Harshavardhan Reddy Pinninty, a student of Integrated – MSc Physics shares his experience at the National University of Singapore where he was selected to work for two months on a project – Nonlinear Optical Properties of Graphene under the guidance of Prof. Ji Wei at the Femtosecond Laser Spectroscopy Lab, Department of Physics
The morning blue skies of May 15th, 2013 welcomed me as I arrived on the little island that man had made in his sight though god had his own. The beautiful landscapes and the mystical buildings of the country of Singapore drove past me as I took MRT from airport to NUS. I pondered back, rewinding my calendar to March 22nd, 2013 – the day when I received the offer letter citing my application being accepted and I was to join the only eight students selected for the SIPIS summer internship program from all over India to work at the Department of Physics of the National University of Singapore for this academic year. I myself couldn’t believe that I was going to spend the summer of 2013 in one of the most awesome cities of the world, Singapore and primarily in NUS, which is amongst the world’s leading universities and one of the best in Asia.
Each and every moment, from landing at Changi Airport and setting my watch two and a half hours ahead of IST to reverting it exactly 60 days later, was a memorable one.
It is always a special moment when you meet the professor who gave you the opportunity to work with him, for the first time. On the very first day, my supervisor asked “How is Singapore?” and my response was ‘Singapore is inspiring!’
On next day, he gave bundle of research papers and asked me to give a presentation on it following week. My presentation on May 21st, 2013 followed by discussions with him actually shaped my entire internship. I was given a project to work on “Nonlinear optical properties of Graphene” My project got clearer with every passing day. I liked their strategy of giving projects to summer interns. It tests all your theoretical, computational and experimental skills of handling a research problem. Starting with theory followed by experiments helped me to understand theoretical concepts in a practical way. I had regular presentations and meetings with my supervisor which helped me to improve my understanding further.
My supervisor, Professor Wei Ji, is one of the most impressive teachers I have ever met. He was very friendly. He is an expert in his field. The work culture at NUS was awesome. The kind of creativity I saw there really blew away my mind. He not just helped me clear my doubts, but also asked for my opinions at each step. Students are open to new ideas and there is also an effort to grow their ideas into a real product.
The diverse culture and cleanliness at NUS was instantly impressive. The people were nice and helpful, and the weather was awesome!
Many students have the misconception that research purely means sitting in a lab for prolonged hours and getting results. That is not even close to the actual experience I had during my entire internship.
The willingness to share and gain knowledge together as a group is probably that had bound the research students of the laboratory together. The work being conducted was seen being implemented practically.
July 2nd, 2013, which surprisingly coincides with my previous visit to Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, Germany during 1st – 6th July 2012 last year, where I again got an opportunity to attend Nobel Laureates lecture series by Alan J. Heeger and Yuan T. Lee but this time at University Cultural Centre, NUS.
I realised, there was so much to learn, to observe and to do. We did. The culture, the food, the language, and the people- everything was new. Days passed very quickly.
Besides working in the lab, there was an equally exciting life outside. During weekends, we all left to look around the little country Singapore and visited places like Little India, Chinatown, Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa Island. I learnt the way the country’s system worked, how organized and systematic and law-abiding the citizens of Singapore were. The structured, flawless and the most efficient was definitely the country’s public transportation facility- a real class apart from the rest of the world.
After my successful internship I now strongly believe in NUS’s mission statement — to transform the way people think and do things through education, research and service. New friends, inspiring research supervisor, a rich research experience, loads of memories and gigabytes of photos- that’s what I bring back from an awesome summer spent in Singapore.
The roads looked longer; the bus stands looked lonelier as we walked back for the very last time. I bid adieu to little nation but it had definitely sent me back home with many a sweet memories that I will cherish for years and years to come.
I feel I am ignited. Overall, it was a wonderful experience working together with students from 3 most emerging nations in science in Asia i.e. Chinese, Japanese and Indians. I so miss it!