Guide to applying for Summer Internships

Posted on January 4, 2012


Hi again,

This write up was made as a part of my talk at “LNMIIT Internship Summit” at LNMIIT, Jaipur. This article aims to give reader an idea about my work and to help students with internships.  The power point presentation of the talk can be accessed from here [PDF].

The outline of the talk shall be as follows

  1. A brief introduction of my research
  2. A guide to applying for internships

My intern-ship was relating to analysis of medical images. It was a great experience for me to work with people who have been at forefront of advancing technology in the area of analysis of medical images. Apart from this, I would like to tell you, that I stayed in the UK as a paying guest with a British family. It was a nice experience to get to know about their culture and how they live. Overall, I would say, it not only helped in my career but also influenced the way I think.

My Research Work @ University of Warwick

There has been a lot of research towards finding a cure for diabetes. Many people and laboratories around the world are in the process of finding a drug which would permanently cure diabetes. Since the past few decades, it has been a known fact that, diabetes is associated with pancreas. However, a recent study (published in 2003) titled “Increased β-Cell Apoptosis Prevents Adaptive Increase in β-Cell Mass in Mouse Model of Type 2 Diabetes” has found evidence that beta cells of langerhans (a type of cells in pancreas) are associated with diabetes. All major types of diabetes are associated with a reduction in functional beta cell mass, which must be restored if the disease is to be cured or progress arrested.

Thus there is a effort in the life science community to develop a drug which would enable them to stimulate the production of beta cells. Such a drug would be a potential cure of diabetes. The “Life Science” department at University of Warwick, UK is also involved in formulating such a drug. As a result, various experiments are being done on mice. These experiments generally involve counting the number of beta cells in the microscopic tissue slides of the pancreas. Due to advancement of technology, it is now possible to digitize the slides and view them as images on a computer. A typical experiment would generate 6000 images. Manually processing these images is a very time consuming task. It generally takes about 3-4 months for a human to processes data from one experiment . Thus, it is essential to develop a tool, which would count the cells from digital images of the tissue slides. Such a tool, would assist the biologist in getting a better incite of the data and also fasten their process for experimentation.

Our team developed a software tool to do just that. The tool is called “LIPSyM”. We developed an algorithm for detection of beta cells. This effort was first of its kind towards auto-annotation of beta cells. The biologist gives all of the images as an input to the software program. The software program processes these files and marks the beta cells in each of them and generates the output stating the count of beta cells. This tool is currently being used at the Life Science department at University of Warwick in their diabetes project. You can find more information about this research and access the software from here.

The algorithm developed by our team was presented at MICCAI-2011 (14th International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention) which was held in Toronto, Canada during September 2011. The title was “Local Isotropic Phase Symmetry Measure for Detection of Beta Cells and Lymphocytes”. It would appear in the latest issue of  “Journal of Pathology Informatics”.

Guide On Internships

This section was intended to be a guide for students at LNMIIT (and else where ofcourse through this blog) which would give them an insite about what an internship is and to guide them towards acquiring an internship.

Just to give the readers an idea, an internship is a job or a training similar to  apprenticeship. At a technical institute of ours like LNMIIT, students generally do an internship during the summers wherein we have a vacation for 3 months. Most internship are in research laboratories in universities or in an industrial setting.

I have come with a few ways of approaching prospective organizations for your internship. Those are

  1. Through a reference by faculty
  2. Through intern-ship programs of organizations
  3. Through direct contact
  4. Through establishing contact through a conference
Through a reference by faculty
One way to go about it is to approach the faculty member at your own university. In our case, the faculty at LNMIIT. You can ask the faculty to refer you to one of their contacts for internship at some university. But before you approach a faculty, just thing “why should they recommend you”. It would be helpful if you have done some work with the faculty. Be sure to present a good case, if you are choosing this route.
Through internship programs of organization

Various universities and organizations run internship programs. Which means that, they would invite applications from students in the region of their interest and select the candidates amongst them. Few of the internship programs I am aware are —

You should contact your seniors to know more about such programmes at various institutions and look for such opportunity online. Many a times, you would also see such internship programmes being advertised on the LNMIIT google groups. Be sure to keep a watch on these.

Through direct contact

Yet another approach is to contact a potential supervisor directly. What I mean with this is, you prepare a list of possible professors at various universities and email them individually, asking them, if they have an opening for internship.

The first basic step with this approach is to prepare a list of professors. If you are trying to use this approach, I would suggest the following strategy to make a list. After identifying your area of interest, search for conferences in the area. These conference websites, typically would have a list of organizers, participants, guest speakers. Put all these people on your contact list. For example if you are interested in image processing, computer vision or related fields, I can suggest the following conferences : NCVPRIPG (National Conference on Computer Vision, Pattern Recognition, Image Processing and Graphics), ICVGIP ( Indian conference on computer vision, graphics and image processing) and of-course many other conferences in India and abroad

After making a contact-list, it would be time for you to contact these people. Before contacting them, it is extremely essential for you to have a working experience in the field you have chosen. Possibly, having a project would be a must. It is generally advisable to send emails to the professor around Jan-Feb for an intern-ship in summers. These professors generally expect to see a cover letter (abt 1 page or so) and your CV. If you would like to have a look at the cover letter I used, you can drop an email to me. I shall be happy to share that with you.

However, they would be highly irritated if they feel that these emails are spam. So, a good way is to find about the professor, their work, their publications before dropping an email to them. Professor love it when students get an understanding about their research. Another point, that I would draw your attention is that, professors also like to verify what student claims to have done is correct and the student is not bluffing. So, one nice way is to maintain a web-site of your-self which contains details of your work including a write-up of it, the code, result.

One thing I find rather amusing amongst LNMIIT students is that, quite a few students who are aspiring for an internship are writing something called “SOP”. Which expands as “Statement of Purpose”. I really don’t see a need for this. Agreed if you are applying through a intern-ship program, they need a write-up, but what I think, they are really looking for is “Is the student capable enough for this work”. So guys, if you are one of them, I would strongly suggest you to invest your time in doing some project rather (to be put harshly) waste your time for some stupid SOP.

Through establishing contact through a conference

In this approach, the way to go about it is to do some solid project/research work. Present it in a conference. Attend the conference and ask the people in the conference if they can accommodate you at their university for intern-ship. There is generally a huge pool of professors in the conferences. You might also be excited to know, that LNMIIT generally funds your partial travel costs to conferences. Including your travel abroad if required.

This approach for intern-ship is by far the most fruitful approach in my opinion. But, mind you this is going to take a lot of hard work from your side and the results may not be visible for quite a while.

In Conclusion

I hope this article helped you in clarifying yourself about intern-ship and the way to go about it. Your comments, queries are most welcome.  I thank you for your patience to read this article and finally wish you “All the Best” for your intern-ship and career.

Posted in: Career Talks