“I now have a wider view and am open to new ideas about how to approach a problem”

Susnata Bhowmick

Susnata Bhowmick is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB) presently pursuing a 4-Year B. S. Chemistry degree along with Honours, in Synthetic Organic Chemistry and its applications. He got a chance to experience a special summer program called ‘PURE’ (Purdue Undergraduate Research Experience), which is a strategic program envisaged by Purdue University, USA.

Through this program, undergraduate students from these respective IITs can visit Purdue as summer research interns, for a period of approximately two months. This summer saw around 34 students visit Purdue through this program, to work on various projects like Drug Development, Biology, Computational studies, Nuclear Engineering, Computer Science, Entrepreneurship, etc. Students from various backgrounds work on projects that may be related to their field or interdisciplinary research.

He had prior experience working with organic and organo-metallic chemistry before he went to Purdue, but working in their laboratory widened his perspective. “I found that the way research problems are approached there is very different from the way we approach them here. Almost all of the projects were interdisciplinary, requiring researchers from various backgrounds to work together. I now have a wider view and am open to new ideas about how to approach a problem and how to solve it, which I think is probably one of the most important traits of successful professionals”, said Susnata.

The advantages attached to the program are plenty, but it certainly will open ones’ eyes to interdisciplinary research. Says Susnata,”Unfortunately, in India, we are still in a phase where we try to solve problems with the limited knowledge of just one or a couple of fields, but times have changed. The traditional barriers that had existed for long are breaking, and interdisciplinary research is the way of the future. Through the program, students get a holistic approach to problem solving.”

Programs like PURE are integral to the learning process because they provide opportunities not just to attract meritorious students to academia and higher studies, but also to provide exposure to all aspects of life on the other side of the globe. At the end of the program, a few students who were unsure if they wanted to go for higher studies, decided that it was something they definitely wanted to pursue. Additionally, the benefits of networking and cultural exchanges are added advantages..

What makes the PURE program stand out is that it is one of the most organized undergraduate exchange programs of its kind. From the day of selection to the very end of the program, students always got assistance whenever needed. There were also informative sessions about preparing a competitive graduate school application, as well as sessions about fellow students’ research, cultural exchange, etc.

The program is also highly flexible. “Students worked on projects in fields in which they had little experience. This made them very enthusiastic as they got a lot of exposure to other fields that were related to their main areas of study in India”, he says

The atmosphere at Purdue is very welcoming, as compared to other places with fun cultural activities and festivals take place in and around Purdue, which only added value to Susnata’s experience.