A quantum leap

The Mitacs Globalink Research Internship (GRI) programme allows Indian undergraduates to work and study in Canada

November 05, 2017 05:00 pm | Updated 05:00 pm IST

The pressure is on for undergraduate students to secure productive summer internships, considering AICTE’s new mandate that graduates must have completed three such attachments. If a graduate degree abroad is also something you are considering, then the Mitacs GRI could address both concerns simultaneously.

Undergraduates (or those in integrated undergraduate/master’s programmes) from partner countries — of which India is one — with a minimum of one and a maximum of three semesters to go and a minimum GPA of 8/10, are eligible to apply. Successful applicants get the opportunity to complete a 12-week research internship under the supervision of faculty members from Canadian universities. There are around 45 participating institutions, though the exact list varies every year. Contrary to what one might think, the GRI isn’t just limited to STEM students; projects are inter-disciplinary. Those from the social sciences can also apply if they find relevant projects. Conveniently, GRI alumni can then apply to the Globalinks Graduate Fellowship, to fund their research-based graduate studies in Canada.

Enriching experience

One such GRI success story is Archismita Dalal, who graduated from IIT Kharagpur with an integrated M.Sc. in Physics in 2016, and has gone on to pursue her PhD at the University of Calgary. She applied to the GRI in her penultimate year after finding out about it from college seniors and some online research. Now, she is a recipient of the fellowship, open only to former Globalinks research interns. Though students don’t have to pursue their graduate studies at the same institution they interned at to be eligible, Archismita found a good fit. “My supervisor, Professor Barry C. Sanders, director of the Institute for Quantum Science and Technology, is an accomplished scientist and a great mentor. That inspired me to apply for a PhD with him after my internship. When I got accepted to UCalgary, he mentioned the fellowship, and I applied,” she says.

For the GRI application, Dalal submitted her C.V., reference letters, and information on her previous internship experience. She had already completed one international internship at Germany. “There is a list of projects on the Mitacs website, and applicants can choose their preferences. Then, the professors may interview the students over Skype and send their list of shortlisted students to Mitacs. “I look for a strong academic standing, research experience, and both confidence and clarity during the interview,” Sanders chips in.

Finally, Mitacs allots professors to successful students. I already knew that the University of Calgary and the University of Waterloo are the best for quantum computation and information in Canada. So, I indicated my preferences accordingly. Finally, I got into the University of Calgary, after a successful interview with Professor Barry,” she explains, elaborating on the selection process.

When Archismita first arrived at Calgary International Airport, Mitacs mentors — who are either Globalink alumni or graduate students — picked her up, showed her around campus, and helped her settle into her on-campus accommodation. Mitacs covers flight, visa, and housing costs, and interns get an additional stipend. The mentors also organised various social events to acclimate the interns. “As the programme involved countries besides India and Canada, we got to interact with many international students. We bonded as more than just colleagues. I made a lot of close friends from Mexico, Brazil, China, and Iran,” she adds. The area of research, modelling practical long-distance quantum communication was new to her, making for a novel experience academically too.

To potential GRI applicants, she says, “If you are thinking of graduate studies, apply for fields you have intentions of pursuing further. This internship will most probably be the last before you finish your undergraduate studies, so, you would want to get a good recommendation out of this. You might even want to come back here, like me!”

While applications have closed for the 2018 summer internships, interested students can prepare ahead for 2019 and keep tabs here: http://www.mitacs.ca/en/programs/globalink/globalink-research-internship .

The author was in Canada at the invitation of the Canadian High Commission, New Delhi.

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