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Fostering an admirable personality and honing versatile skills in the arena of Sports, Management and Technology have helped Siddharth Pujari, a final year student from the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering to achieve his goal of becoming an exemplary engineer. Owing to his passion to explore new aspects of work and his sincere devotion towards academics, has helped him to succeed in bagging prestigious internships at reputed places of the world, like NUS, Singapore, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and IIST. Team Monday Morning brings you the internship experiences of a distinguished scholar:

Monday Morning: Tell us something about yourself before NITR happened to you:

Siddharth Pujari: I did my schooling at a place known as Belpahar in the Jharsuguda district of Odisha. I was initially an average student but managed to complete my class 10th with a pretty good percentage. In order to get better coaching facilities for cracking JEE, I shifted to Bhubaneswar and got myself enrolled at DAV Public School, Pokhariput where I completed my Senior Secondary education.

MM: How did NITR happen to you? Was ECE the first choice or did you want to pursue something else?

SP: According to my rank in JEE, I didn’t get into the IITs so, I preferred joining NIT Rourkela. My first choice was Computer Science but as per my rank, I was eligible for a dual degree course and not a B.Tech. in CSE and I didn’t want an additional year in my engineering career. Talking about Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE), I didn’t choose the branch rather, the branch chose me.

MM: How did you get through the internship at Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) in your second year? 

SP: After talking to my seniors and by going through the articles in Monday Morning, I started searching for internships from my second year. During the Puja Vacations, I sighted this programme of IIST which was named as the National Programme of Differential Equations and was conducted by IIT Bombay. I applied in the online portal by filling the application form and the selected participants were segregated into several universities like IIST, IIT Bombay and other institutes around India. Fortunately, I was the only 2nd year student to have been selected in the programme. In the month of December, I pursued this internship and worked on Differential Equations specifically on ‘Controllability and Observability’. It was basically a mathematical project but I enjoyed pursuing it as it was my first internship. Despite being a small institute, the research work that was done there was very appreciable.

MM: You also worked at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. What were the necessary documents and skills required while applying for BARC internship? On what basis was the selection done?

SP: Since I had already done a research internship at IIST; I wanted to switch to something different like BARC, ISRO or DRDO. DRDO is very commonplace for the students of NITR to pursue an internship, so I tried for BARC. I had an acquaintance who was working there and after having a proper conversation regarding my desire to work at BARC, I forwarded my CV and cover-letter, mentioning them about my previous work experiences, about my interest in joining BARC and how it could have benefitted the organization.
After a conference and proper scrutiny of my resume and cover letter, the panel selected me for the internship. I got selected in the month of March, and then the documentation procedures were done in the form of paper work. I started my two months’ internship at Mumbai in the month of May. My area of work was, ‘Master-slave manipulator’. It included both hardware and software aspects of working. There were certain things I didn’t have knowledge about but some of my ideas impressed the BARC authorities and so I had a good experience working there. Initially, I faced some problems for accommodation but they got it resolved soon.

MM: How do you differentiate between the research environment at IIST and BARC?

SP: Apart from the difference in duration of each internship, there are a lot of differences between both places. In IIST, I had come through a programme, so there was a specific plan for everything. All procedures were standardized. I had to report to a Ph.D. student every day and update my professor regarding my progress. Apart from that, the project was mostly simulation-based.

In BARC, I was more independent. I could decide how I wanted to do the project. There weren’t any specific rules I had to follow as such.  Also, the project was mostly hardware based because, in BARC, they work on high-end application projects and not simple software.

MM: You bagged a prestigious internship at NUS at the end of your pre-final year. Please guide us through the application process of NUS. What were the various challenges that you faced?

SP: Once I completed my internship in BARC, I had decided that I would not apply to any companies for internships. I started my independent application process during the summer vacation between my second and third year itself. I first applied through various scholarship programmes, but I didn’t qualify in any of them. This was expected since my CGPA was quite mediocre at that point. That was when I decided to try applying for internships through other means. I started personally mailing professors of various institutes across the world from the October of my fifth semester. I didn’t get responses from many colleges. Nevertheless, I didn’t give up hope. During that period, I sent a total of almost 300 emails!

