MITACS Diaries: Arun Krishnan

I’m Arun, a technology enthusiast, software geek, avid basketballer and a final year student in Computer Science and Engineering. I’ve had the good fortune of having been selected for the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship Program (2015) to pursue my research aspirations at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. I’m writing this to share my internship experience over the summer of 2015.

Going to a foreign land, interacting with people from varied cultural backgrounds and getting used to a completely different way of life is surely an experience worth its weight in gold. Working with top-notch researchers in mobile computing – my field of interest, has given me an invaluable exposure to this exciting field. Overall, the program has had an extremely positive impact on me, both professionally and personally.

The Mitacs Globalink Internship Program is administered by Mitacs Inc., a Canadian non-profit organization which promotes research in STEM. The program has a minimum GPA requirement of 8 and only students in their pre-final year can apply. The application process involves writing a research rationale (similar to a statement of purpose) and a couple of essays outlining your achievements and interests, submitting transcripts and a letter of recommendation, and finally, shortlisting projects you’d like to work on. It is advisable to pick projects where your skills and previous experiences are relevant as the Professors typically look for people who can get started on their projects with minimal additional training.

Mitacs encourages professors to interview the candidates before selecting them. This interview typically takes the form of Skype calls or email exchanges. However, there are also people who get selected without any form of interview. The application deadline is typically in the end of September and the shortlists are announced in two waves. The first wave shortlist is announced in early December while the second phase shortlist is announced in mid January. Once selected, the visa process is pretty straightforward and is not much of a hassle.

Working in UBC, one of the top 25 universities in the world for computer science, was one of the best experiences of my undergraduate college life so far. As a research assistant at the Wireless Networks and Mobile Systems (WiNMoS) lab, I had the opportunity to work on cutting edge research problems associated with context-aware applications in mobile-cloud systems. I got to regularly interact with leading professors and researchers in the mobile-cloud area from both academia and industry. These interactions with leading researchers from Canada, Europe and Hong Kong gave me a first hand experience in working in trans-continental research teams and gave me an insight into different international research cultures. My work over the summer was fruitful and resulted in two publications in leading IEEE and ACM conferences. One of the applications I developed over the summer was also published on Google Play.

Although the typical work week at UBC is Monday through Friday, I found myself spending many weekends at the lab because my work was really interesting, My typical work day would start at 10 am and I would stay in my lab till 1am along with my research group. When you’re with a passionate group of researchers, you barely notice time fly. We had intense weekly discussions with our supervising professor and other researchers and these meetings were a major source of learning for me.

Apart from the amazing work experience, travel and food in Canada was really good. Vancouver is an extremely scenic coastal city and the Canadian hospitality was refreshingly good. The people are very hospitable, polite and courteous. Overall, Canada and Vancouver in particular is a wonderful place to work in and explore. If you’re a foodie, you won’t be left disappointed in Vancouver. I tasted a wide variety of cuisines right from Mongolian to Ethiopian and this excited the foodie in me. Being so close to the Canadian Rockies, I went on one trek every week to explore the beautiful British Columbian scenery. I also got the opportunity to go sky diving and it was truly an amazing experience.

Overall, the Mitacs Globalink Program is a wholesome package which catapults an aspiring researcher to the next orbit. I would strongly recommend this program to any pre-final year student who wishes to try his/her hand at cutting edge research. cover

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