My experience at NUS

Things I did during my 3-month visit to the National University of Singapore

I worked as a research intern for 12 weeks at the National University of Singapore under Dr. Kuldeep S. Meel in the summers of 2018.

The Application Process:

Bhavishya from Y16 is a good friend of mine and had interned with Dr. Kuldeep in the summers of 2017. I contacted him, and he was kind to suggest some research papers to get an idea of Dr. Kuldeep’s research. I emailed him in December, expressing an interest in working as an intern. He gave me a couple of tasks to finish, and shortly after that, he offered me the internship.

The Logistics:

To enter Singapore, I had to apply for a Training Employment Pass (TEP) online, which is straightforward. I had to search for accommodation outside NUS, and my room was at a 20-minute walk from the lab.

The Lab and the Surroundings:

The NUS School of Computing comprises of two buildings (and one is under construction) with multi-cuisine canteens and vending machines at short distances (because that’s what matters!). The labs are similar to the ones in the RM building of IITK, and my lab had people from different research groups. (The person sitting beside me was working on automatically generating commentary of tennis matches, and would watch the sport on one screen and code on the other most of the time!)

If you are a non-vegetarian, the options for you are endless. Even if you are vegetarian, it’s relatively easy to get reasonably good South Indian and okayish North Indian food. Pro tip: If you happen to visit NUS, you must try the vegetarian stall in the Science department!

Socialization Inside NUS:

During breaks, I would often play foosball with other members of the group. I also became good friends with people from other groups, and we’d talk about all kinds of stuff over lunch.

The Work:

I was working in the field of ‘probabilistic inference.’ Given a set of random variables, and a set of functions of some of these variables in the form of a graph (factor graph), I studied methods that gave an approximate answer to questions based on such graphs efficiently, where calculating the exact solution would take an exponential amount of time. I also played around with different encodings of the graphs, including the Conjunctive Normal Form (the one we study in CS202). Most of the time, I was working closely with Dr. Kuldeep and his Ph.D. student, Yash.

In addition to this, our group would have weekly meetings where one of the members would talk about their work.

During some of the weekends, I would practice programming questions on InterviewBit for the on-campus interviews that were around the corner. (‘Some weekends’ because of what I have described below!)

Everything Else:

On the rest of the weekends, I roamed around Singapore with some friends from IITK and IITD. A Google search would give you a better idea of what all there is to explore in Singapore, but I’d say that there’s enough to explore that you don’t get bored in 3 months. 🙂

I also got to visit Facebook and Google offices in Singapore. Spoiler alert, they are absolutely awesome, and the food there is amazing!

Towards the end of our internship, we also went to the Bintan and Batam islands in Indonesia!

What Happened Next?

With the help of Dr. Subhajit Roy, I continued the work I did during the internship as a UGP in my 5th semester. As of March 2020, a research paper is in the making!

People:

Huge shoutout to the people I’d hang out with in NUS, especially Kuldeep, Yash, Suwei, Bishwa, Himanshu, Rathin, and people I had a great time exploring Singapore with, especially Sameer, Atishya, Aditya, Prateek, Tanzeel, Abid, Tejasv. Also, thanks to Bhavishya, Shubham, Rahul, Harshil, Ankur!

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Durgesh Rajendra Agrawal
Pre-Final Year Undergraduate Student

Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

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