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Summer 2019

Summer Diaries: University of Maryland, College Park

August 31, 2019
- Mohit Jain

I am currently doing a research intern at the University of Maryland, College Park. So far it has been 9 weeks since I have started. In this article I’ll try sharing with you my experience so far and how I got here.

Before Applying

I started going through courses on deep learning during the first semester of my second year. The reason being that I had wanted to go for graduate studies and deep learning and A.I. seemed like an interesting direction to explore. Just reading is never enough, so I practically tried out some of the things I had learned and did some small pet projects. Along with this, I maintain a blog where I penned down what I was learning along the way: (shameless self endorsement). What motivated me to apply for a research internship and masochistically suffer the pain of the ordeal, other than being interested in trying research, was that I wanted to land an internship without taking any help from the college (although the IIT tag does still end up helping you I believe) and the stringent resume verification process as done by the placement office where you cannot list any personal projects made me shy away from the whole internship process in the campus. Not condemning them or anything, I understand there is a trust issue with personal projects.

Landing the Internship

My not so amazing grades made sure that I would not qualify for any research programs. So, all I was left with was emailing professors directly. I started emailing professors for working with them sometime in September 2018. I got a positive response sometime in April 2019 around end-term exams and it took another couple of months of being on the edge waiting for the VISA process to get done. I was finally able to start on the last week of June 2019! Not trying to be a kill-joy but the days of sending emails was gloomy. The shadows of the days gone by still haunt me. If you sit in the campus internship and have put in some effort preparing you’ll get an internship at least before the semester ends. So naturally, most of my friends had already landed one. After that everyone around was having fun: endless gaming nights, binge-watching movies and anything else enjoyable under the blessed sun. While I was cooped up in my room dreading the future. Not a fun situation to be in. Enough of the brooding, some advice that I can give from my experience:

Email each professor by writing an email specifically for them. No point writing a generic email and spamming every professor on the planet. You’ll end up not only hurting your own credibility but that of your institution as well. Doing this would result in you only sending one email a week or even longer but it’s still better. Don’t listen to the banal advice which is thrown around that you have to email at least 100+ professors. Of course, quantity increases your odds of getting an acceptance but the quality is way more important. Out of all the generic emails I sent, I have gotten zero response. The emails where I actually framed the email specifically for the professor at least got me a rejection most of the time. Any response is better than nothing! Don’t use mail tracking services. It is just not worth it other than giving you false hope each time someone happens to read your email. And, if by chance the person you are sending email to notices that you are using a mail tracker would be very detrimental to your application. Don’t write an essay in your email. Keep your emails short but still, provide as much information as you can. Preservation is the key to trudging on this path. Just keep going and don’t lose hope. Although this doesn’t mean to blindly proceed. Judge your profile and see if you relevant projects or experiences to show. If not, take a break and work on something cool and then continue. This is what I did and the difference was vivid. Rant to your friends how unfair everyone is and people should at least reply to your email. Getting all this out of your chest every now and done can really help lighten the mood. I did it countless times.



The University of Maryland, College Park has a huge 1,335-acres campus. So getting around can be quite time-consuming. However, the university runs free bus services through the campus and the city. College Park isn’t exactly an exciting city. There isn’t much to do. Since. Washington DC is nearby you can always easily go there to alleviate the boredom. My workplace is the recently opened Brenden Iribe Centre for Computer Science and Engineering. The building is gorgeous and made of glass funded by the co-founder of Oculus Brenden Iribe. My work is on video domain transfer using deep learning methods. Since the project has just started I don’t have many details on it. However, everything has been enjoyable and interesting. So far my work has involved going through many research papers to come up with new ideas to experiment on and running these experiments. Going through existing code on GitHub can sometimes become very boring and exhausting but is necessary to come up with new and better ideas. The lab has a large number of resources. A huge number of GPUs of different memories and compute capabilities along with a massive amount of RAM and storage. I don’t think I could ever exhaust them by myself!

Living in the City


This is the first time I have lived so independently. Along with the internship so, many other tasks require your attention such as household chores and cooking that it sometimes gets tough to find any actual free time. Compared to living in India everything is very expensive. Unless you happen to own an oil well back home you don’t want to be eating out every day, leaving you with the only option to cook for yourself. The first time I have cooked is after coming here and it’s pretty fun but how I miss the mess food! On top of this having to budget the monthly expenses and saving up to pay for rent was challenging and I still find it quite difficult. Hopefully, things will get better.

Summing Up

Getting a research internship is difficult but has many benefits. It’s sort of like a Diabolical Nectar. There are risks but the returns are massive. You get to meet new people, experience new cultures and gain global exposure. Of course, if you are planning to go for graduate studies a research internship will play a huge role in your applications. If you are hoping for a research internship, I would advise you to dive right into the deep end and not vacillate between an on-campus internship and a research internship. Hope this article helped!