Thursday, 29 October 2009

Summer Internships - once in a lifetime opportunity

Guest Article by: Saurabh Jain
I thank Saurabh for writing this article. Saurabh completed his Bachelor of Technology in Civil Engineering from IIT Delhi in 2007, and is into Management Consulting since then, advising global firms on growth strategy, mergers and acquisitions, revenue enhancement, global expansion, etc. He has worked for Strategy & Operations division at Deloitte Consulting, and is currently working with consulting division at MN Dastur & Co. Pvt Ltd, Kolkata. He is also involved into a number of activities like writing, entrepreneurship and social works. He is an enthusiastic blogger and is involved with many social works like working against Dowry & Domestic Violence and is always ready to help anyone who needs advice on career and education related matters. He could be reached at saurabh.iit2003[at]

Doing a summer internship was a dream of mine. Many of my seniors had been to Internship during the summers after their 2nd or 3rd year, and almost all of my classmates had started talking about doing it – for many reasons – to see a totally new world, new people, new technologies, new environment, new kind of professors/professionals, new ways of doing things. In short, as they call it, an international exposure, that would help them in broadening the scope of their thinking, and in materialistic terms to get some quality stuff for their resume – after all, having an international experience does count on your resume (which I realised 2 years after graduating from IIT Delhi, that some companies clearly specify in their job listings – “candidates with international experience and atleast one foreign language preferred”). But for me, Europe was the only fascination – and I wanted to do it.

I would not go into the details of how I went about applying. My initial method of applying was as haphazard as it is for any other starter. The best way to look for potential internship university or a company is to approach the people of your own discipline who have already been interns to the countries you want to go to – do a bit of networking and ask for their help if they can refer you to their previous university/professor/company. If you are unable to find any such seniors, the next best way is to open up your Orkut account, look for the Summer Internship communities, join them and go into the discussions. You’d find lots of people asking others about which university and which field of study are they going to do their internship in. Check out the websites of those universities, and start looking for professors’ profiles and if they belong to your field of interest and fire your email.

Approaching your own department professors won’t be a bad idea. Some professors have contacts with foreign universities, and they can contact them and help you get an internship.

Securing an internship needs luck and patience. Sometimes people make hundreds of applications before getting selected, and sometimes they get selected on the very first application. You’ve got to be at the right person at the right place at the right time.

Resume does matter – and always keep in mind that resume is not a one day job. A good resume takes editing a number of times. So the better way to go about making your resume is to first see atleast 10 resumes – take them from your seniors or download them from the internet. Do not copy paste anything from theirs. Just see their formats, and start building your own resume. And find out a senior who can be your mentor in resume preparation. Keep showing him the resume, and he’d give you the tips about what changes are required. Believe me, it takes atleast 20 iterations before you have a still imperfect resume in your hand. A resume is never perfect – it can always be better. Try and make a one-page resume (if achievements are too much and do not fit in one page even after shortening as much as possible, try and make a two page resume – but a strict ‘no’ to 1.5 page or 1.75 page resume). Once you feel the resume is at a decent level, start applying as mentioned in the previous section.

None of us wants to go for an internship by paying from our own pocket. And the good news is that scholarships are available for summer internships – but not always, and sometimes you’ve to be aware about the sources of scholarships. So, as soon as you get an internship offer from your professor, and you are told that you won’t be offered any funding for your stay and travel, visit that country’s embassy’s website. These websites list all the scholarships available for foreign students to study for short-term projects or bachelors or master’s degree in that country. Go to these links and find out the details about the application procedure, deadline for applications and apply immediately. Some organizations provide scholarships throughout the year while others provide them once annually or twice annually.

Secured more than one internship?
Some people get positive responses from more than one university/company. In this case, students have an option of selecting the best option in terms of country, subject, university or finances. The left out options could best be utilized by handing them over to your classmates who are also looking for internships. Talk to the professor or the company you’ve got an internship with, and tell them that since you cannot make it to the internships due to some personal reasons, you are recommending your friend for the position and they can consider him/her if they don’t mind. This helps everyone – your friends, the professor, and your own university gets a chance to represent itself at one more location on this earth.

