How to secure a research internship at a top institute

27 Oct 2018

This is the fourteenth article on the website.

How to secure a research internship at top institutes

This article is going to be about how I managed to secure an internship at the prestigious International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad from May to July this year. In this article, I will cover details of how I secured this internship and how you can do so too as a college student.

Before I go into the nitty-gritty of the internship, I would like to give a brief overview of my background. I got introduced to Machine Learning in my first-year summer through the excellent introductory course of Andrew N.G. on Coursera. It gave me a brief overview of the basic algorithms of Machine Learning and helped me get started off in this field. I also realized its power and wanted to go deeper into this field. I followed this age-old maxim:

Doing is the best way of learning something

In my 2nd year summer, I worked under a professor on Mahalanobis Distance Oversampling, an algorithm to improve the performance of classification algorithms on imbalanced datasets. I read and implemented the paper. Then, I also worked on a year-long project in my 3rd year on Audio Classification. I classified audio samples of laughing, clapping, etc using multilabel classification algorithms like Binary Relevance, etc.

All this experience helped in creating a good profile for securing good research internships. It is also very important to start applying as early as possible to beat the competition. Beginning in October, I tried searching for good research institutes where I could intern at. Many people make a mistake and send a mail to 100s of professors and researchers. Professors are humans themselves and they would not like their inboxes spammed by students. Therefore, it is important to follow these steps before applying anywhere:

  1. Decide what exactly interests you (Systems, Theory, Algorithms, etc).
  2. Choose a field or a sub-field and check which professors are the best in that particular field( Hint: IISC Bengaluru). For the field of Computer Vision, International Institute of Information Technology and Indian Institute of Sciences is numero one. I went through the projects and the papers published recently. This step is really important.Talk to PhD students under the professor and the previous interns in the same place. This is really important and you get to know the work currently going on in the labs and the kind of research projects undertaken by the interns under the professor. Some professors have requirements in coding and it will be useful to have an idea of these before applying. This step of contact can be done through Linkedin or email too. Prepare a proper CV of 1 page describing your educational background, relevant coursework completed, projects done(briefly explaining them in 2–3 sentences with GitHub links if you have the code for them), any internships that you have done and any co-curricular activities. Some good advice about preparing the resume has been given here at this excellent post by Aman Dalmia.
  3. Draft a mail to the professor: It is important that it should not be a generic email that the professor gets in a large number every day. The research that you have got in step 2 would be valuable in writing the mail. Mention specific things that interested you in their papers or projects. A mail should ideally have 3 parts:
    • Mention who you are and what you are looking for.
    • Why you are interested in the field and the relevant work that you have done in the field.
    • This concluding part would be the research that you have done in step 2. Write about the interesting points about their research and what you would like to work on if given an opportunity.
    • This entire mail should not be more than 250 words long. Then include the CV as a Google Drive Link to this mail. Mails with attachments go into spam sometimes.
    • Thanks to Akhil John for this priceless advice:)
  4. The professor is really busy. If you can’t get a reply within a week, try to remind the professor again. If you still get ignored, try emailing the PhD students. Some professors don’t have requirements for interns.

For more advice, do read Jishnu P’s fantastic article. For interning at companies, do give a read to Dwarithaa’s excellent article. If you wish to intern at research labs, give a read to Aman Dalmia’s brilliant article.

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding my article, please comment below.