NTHU, Taiwan – Urvashi Dhar, BB1

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Application Procedure:

I started applying to universities at the end of October amidst frantic mailing that my batchmates had commenced a month or two before me.

I think the major reason that contributed to my selection was my GPA and my department rank, both of which were really good. My academic credentials really stood out in my resume and that was something that the professor under whom I was interning was quite impressed by. Other than that, I had started a project in my 3rd semester in Biotechnology. This project involved researching the medicinal properties of ayurvedic plants through molecular dynamic simulations. Since this was somewhat similar to my project in Taiwan, this could’ve been a factor in my selection. However, it was not a major one as I had to learn most of the things from scratch in Taiwan. I definitely think that having a somewhat relevant project on your cv, given that you describe it aptly, gives you an advantage for internships.

The Internship:

I was among the 3 IIT Delhi people who were working on the project. My professor was super welcoming and allowed me to get familiar with the place in the first two weeks that I was there. I was given content about the research that he was pursuing so that I could choose what I wanted to learn.

My work was to make an automation system that had a significant utility in the main project which I was a part of.
I did a lot of learning during my internship. First and foremost I learned how to code in Python which was something I had never done before. I also learned about the ongoing research in the molecular dynamic space which gave me an overall exposure to research. It was interesting because even as a biotech major in a biotech project, most of my work involved coding.

For the first two weeks of the internship, I did not have much work to do. My professor allowed me to settle in and even took me out for lunch. He gave me a couple of things to read so that I could figure out what part of his research project I wanted to work on. My other two IITD batchmates arrived several days after me and so I had a lot of time to myself.

After the two weeks, I started working alongside a PhD student and my regular day would consist of working in the lab and making an automation system for the project while learning the intricacies and tools beings used in the entire project. The work to automate a certain part of the software that they needed and in the end, that goal was achieved.

About the Country:

Its a pretty small country so I tried my best to explore as many parts that I could. Their culture was very interesting and the people there were extremely friendly. There is a lot one can explore in Taiwan given its geographical history. From mountains to beaches to cities to national parks having deep gorges and beautiful treks, it’s a goldmine of natural beauty.

I did have to use an excessive amount of google translate to traverse my way around since the only language of communication is Chinese (Mandarin). From labels on food packets to menus in restaurants, it is very rare to find anything written in English. For vegetarians, food options are limited.

Takeaways:

I was exposed to the kind of research that is going on in the molecular dynamics space and was able to explore the aspects and tools like Matlab that are involved even in biological research.

My internship experience at university taught me a lot of things in the computational biology arena. They had several computational biology courses every week which were pretty heavy on mathematics but I made it a point to attend them. I couldn’t help but remember the times when I was in MTL 101 while I was in them.

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