While you are doing your internship
Once you have landed your dream destination, the responsibility lies on your shoulders on how you manage to make the most out of your internship. You’ve limited time of some 10 weeks and you must remember a few things that you must do.

i. Work should be your priority
Deliver your best. This will have many fold benefits. Firstly, you get a good recommendation from the place you are working in. This will help you get good grades for your summer internship projects when you are back home to your own university. A good work can also get you a recommendation if you are aiming at GRE/GMAT. Secondly, don’t forget that you are representing your university and your country. I’ve seen cases where university/country names are blacklisted for ever because of one intern’s behaviour. Thirdly, a good impression during your intern can help your juniors in getting the internships in future

ii. Networking
Grab as many opportunities of meeting and influencing people who will be helpful to you in your future.

iii. Tourism
This seems to be an obvious one in the “things to do” list, but some people just get involved with the above mentioned two things that they later regret not having realized the opportunity to see the beautiful world around. It’s your first tryst with your dreams – and first such experience as a student is always a memorable one.

I hope my experiences would be helpful in your internship pursuits. You can always contact me in for any other queries.

-Saurabh Jain
Summer Internship (ENPC-Paris, 2006)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

What after a PhD?

What after a PhD - industry, academics, management or banking? This question generally confuse many of us because of several factors e.g. money, job satisfaction, work-life balance, job security and future growth, etc. Few of us have straight job priorities that is excellent. However, irrespective of any choice, it is important to start job hunting at the right time. Writing PhD can easily take up to six months. It is ideal time to start applying for jobs once first draft of your thesis is complete. Although, it is much better to start job hunting along with writing thesis considering the current market situation. Information below could be useful for job hunting:

1. Academics
There are three main stream in this category: post-doc or lecturer positions or fellowships.

1.1. Post-doc or lecturer positions

The first step could be to check web pages of various groups where you feel that your research interests could fit well. If you find something very relevant, but with no vacancies in that group, even then there is no harm in sending your CV to them. They may consider it in future if they found your profile promising and fitting into their requirements. This could be particularly useful for lecturer positions but make sure that your CV is going to the relevant person.

Other ways could be to sign up for job adverts. One excellent place for academic jobs is while others could be academic jobs, European jobs, University jobs and Jobs for PhD, New Scientist Jobs etc. There could be several other such sites which could help you to keep updated with the current available positions.

If one is interested in academic position in Indian premier institutes such as Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), Indian Institute of Science (IIScs) or Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), the straight approach is to visit their web pages where you will normally find advert for vacancies. Fill their forms or send your CV to them. If they are interested, they will contact you for arranging further steps.

1.2 Research fellowships
difficult but most impressive way is to secure post-doctoral fellowships for your further research. One route to secure them is to respond to fellowship adverts published through various job sites (described above in 1.1). The other route is to browse the websites of the UK research funding organisations such as The Royal Society, EPSRC, NERC, The Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research, The British Council, British Academy, Research Councils UK, Thee Nuffield Trust, etc., and write research proposals according to their guidelines and submit to them. Note that in most cases, there is an deadline for submitting such proposals so one should begin to look a year or so in advance as fellowships are very competitive. Even if your application is not successful, the advantage would be to gain experience to write research grants/proposals that you need to do anyway after few years if you want to stay in academia.

2. Industry, Management or Banking
Probably, I am not the right person to advice on the above. However, registering with various web sites such as jobsearch, prospects, career seeker, jobs1, jobsite, industrial jobs, etc., could be helpful. Apart from them, it is very useful to go to web pages on various companies and look for the jobs of your interest. If you are still in the University, another effective way could be to keep an eye on your 'University's career service' dairy.

2.1 Article invited on 'finding industrial jobs'
I feel that one way of returning help that we received from others is to help others! An article on 'tips for securing industrial jobs after a PhD' is warmly welcomed from any of my friends working in industries. I do not want to name them but am looking forward for their initiative to share their experiences that could benefit others.

3. Final words
This stage of life is a mix of pressure and joy: pressure to complete PhD, finding a job of ones interest and several uncertainties because of transition, and joy to start a new innings of lthe life. Everyone has to pass through this phase, so remain patient, calm, focused and plan the job thing carefully. I am sure things will fall at right place for you!

Good luck!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Your personal webpage - Just few clicks away!

Note: Contents of this article are more relevant to University of Surrey FEPS Staff members.

