Dharanya, a student of the ECE department, did her 3rd-year summer internship at Shantou University (STU), China. Read on as she talks about her internship and her experiences of staying in China.
– How did you get to know about the internship opportunity? How can the junior batches find more information about the program?
A brochure regarding the internship was shared in my class Whatsapp group and interested students were asked to contact either Bhaskar sir, ECE or Varun Gopi sir, ECE. To know more about the program the students can either contact the aforementioned professors or me.
-How did you go about the application process for the STU Internship Program? Did you have any interviews? If so, would any prior preparation of concepts be needed (for an interview)?
After sending my resume and cover letter, I was added in a Wechat group including the interested students from our college and an Indian professor (Prof.Alex Noel) who works at STU. A list of projects was put up in the group and each of us chose one that we would like to work on. The professor contacted each one of us and asked about our previous projects. He later sent me a research paper on the project I chose and asked me to explain it. Also, he asked me to implement an algorithm (moment invariants) in MATLAB and show the results. Before getting selected, I was frequently contacted and evaluated based on my performance on the work he assigned. The final face to face interview with the Chinese Professor under whom I interned happened during April and I was asked questions related to their project that I started working on.
As far as the interview goes, a thorough understanding of the project and a clear explanation of your work would help.
-What were the roadblocks you faced during the application process? How do you go about making your resume and writing the cover letter, if any?
The application process was pretty chill. I just sent my resume and cover letter to Varun Gopi sir and he forwarded it to Prof. Alex Noel. The selection for the internship mostly depends on how effectively you do the assigned work.
-When would you recommend that interested students start applying?
A Brochure or a post regarding the internship will be shared in the class groups by the end of the odd semester. Interested students can start applying after that.
-Are the professors and projects assigned to you or do you have the liberty to choose it while applying? What are the kinds of projects that are available?
During the final interview, they let me know the professor and the project(s) that I’m assigned to. The projects were related to Image Processing, Computer Vision, Deep Learning and Pattern Recognition.
-How did you go about the visa application process?
I sought the help of an agency in Chennai which was recommended by Prof.Alex Noel. I submitted all the necessary documents the agency asked for and got over with the process without going in person to the Chinese embassy, which is located in Delhi. I received my passport along with the visa in less than 2 weeks.
-Was the stipend provided sufficient to cover all your expenses? How did you manage accommodation and food?
Yeah, it was enough to meet all my expenses there (basically food and accommodation) and I also bought gifts for my family and friends with the remaining stipend money. However, I had to bear my travel expenses. I was provided accommodation inside the campus – an air-conditioned room for four (where only I stayed) with attached bathroom and balcony along with the necessary room supplies. I had my meals in one of the canteens there.
-Did STU provide any assistance after reaching the host university/ host country?
They got me the college RF ID card, only through which I could gain access to my lab and hostel. And without fail, they recharged it every week from my stipend money as I’d have to use that for getting food in the canteen and buying necessities from local shops.
-Could you briefly describe your project? Did you learn any new skill (research-wise) upon completing your internship?
So basically I had to do 2 projects – one is a US-based medical imaging company project and the other one is a research project. The first one is to create a standalone application for showing a 3D model of breast ultrasound scan images which are obtained as separate 2D slices. Volume rendering techniques are used to model the breast. This application will be embedded in their Automated Breast Ultrasound machine which will display the scanned breast ultrasound images in 3D and help the radiologist in diagnosing for cancer.
The second one is on blood flow visualization of the heart using vector flow mapping (VFM). It’s fundamentally a technique based on the continuity equation. I was provided with the colour doppler echocardiography images i.e., the image of a patient’s heart will be coloured in shades of blue and red based on the velocity of the blood flow. I’d have to calculate the velocity components in order to plot vectors and streamlines over the heart image for showing the direction of blood flow. This is done because people with heart disease have a flow pattern different from normal ones. So a better visualization of the flow will help doctors in evaluating the performance of the heart.
I used Python for the first project and MATLAB for the second one. Working on these two projects helped me to improve my coding skills and got me acquainted with the processes required for developing an application.
-How diverse was the student community at the internship and what were the takeaways from interactions with them?
All of my lab mates were Chinese but I did find many foreign exchange students from the US, India, Africa, Pakistan, Israel and few Indian students like me who were doing their summer research internships there.
The Chinese people are fitness freaks and look surprisingly very young. Instead of having snacks in the evening, they have their dinner which they finish before 6:30 pm. Most importantly they have a mandatory afternoon nap for 2 hours. You could see beds and folding cots at the workplace and public places like the library for people to sleep in the afternoon. This helps them to be productive throughout the day.
-Describe your typical work week and off-campus life. How different is the work culture there as compared to Indian universities?
On weekdays, I spent around 10-12 hours in the lab and would sleep soon after I reach my hostel which is at 15 minutes’ walk from the lab. On some weekends I went to the lab and worked for about 6-8 hours. I didn’t have much of an off-campus life. But I did go out sometimes with my friends for shopping and watching movies. Once my professor took a day off and drove us to visit an old city near Shantou famous for ancient Buddhist temples, a Floating bridge.
-Did you face any obstacles during your internship?
I had to depend on my Chinese friends till I got acquainted with the procedure of getting food in the canteen, buying necessities from the local shops, boarding a bus etc as you don’t find many people who can speak English there. It was manageable once I got acquainted with the procedure.
As I lacked basic cooking skills I didn’t trust myself with preparing food on my own. So I had to adjust with the bland veggies and meat they give in the canteen. But I could safely say that their food didn’t give me any health issues.
-After joining the internship, what kind of resources do we look up to learn how to go about concerning the project?
Just before joining the internship I was asked to read and understand the research papers the professor sent related to the second project, and for the first project, they asked me to do 3D reconstruction for a sample set of images and show its result. As soon as I joined the internship, they provided me with the dataset from their hospital and I straightaway started with its implementation. Efficient use of search engines and research forums helped a great deal in finishing my projects.
– How frequently were you interacting with your professor? What was the workflow?
The professor would contact me daily to keep track of the progress. In case of any setbacks, I could easily reach out to my professor and get it resolved quickly. My teammates were also very co-operative. After I finished a significant part of my project, I was asked to give a presentation in front of my lab mates and professors, related to the subject. They sometimes suggested some ideas to improve my work.
-Would you consider studying in China in the future? If so, does being a scholar help you get admission over there comparatively easily?
Yeah, why not. It’s a technologically well-developed country with a lower cost of living and tuition fees compared to US, UK and other popular MS program destinations. Although we’d be left with fewer choices of Universities there, as the main language of instruction is Mandarin, an increasing number of universities are offering Masters courses to attract many international students. Even STU has a wide range of foreign faculties and exchange students.
Having an internship from China already would definitely add more weight to my application when compared to other international applicants. Moreover, the professor there offered me a stipend to help me to do my Masters in STU.
Anyone with doubts regarding STU, its internship program, and her overall intern experience can contact Dharanya at email@example.com or 9444634905.