After a while, I started receiving acceptance letters from many institutes such as ETH Zurich, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and another university in Tokyo. Even though I got acceptance from most of these universities by November itself, the biggest issue was that the universities were not willing to fund my stay.

Finally, in January, I received a response from Assistant Professor Hongliang Ren. He is an assistant professor in the Biomedical department, but he’s also associated with a lab called Advanced Robotics Centre (ARC), also known as Medical Mechatronics Lab. Since my CV matched his interests, he got in touch with me and asked for a research statement about how I planned to pursue my research in a detailed manner. Once all the required documents were submitted, he allowed me to work in his lab and also agreed to fund my stay partially. Additionally, he also waived the visa charges. I received a funding of around 1 lakh 20 thousand INR for my accommodation. My official acceptance letter reached me during March.

Then started the visa process which took around two-three weeks. But compared to other countries, the visa process for Singapore is more convenient and easy. There was no need to visit the embassy for my visa especially. I had to fill up a few forms in the comforts of my room. I was provided with a TEP (Temporary Employment Pass). I didn’t go on a student visa. I went on an employment visa since I was being paid. On a side note:

I strongly advise those students going for foreign internships, especially to places like Singapore where the standard of living is quite costly, to start looking for accommodations well in advance. There are certain groups on Facebook where you can look for available accommodations depending on your range. This will make the process of finding a place to stay easy.

MM: What is the difference between the research scenario of India and Singapore?

SP: There is a huge difference between both places! In Singapore, everything was very systematic. The professor was very concerned about what the students were working on. My professor was very dynamic. He was always traveling to different countries. Even then, he was very hands-on. He always remained connected to us through WhatsApp. We were continuously updating him about our progress. The whole relationship between the professor and us was very informal. The lab facilities were all state-of-the-art. Administrative policies are properly stated and implemented, and reimbursements are done instantly.

On the other hand, the professors in India are not that concerned about the students’ progress. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the professor remains updated with his/her progress. The lab equipment in my department isn’t that well-maintained and up-to-date. Also, to get work done here, we must invest a lot of time and energy.

MM: You have spent three years in this institute. How do you describe your life here, in academics and social sphere?

SP: I joined this institute with an expectation to re-invent myself. Three years prior to the B.Tech. career was mostly devoted towards academics so here I wanted to explore myself. After joining NIT, I wanted to revive my skills of sports that I used to have before class 10th. Apart from that, I even had a desire to contest elections and to join some managerial posts. Elections didn’t turn up for me but I learned managerial skills by joining Cyborg. In my first year, I played badminton, table tennis and volleyball. I even participated in the Inter NIT sports tournament. After receiving an advice from my captain about getting involved in multiple games, I realized that I can’t afford to be a ‘Jack of all traits and master of none. So, I started playing badminton rigorously. I was not much inclined towards studies rather I wanted to cultivate my technical skills. I participated in Innovison and Tech Day. After my first year, I decided to devote more time towards academics but I ended up being involved in sports completely. In my third semester, I went to IIT BHU for Spardha (Games and Sports festival), I had even co-ordinated tread-o-quest event in Innovison 2015 and a badminton event during ISM 2016So, I have experienced all spheres; sports, managerial and academics.

MM: What are your plans for the future?

SP: Currently, I’m very excited for the release of my NUS internship research paper in International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018 in Brisbane. Career wise, I have been offered a job by a core engineering company. So, for now, I’d like to work for a couple of years. Since I also have a research profile, I would love to pursue a Master’s degree in my field of interest. But for now, I’m looking for some industrial experience.

MM: What message would you like to leave for our readers?

SP: All I’d like to say is that:

These four years of your life will give you a lot of things to experiment and experience. College helped me to explore myself. So, I suggest all first year students to explore and try their hands in all possible fields and to figure out their interests. Ultimately, we are here for an academic goal, so everyone must remember not to neglect their studies. Remember to be passionate, determined and hard-working in whatever you do. An appropriate reward will follow.