You will be aware that University staff can set up their personal web pages for free on University’s hosted web server. This gives you an opportunity to publicise your research, academic, social or personal activities in your own style. Note that one should be conscious about putting the contents on your site as it is solely the responsibility of authors.

For example, I have set up my personal web page and here is its link:

If you do not have your own web page and are interested to set up one, then follow the steps given below:

1. First go to this website:

2. Click on the following right hand side link: Request a MyPages web site which will take you to another page containing a small form.

3. Fill the form and submit it. Your first step is complete now.

4. Second step is to find online space to upload your web page. You should have personal file store directory to store your online files. You can check this by using these commands on your office computer: Start---Run----(type) H:/

5. These commands will take you to the new window containing your online Personal Filestore.

6. Now, the most important task is to locate a folder called ‘MyPages_HTML’ in your personal filestore. Open this folder by double clicking on it and just paste your web page (that you need to prepare) in H:/MyPages_HTML folder. Note that your web page should be in html format and name of your web page should be ‘index.htm’ or ‘index.html’.

7. Your second step is now completed and your web page is ready to host your contents. Your web page address will be

8. Final and third step is a back up step: You may not find ‘MyPages_HTML’ in your Personal Filestore as was the case with me. Either try to make this folder yourself or write to the IT Services to set up this folder for you in your personal file store directory.

Things may not go as per the above plan but do not panic and wait for the IT people’s response. You will definitely get this done after some time!

Instructions to make your web page can found by clicking these professional tools such as
Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Front Page or Dreamweaver etc.

A short article is warmly welcomed on 'simple ways to create your personal web page'
by any volunteer.

Good luck.
(PS: If you find this article useful, please record your reactions and comment on it!)

Friday, 21 August 2009

Finishing PhD research effectively and efficiently - Contrasting thoughts!

One of my friend once said 'starting PhD is like entering in a pipeline where there is darkness all around but one day you will suddenly see the end of this pipeline with light' and that will be the proud moment to preserve for life. Well, how to achieve this proud moment by effectively and efficiently completing PhD research is the topic of discussion here.

As you will be aware that most funding agencies such as trusts, research grants etc., in the UK have provision for 3 year funding or 3.5 years in some cases. Going over this period may prove very costly as one has to cover fees, maintenance and living expensive etc. from his pocket which is not an ideal situation. In such case, it is quite important to complete PhD within a reasonable time (say 3.5 or 4 years).

One may not like to take just a PhD degree but would also like to carry over his several technical skills and research together with realising his presence to other researchers in that research area. In fact, it is also the opportunity to sharpen the existing skills and gaining several others that can be helpful for all round development. How can one make out the most of it? Generally, people decide their objectives depending on the career path (mainly industry, academics, management or banking) they want to choose after a PhD. However, irrespective of any chosen career path, PhD is for research so this task should be fulfilled sincerely without deviating too much from its path. After all, someone is going to spent ~£80K on your PhD with lot of efforts in background.

One important aspect that totally depends on individual is whether one just want a PhD or a PhD with maximum dissemination of research through conference presentations, writing articles for various scientific/research/social societies and publishing it in top international peer reviewed journals, etc. Here starts conflicting thoughts as many of us may not agree with the dissemination idea. Therefore, these two words 'efficiently' and 'effectively' are used in the title. Following cases can be formed to discuss this further:

PhD within reasonable time with minimal dissemination
It is a straight business approach. One is paid as part of a project/programme and he delivered the results. In fact, it is quite a comfortable situation for both parties! It is efficient as well since it was finished within reasonable time span. But, is this an effective PhD as well? Did one squeezed enough from the opportunities he got during this period? One can argue that it is an effective research since it fulfilled the required objectives (fair enough to say!). I used the word 'minimal' because the above case benefited a particular party. Others could have been benefited if it would have been disseminated to a wider community.

For the answer of later question, I think one can squeeze far more than this for his future betterment and for the betterment of society and science. One effective way is publishing his/her work in peer reviewed journals. However, one can argue that my project had confidential stuff and I am not allowed to do so. Fair enough to say, if he has put sincere efforts towards it but could not publish because of such practical constraints!

