Interview: Rahul Bhope (2016-2020)

How did you go about the application process for NTU-India Connect Program? Did you have any interviews? If so, would any prior preparation of concepts be needed (for an interview)?

The application process is an extensive one. It involves indicating 3 research titles initially and then goes about asking for personal details, academic achievements, transcript, previous research experience, passport information, the NOC Letter from the institute and contact information of 2 professors for the Academic Reference letter and Letters of Recommendation.

I had also mailed the professors I had applied under (unlike MITACS, I went through every line in the FAQs and there was no such clause saying “do not contact the professors via email”, so I did), stating my application number, attaching my CV, research statement and other details.

There was no interview conducted for me, but there were others for whom a Web – interview was conducted with their research supervisors which mainly consisted of technical questions.

A thorough revision of the concepts applied in the projects done would be enough to answer the questions in the interview.

What were the roadblocks you faced during the application process? How do you go about writing the research statement? 

There were no roadblocks as such. Drafting a convincing research statement was challenging. The research statement should be convincing to increase the chances of selection. It should be apt for the project you are applying to. It should also answer why the internship will help you achieve your goals in life. It should be crisp, clear and lucid.

Always get a 3rd party opinion and consider their reviews. It can be your friends, seniors, family, anyone. Never hesitate to ask for help.

When would you recommend that interested students start applying?

The portal freezes on New Year’s Eve. So apply well in advance and do not wait till the last minute. After the portal closes try mailing your research supervisors; there are no mailing restrictions imposed by the NTU India Connect Program.

Scholarships like DAAD require you to email professors first and then apply through the DAAD-WISE program. Is it the same in the case of NTU-India Connect?

No, you’ll have to choose 3 research titles initially and if the professors think that you are a perfect fit for the project and the lab then he/she will select you.

How did you go about shortlisting projects?

I am interested in IoT and Machine Learning. So, I narrowed down my search to this domain and found the top 3 projects which would help me develop my skills and kindle my interest in research.

Was the stipend provided sufficient to cover all your expenses? How did you manage accommodation and food? 

I received a monthly stipend directly from the parent organization of my project which is TUM Create, a joint venture of TU Munich and NTU as there was some issue with procuring the stipulated stipend of 300 SGD in the India connect program. I received close to 1.5 Lakhs with which I was able to cover all my expenses.

I was unable to get accommodation inside the campus as I got the offer in April and the visa application took around 1 month. So I stayed outside in a private hostel.

There are a lot of Indian restaurants in Singapore but most of them are pretty costly so I used to cook food. There were facilities in my hostel to cook, but every time I cooked I did attract some pretty strange-faced onlookers.

For students who did not get the NTU-India Connect scholarship, but have gotten an acceptance from a professor, would you recommend them to do the internship, albeit funded by themselves?

Yes, it’s worth it. Also, do ask for funding options as many projects on campus are funded by some private organizations which have a lot of research grants. 

The LORs you get, the contacts you develop and the experience you receive are surely worth the buck. 

Did NTU provide any assistance after reaching the host university/ host country?

Yes, they helped me get my Training Employment Pass, student credentials, ID card (which helped me sneak into a lot of places for free) and ensured I get my stipend on time.

Could you briefly describe your project? Did you learn any new skill (research-wise) upon completing your internship?

The project was about Localization, Navigation and Tracking Pedestrians in indoor and semi indoor complexes. The nitty-gritty of the project cannot be revealed because the project has a commercial aspect.

I learnt some new frameworks which are commonly used in prototype development. Because I had to develop a proof of concept, I was involved in conducting the experiment and doing the simulations.

How diverse was the student community at the internship and what were the takeaways from interactions with them?

Students from different ethnicities were present. My lab had students from China, India, and Sri Lanka. My flatmates were from South Korea and France.

I got to learn about their culture and was able to break a lot of stereotypes they had about Indians.

Describe your typical work week and off-campus life.

The working hours were very flexible, though I would ensure that I gave 4 productive working hours every day. Saturdays and Sundays were off.

I visited a lot of tourist attractions in Singapore. I also went to Indonesia for a short tour. One visit to Universal Studios was a must every weekend because I had an unlimited entry pass and a pretty enthusiastic group of friends.

Did you face any obstacles during your internship?

Nothing as such, but there were some nasty errors and bugs in my code which I faced in the initial days. The rest of the internship was pretty smooth. 

My only advice would be learning some basic cooking and the process of it as well, like getting all the correct ingredients, following a recipe and stuff.

After joining the internship, what kind of resources do you look up to learn in our project?

Generally, your supervisor will provide you with all the material you need to go through and would ask you to make some important points. Then the proof of concept has to be like a properly documented experiment, that had to be submitted in a prescribed format.

The prototype development was easy for me given my previous experience and hence did not require any training as such.

How frequently were you interacting with your professor? What was the workflow?

The team would interact every week, mostly on a Wednesday. I was responsible for presenting whatever progress I was able to attain, the problems I faced and asked for solutions from other members of the team.

I would meet my professor once in 2-3 days while I would meet my research scholar almost every day.

Would you consider studying in Singapore in the future? If so, does being a scholar help you get admission over there easily?

Yes, NTU has a very solid program on Hardware and Embedded Systems which fits well into my profile. Singapore is one of the most technically advanced countries/cities in the world and a lot of research grants and opportunities are available in Singapore.

Yes, it definitely will, because someone who has already worked with the lab has a higher chance of getting accepted there than someone they don’t know.

Do you have any advice for the current third-year students looking forward to applying to research internships? 

Keep emailing the professors and do ask for grants. Don’t lose hope if you do not get an internship in the first few months.


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