Those were the best days of my life!
The first thought that comes to my mind if somebody asks me about the Summer of ’15.
I’m Deepali Gupta, Junior Undergrad, pursuing a Dual Degree in Mathematics and Computing. Presently, I am the Web Chief Editor at BSP. I love to assess the transcend of humanity down the ages through music, literature, and latest on my list, travelling! I did a research internship at New York University, USA, last summer.
Come September, and all Sophomores embark upon the quest of typing in their first resumes and cover letters, for spamming the inboxes of professors of the faraway lands. Following the crowd, I tried my luck too. I couldn’t believe my luck by chance through the discussions, visa documentation and planning, until I boarded my flight, my first ever trip alone, to New York, the city that never sleeps.
I worked in the CSE Department at Polytechnic (now Tandon) School of Engineering, NYU, under a professor in the Information Systems and Internet Security (yes, ISIS!) Unit. The project I joined involves making password cracking amazingly hard and inefficient and majorly involves cryptography. My job was to understand the already deployed system, find ways to further increase its performance through other methods and create an implementation for the same. As I had attended a winter school on Cryptology in the previous winter, I had some knowledge about its basics and was fairly interested in it. That made me choose this project. Another part of my work was to analyse the security of the cryptosystem through expected password cracking times and create an online web tool for the same. Probability theory and web designing came in handy here.
However, totally fresh to research, I started with much “enthu” until I tasted its spicy bitterness. One major problem is that you may spend a lot of time over something, going through research papers and trying out an implementation, only to realise that it is not what you needed at the end. This happened to me too, several times! Nevertheless, each failure makes your grip stronger. Also, the systematic work plan there rescued me. Weekly reports and meetings helped keep things, and my brain sorted. Also, I got constant support and guidance from my project head.
When it came to actually implementing the system, I had to code the two parts in languages I hadn’t worked with earlier. I take that as an added benefit. The CS courses proved helpful in this part. Apart from this, I learnt a lot about how it really is out in the industry and world class research. In such practical life projects, one has to look through an entirely different perspective than course projects. Specially there, we were in constant contact with the industry deployers and paper authors. Finally, I was able to work out a solution to the problem given to me (something the professor wasn’t even sure of in the beginning). I am still continuing with the project. Currently, I am working on another version with lesser restrictions and better performance. Once this system is deployed, it will increase the system security many times.
Coming to the work environment, it was great. I was allowed to work whenever and not I wished, provided I gave results. The sprawling campuses in Brooklyn and Manhattan were no less than five star hotels. I remember being awestruck when I saw the library. I made some really good friends in the lab and with my roommates, and everlasting memories. Everybody was really fun-going on one hand, while extremely focussed on their work on the other. We, the “bakaitians”, would sneak out for long lunches, roaming around Brooklyn Bridge and Times Square, apart from the weekend outings to see the beautiful city. The crazy rides, pranks, Freedom Day celebrations are all fresh in mind. I got to celebrate my birthday there, and thanks to the American tradition, was given (yes, “given”) a splendid treat! Interestingly, all of us were from different counties which paved way for a lot of cultural exchange. All being PhD students and employees, the youngest among them was 26, but they never made me feel like the baby of the group. Parting from them was the hardest farewell ever, but till now, we continue to be in touch, sharing our experiences and hoping to meet again.
This opportunity made me discover many things. People there are really friendly and welcoming. There is a celebration going on everywhere in an unsaid manner. And the security, cleanliness and public convenience is mind blowing. I found out about my love for Mexican Food (it offered the most number of vegetarian options too :P), a sense of self dependence (I’m an attachee 😉 ), my adventurous side and above all, who I am! I would just google “places to visit” and head out on the subway, ticking off the list. And how can you take away the golden opportunity of seeing the US! I managed to see a major part of New York State and California, a complete paradise.
How I wish those days would have never ended, but I came back with a new vision towards life cause, Closing Time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. :’)