2. PhD within reasonable time with optimum dissemination
I see it as a best option as it satisfy both terms 'effective' and 'efficient'! PhD research is a small contribution towards a big heap of research. If it is disseminated properly, you have contributed towards that heap and others can benefit from it. However, it is quite challenging, but there is no gain without pain.

Some of us may argue that why should I bother to publish it as I do not want to go to academia. Well, is it really necessary that one should only publish if it fulfills his/her future interests? My argument against it is that no matter what we do after a PhD, during PhD we are researchers and it is our moral duty to sincerely fulfill the objectives of the job in hand.

Moreover, how many people do we think will come to know about our work by reading our thesis's - I think very few. But many will know, if it is published in journals as probability of it reaching to a wider community and to stay alive for a longer duration are quite high. In fact, I have asked my friends that how many times they have read their thesis's after PhD or have they suggested others to refer it - the answer is not very encouraging. But, the case of publishing may be quite different. So why should we not choose the option which helps us and others too.

My personal experience is in support of this option. Firstly, one can get invaluable technical feedback by reviewers on submitted manuscripts to further improve the quality of work. In fact, it is the first time when a third neutral person is assessing your work. Once an article gets accepted, confidence level rises enormously. Motivation and drive force to publish more increases tremendously. Secondly, once you have couple of good publications, you and your supervisor know precisely how much work have been done and how much more is needed for PhD submission. After this, writing thesis is not a huge task. It is just an integration of published paper. This strategic approach can be helpful in some cases if not in all.

3. Over run PhD with/without dissemination
This is not an ideal situation for a PhD candidate as he not only have to face pressure to finish it quickly but have to fight with his financial challenges. However, if it is the case, one should not conclude that candidate is incompetent or he is not working hard or he is not taking his work seriously as several other factors can drive the situation. These could be type of work involved in project, availability of resources, supervisors interest, support and guidance and of course candidate's driving force and time management to achieve it. This situation becomes even more uncomfortable if it is over run without dissemination as it can increase the level of complexities during defense. In this situation, I feel that working strategically and calmly together with the proper time management can be helpful. At the end of the day everyone gets PhD, so it is just a matter of time. Also, one can argue than some people are better in one thing while others can be better in doing other things. So, keep up the sportsmen spirit, it is not the end of the life!

4. Summary
There may be several points which have not been considered above. There may also be several other points above with whom many of us may not agree. But one most important thing with which we all may agree is to put our sincere efforts. It can give more satisfaction than doing several things or try to fit ourselves in one of the above criterion.

Happy reading!
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Thursday, 20 August 2009

First time travelling to the UK - What should I take with me?

When coming to the UK for a short or a long duration, the first question comes in mind is: what should I take with me to the UK? I asked this question from my friends and few of my friends asked the same question from me. The following tips could be helpful in this regard:

1. Documents
Make sure you have taken all your original certificates along with you. These may include offer, invitation and/or accommodation letters, etc. Always keep them in your hand luggage; never checked them with your main baggage. You will need them at immigration checks at both home and away countries.

2. Phone handset

Carrying a phone set with you can prove quite useful. We normally leave it at home by thinking that it will not work there. But it is always advisable to take it with you as most Indian (probably Asian) phones works perfectly fine in the UK with UK simcards. Bringing it with you will reduce your initial expenses along with the hassle to find phone shops in the beginning. Read next section for its instant utilisation.

3. Phone calls
Whenever we are away from home, first things come in mind is to call our nearers and dearers. If you do (or do not) have international roaming in your phone, calling from from your phone or a public booth can be bit expensive. Although there is no option in such situation unless you have any friend already living in the UK and allow you to use his/her phone. one option can be to buy a calling card and call through a landline phone or a public booth.

The first thing one should do is to buy a pay as you go simcard (cost <£20; generally comes with same amount of top up in most cases) from any phone shop as soon as you get opportunity to roam around. Few (mobile world, libara, etc.) of them provide quite cheap (~5 INR per minute) calls for India or other Asian countries. In that way, you can make short calls any time you want besides having your phone number that can be given to your friends or family back home. After some time, one can always go for a phone contract that generally provides free fency hand sets with plenty of free minutes and sms's.

