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Summer 2018

Summer Diaries: CMU, Pittsburgh

August 1, 2018
- Sumit Kumar Yadav

Making It There

I didn’t sit for campus internships so there’s that. Starting by improving on the resume and cover letter from my previous intern at IIT Bombay, I mailed a few professors in Germany for DAAD. Two professors in Germany consented. I was in a dilemma because the choice was between professor’s citations and how interesting the problem statement sounded. So, I mailed a few (around 5) professors in the US with aligned interests. Two of them replied with one of them from Carnegie Mellon University saying YES. In the meantime, out of the two Germany offers, I chose the one with interesting work and applied to DAAD for funding. I got DAAD funding. But Carnegie Mellon University is among the top 5 in ECE and the group I was going to work with was very reputed. So I didn’t accept DAAD and went along with CMU. I made sure that the professors I email had aligned interests and discussed about my previous internships at IITB, IITG and IITR. I emphasized on skills I have from my experiences and the part of their recent work which I liked (this is quite important I guess to show your seriousness and get the conversation started). Feel free to contact me for help with this. I exchanged a few mails with the professor at CMU clearly mentioning that I would need funding before a call on Skype. This was not like an interview and was more of me telling about my experiences and skills and he talking about the current projects in his group to reach a befitting problem statement. I was forwarded by the professor to ECE Summer Undergraduate Internship Program at CMU which actually straightened out logistics. He agreed to pay me a handsome hourly stipend for my stay at CMU and so, I went on to plan my travel and stay.

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Work

Carnegie Mellon University located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is among the best universities all over the world with a beautiful campus and state-of-the-art infrastructure. I subleased an apartment near CMU and the CMU ID-card is(I’m still in Pittsburgh!) a free travel pass for buses, trains, trams and inclines(yes, and they are beautiful!). The working hours are 37.5 per week on paper but are flexible and are never actually counted! I am working on investigating new DRAM memory access scheduling policies for reducing power consumption in modern DDRx memories. DRAM(or main memory) accounts for 40-50% of the total power consumption of modern systems and thus the project is going to have a wide impact. The work consists of reading research papers(about 20 of ‘em already), writing C++ code, python and shell scripts, using FPGA board, current probes etc. The work culture is quite open with my professor’s cubicle next to mine. I usually stop by his cubicle once a day and we have 2 weekly meeting of the whole group. The post doc and PhDs of the professor are also involved in the project and contribute in many ways to the project. The group is deeply bonded by chit-chats, meetings and group dinners.

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Location

Talking of Pittsburgh, it’s one of the most livable cities in the United States. Another fact worth mentioning is that it’s the most bike-able city in the US and luckily my landlord let me use his bike for my stay. Situated on the conflux of Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, Pittsburgh has a rich history including revolutions, steel-making, historical bike trails and the famous man Andrew Carnegie himself. The Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History in Pittsburgh is a block down the road from my office and has one of the biggest collection of dinosaur fossils which made my day. The Phipps Conservatory houses local flora and the Zoo houses fauna, both being amazing places to visit. The Point State Park at the conflux is a delight to spend evenings. CMU recently organized our trip to PNC Park for a game of baseball which is another craze of Pittsburgh. The Inclines on Mt. Washington provide a great view of the city’s skyline and the conflux and was an amazing place to be on the 4th of July to watch Independence Day fireworks. We(a group of interns) visited Washington D.C. over a weekend recently and it was a delight. The White House, Lincoln Memorial, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, World War II memorial, blah blah blah! I’m planning to visit New York before coming back.

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Summary

So the thing is, if you like to work things out in your own way, want your work to be a mix of all rather than monotonous, want to be paid handsomely, like research, like travelling around the world - a foreign research intern is just the thing for you. Contact your seniors for help, don’t get demotivated when not getting e-mail replies, don’t get demotivated when all your friends scored an internship already because boy you are going to have a lot more fun than your friend X interning in Bangalore.