors for your research intern is to not always choose the ones in the front they will be in high demand. It’s better to go through the list completely as the ones near the end have fewer applicants competing for them.
GT: What do you feel about the intern diary initiative of The Guindy Times?
Madhumita: It is a good initiative to create awareness about the internships as many people are now looking for some professional experience to build up their resumes and have a strong academic outline. This is the perfect time for it too since the Mitacs applications for GRI 2022 open in August only. Great job on the series!
Subhiksha: I only got to know of this internship from my friend and if it wasn’t for her I wouldn't have known about it. Since then, I keep sharing this series with my fellow batch mates and juniors. This is a very good initiative by Guindy Times, as it can help a lot of people who are waiting for guidance.
The Guindy Times thank Subhiksha and Madhumita for sharing their experiences and wishes them all the best for their future endeavours.