Once settled in the UK and have access to internet, the best option is to use VOIP (voice over internet protocol) for making calls to any landline or mobile in back home. There are several such service providers (e.g. smart voip, 12voip, free call, nymgo, etc.); the use of such services will cost you less than one INR per minute. Note that you should keep an eye on new VOIPs also as competition among various service providers can benefit you in the form of reduced calling rates.

4. Money
Note that even if your scholarship/salary advance bank cheque is ready, it may easily take up to a month to cash it. Most of this time goes in opening a bank account. It is always good to have at least couple of hundred pounds with you for the expenses of first month. It is quite common to pay house rent and deposit money in advance which is one of the most expensive affair. It is better to clear it first with the landlord in advance. Generally, food expenses will fall within £200/month for a single person if cooks himself; however, it is just a rough idea which can vary from person to person. Also, it can be a good idea to exchange money in your home country through an agent rather than doing it on airport . This option can provide you a better exchange rates but do not forget to take exchange receipt in case you need to show it during immigration! Although it can be easily exchanged at the airport also in case you did not get enough time to do so in advance.

5. Clothes
While in home country, we generally think that UK weather remains cold throughout the year. But you will get chance to enjoy summers also between March and August (though it may not apply to some part of the UK!). As far as clothes are concerned, it is always good to pack some thermal and jackets. You may also pack some summer clothes which you will get chance to wear during summers. Although, your home jackets may not be effective in winters so you have to buy a pair of jackets from the UK itself. It is not a bad purchasing though as you will find the quality of jackets pretty good. The good place to buy these can be sports direct and Mark and Spenser's, etc. It is always advisable to bring an umbrella as predicting the UK weather is not easy!

6. Food items
We miss home cooked food after leaving home. Therefore, it is not a bad idea to pack some well-packed ready-to-eat food. It can be quite helpful in early days of your settling. However, you can find almost every kind of food material (raw or ready-to-eat) in the supermarkets (e.g. Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda) here.

7. Utensils
You can find every kind of utensil here except pressure cooker. In fact, there is no such utensil exist in the UK. It is strongly advisable to bring one if you cook yourself. Note that you should also be careful while using it in your kitchen as your neighbors get frighten from its whistle!

8. Final words
You can try to arrange the above but life will go on even if you do not have any of the above or you miss something. So no need to worry. One of my dearest friend Kaushal said to me when I was in such preparation ' just enjoy the last couple of days before you travel to the UK with your family and friends - bring yourself and your confidence - rest will be automatically fine'.

Hope you will find the above useful.

Good luck,
(PS: Never boil eggs in the microwave or be ready for the blast!)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

How to arrange funding for PhD / Masters research in abroad?

PhD Hunting - Beginner's Tip

It is always a tricky business to arrange funding for pursuing a PhD, MPhil or MS degree in a foreign university. It is quite frustrating some time despite having excellent academic background. There are few ways where one can try for:

1. Arrange funding through a research project
One has to browse through various Universities and/or academics web pages for applying to them. They may have any project to fund your research!

2. Apply to the University directly
In this case, applications can be randomly make to various universities. University may contact you if anyone from its faculty has interest in individuals CV or research proposal. Though one should not totally rely on it.

3. Self- Funding
It is a most definitive case to get PhD admission offer from an University, if got a decent academic profile. Although it is quite unlikely that anyone would like to spend a big some on his research degree. However, if this is the case, one can get admission in a good university even with a relatively weaker academic background.

4. Arranging a Scholarship / Fellowship
There are various independent bodies such as Commonwealth Trust, Gates Cambridge Trust, Cambridge Nehru Scholarship etc., that can fund your entire research programme. Although it is quite competitive but 'no pain - no gain'. Few of them are listed here.

5. University Scholarships
It is a good idea to browse through various Universities' web pages and apply for University scholarships, if are available. Click here and here for examples. Outstanding candidates have good chances to obtain one.

6. Web subscription
A good option can be to subscribe to this website for receiving regular emails; this site is particularly good if one is interested to pursue his/her research in the Europe. Other places to look at could be this and this.

It should be noted that many European Universities require a decent TOEFL and/or IELTS score while US Universities require GRE despite your first degree being taught in English. However, there are also exceptions for exemption; it is always better to check with the University before sending an application to them.

Good luck,
(PS: If you like the post, please comment it, follow it by clicking on 'follow' on the right hand side and forward it.)