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Summer 2022

Summer Diaries: Indian Institute of Science (IISc)

September 15, 2022
- Ashutosh Kumar


I decided to pursue research as a career in the summer of 2021, just a few months before the internship season. While working for two years in the UAV and sustainability domain, I found my niche in Artificial Intelligence. Yes, FOMO had got me multiple times to bag an on-campus internship and then cruise on with college life for the rest of the year along with my friends, but somehow my conscience got me on a much more obscure path.

From the very first year, I opted to explore as many domains as possible, and that’s why I invested my first two years trying out multiple fields, including Aero Design, Network Security, Web Development & Design, and Sustainability. In the summer of 2021, I trusted my instincts and figured to pursue research in AI. The choice of AI wasn’t random. It was based on ideas that I formulated while working for two years, especially in UAVs. I was fortunate enough to have gotten a Research Internship at Robotics Research Centre, IIIT Hyderabad, at the end of my second year, and I never looked back on my decision. I went on to work at the lab in person during the winter break of 2021, ensuring that I really wanted to do this. Apart from this, I kept working in one of my department labs on AI applications in medical research.


I applied to most of the research internship programs, including Mitacs GRI, DAAD WISE, NTU India Connect, and IAS Research Fellowship, and I got rejected in all of them. The only option I had was to cold mail all of the professors working within the circle of my research interests. I started building a repository of them by January-February. Till then, all the foreign colleges’ research positions have been filled via specific programs, and then I thought if I didn’t get anywhere, I should get into the best institute in India, IISc, not that I rate IISc lower than any random foreign research lab. Applying for foreign research interns was more towards experiencing a different life and research culture.

I built my resume, took 2 LORs from the professors I had worked under earlier, and chose 2-3 professors from IISc. Fortunately, I got a call for an interview from the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Lab, which went for 2 hours, including programming and a hell lot of mathematical equations with 5 of their PhD students. After a week, just when I started to plan to continue my research in my department, and one of my friends and I were discussing my failure rate at the canteen, I finally got the selection mail for a Research position in the lab around mid-April.


My project was defined earlier in the selection mail itself. I was working on the perception stack of a self-driving car that includes object detection, depth estimation and more. I hadn’t done any structural learning of Artificial intelligence till then, but my learning curve was streamlined and exponential as part of the research group there. For anyone who’s gonna pursue research, working in person and sitting in the lab for hours is of utmost importance. Working from home might look super interesting, but you must spend the ugly hours in the lab to understand the dynamics of working in any research domain. Towards the end of my internship, after my supervisor and professor asked me to continue my work, I changed my project to Object Detection on High-Resolution Images, and I am currently working on that.


I was in Bangalore and was in love with the weather straight away after suffering from scorching heat in the North. The IISc campus is full of lush green vegetation, and trust me, on a bright sunny day, only a few parts get direct sunlight. That refined heat adds to the comfort of the working conditions on the campus. The working hours at the lab were not defined; you just have to finish the work in whatever time frame you want. The professors and advisors in the lab were extremely supportive. After being withheld for almost two years due to Covid, IISc Bangalore was a refreshing experience with many of my friends who were in the same city for their IT internships.

Yes, the elephant in the room, traffic in Bangalore can be a pain point on a beautiful day, and that’s why I often kept myself in my room on weekends. But if you’re not dull as me, Bangalore is an extremely good place to enjoy yourselves with several super-interesting places to visit.

I’m a foodie, and I like to visit different places to try different cuisines. Gladly, one of my school friends lived nearby to accompany me, and literally, all my weekends have gone in exploring food history and theory.

The city is no doubt expensive by Indian standards, but you can cut your expenses by using public travel and single bike rides instead of cabs; eating food from local authentic South Indian restaurants. Living costs were pretty decent around IISc, located in Mathikere, but they surge exponentially as you go towards the corporate areas like Koramangala, HSR layout, etc.

Overall you’ll have diverse experiences in the city, and Bangalore is a pretty safe city in terms of travelling at night or going to places during off-hours. In terms of interpersonal communication with local people there, language isn’t much of a concern. Everybody knows English, and Hindi has also become a quite common language there because of people coming down there from diverse places of India. I honestly felt quite welcomed in the city, but that can differ for many.


In total, I did enjoy my time there and almost never wanted to come back from there. I still miss the food and the weather, of course, more because of the extra humid conditions down here in Roorkee. The research experience was fruitful, and meeting top intellectuals in your field gives you an entirely new perspective on subjects and, in general, the approach towards research.

It was challenging for me to go for AI research, coming from a Physics background and probably one of the reasons I feel for my rejection at several research internship programs. The most important thing that I have learned through this entire process is that you always know what you want to do, and you should do that with or without support.