Tuesday, February 22, 2011

IIT student seeks internship at your esteemed institute

A question: has anyone taken on one of these prospective interns? (And if so, how was it?) Most of them would clearly be hopeless, but there are some that look like they might be OK. The trouble is, there's some kind of economic principle at work here, that says that in a market that's flooded with bad eggs, the good eggs cannot be sold. In this case, what happens in that we end up deleting all these emails without reading them.

One such email that I bothered to read yesterday was typical: it claims to have read the recipient's work in detail, then goes on to profess an interest in a range of topics none of which related to anything I know about. I suppose that email was sent off indiscriminately to a large number of academics, and you might be fooled if, by chance, you have the same research interests as the ones mentioned.

I'm vaguely disturbed by the way these emails produce a kind of stereotype of these students; eventually you cease to regard them as individuals. I'm curious as to why it is Indian Institutes of Technology that produce them, and no other countries seem to do so. (I could not find much from a brief perusal of the web. Here is a related earlier discussion.)

70 comments:

David Kempe said...

I think most of us get quite a few of these every year. I delete them (and have a note on my web page warning people that I do). Sometimes, I'm tempted to respond: "I added your name to a list of students I will make sure will never get admitted to our PhD program". It seems like someone once wrote a script to scrape faculty web pages for names of random papers and research areas, and this script still gets used ...

Paul Goldberg said...

OK, I guess I carry on deleting them, until further notice... Just for fun here some pageview stats - the following is the top 7 countries ranked by number of recent pageviews of this blog (surely the most important ranking of the world's nations) - the first number is the number of pageviews in the last day and the second number is the number in the last week.

USA 93, 142
India 59, 61
Germany 25, 45
UK 24, 94
Japan 15, 15
France 6, 10
Israel 6, 10

What the figures show, is that this post has broken into the Indian market! Now I just have to start complaining about the Chinese, and I will really attract traffic.

sidzoo said...

I write this comment as an earnest student from one of the IITs, inexplicably caught in this web of what, I admit is largely deceit. I will not presume to say that I am not a deceiver - you have no reason to believe it. But what I will offer is an insider's perspective on how unfortunate the entire system is, having been in the system for a good number of years.

Why do people e-mail foreign professors? I believe there are two classes of people - the type who want an all-expenses paid trip, and the type who genuinely want to do good work in a university of international repute to assess their suitability for further studies abroad, and/or to gain exposure in their field.

Then again, there are two types of e-mails. There are the genuine emails from the genuine people, and there are the template style e-mails from either the casual mailers or the genuine mailers who have gotten frustrated.

Why do genuine students even come up with the idea of mailing professors abroad? Because they have seen people who have done it, and who have carried out internships. Very likely, said people know that they could have done a much better job.

There is a dilemma on both sides of the coin. On the side of the student, the student doesn't want to lose out on a potentially good opportunity to someone whom he is decidedly better than. On the side of the professor, there is absolutely no way to verify the authenticity and genuine candor of the e-mail he receives, leave alone the fact that there are far too many to feasibly read.

Where lies the solution? I really don't know. But it is unfortunate that good people lose out on genuine opportunities - both sides lose, the genuine student loses because he missed out on likely important exposure, and the university loses because it could have had a far more competitive researcher in the same position.

Where lies the solution? The only way I see out of this is to have a formal Memorandum of Understanding with genuinely good institutes (which some institutes, FYI, do have), and conduct a streamlined selection procedure, which may even involve a Skype interview. This has worked for some insitutes, but until more MoUs come to the fore, the situation will only worsen on both ends.

Paul Goldberg said...

Sidzoo, you have spelled out my concern very well, that maybe there are "genuine" cases that are getting swamped by the ones who just want the expenses-paid trip. That touches on another issue, which is that the academics who might host the internships usually don't have the funds to support it, although sometimes they might. Yes, there should probably be some more central "official" mechanism for matching interns to hosts. And anyone who really wants to send speculative emails should read some recent papers by the recipient beforehand, and write a message that is informed by those papers.

J said...

I write this comment as a student who has seen fellow students mass spamming faculty members of a university asking for an internship. What is very funny is the fact that some of these students even send emails to graduate secretaries and even graduate students. As a graduate student, I got one of these emails a couple of weeks ago. Quite hilarious to say the least.

Well, this phenomenon of seeking "internship at your esteemed institute" isn't new. I thought it would be apt to share this link here.

PS: Paul, yes, I am from IIT and thanks for putting this post up. If you collaborate or work with anyone from any Indian institute, could you please send a link to your post across? Thanks! It will be of great help to the good apples.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that you received such emails. I thought
that IIT students are drawn mostly to the better known universities in the States. Might be the fact that the government has opened several new IIT's recently means that lesser known universities outside the US also gets a share of the pie. Probably, this is a good thing -- it means smaller departments at less privileged institutions are also getting some international attention.

Chaos said...

Dear Distinguished Prof. Goldberg,

Needless to say you can figure out my nationality since you have broken into the market, I must say that most of those from US would also belong to the "particular" market you are referring to.
Your annoyance with mass mails is amply clear much like the attitude of the Spanish and Dutch residents in Mallorca and Amsterdam respectively with regards to English tourists.

With the hopes to find any constructive criticism towards these mass mails, of which I couldn't find none, I feel the community(the "market" and the academia) would be extremely pleased if you could compare such a mail from students belonging to different parts of the internship seeking community and their performance during the internship.

I wouldn't really say that such unfair criticism is a little brash or rather boorish. But as one of the people who did secure 3 nice internships in various places across Europe (which went on to fill the void of research in my applications which research at my native institute apparently don't), I would suggest that you make all the facts and statistics known before you publish something like this in the public forum.

LP said...

Most (80%) of the professors are extremely lazy (ask any grad student for confirmation). They have time for wiring blogs and commenting on other professors research (mostly negative). They should try to (at least scan) every email and delete it if they don't like it. The poor student gets frustrated and starts to spam, because even if he sends 100 genuine emails he gets 1-2 replies, that too with the answer of "sorry no funding".

sidzoo said...

@Prof Goldberg: The bitter truth is that even students who genuinely go through research work and write what you termed "informed" messages get snubbed by most professors. I have been victimized by this fact. I don't blame the professors either. What I'm trying to say is that it is almost certain that even a genuine e-mail will likely be turned down.

Paul Goldberg said...

Well, don't blame me for being the bearer of bad news in pointing out this obstacle for people who want to use these emails - by analogy, if you try to find a fast algorithm for some problem, and it turns out to be NP-hard, that is worth knowing, even though the knowledge may be disappointing. Also, lack of funds to support these prospective interns is a common problem.

Anonymous said...

I get a random email from an IIT or some other Indian University EVERY WEEK. A point comes when one does not have the time or patience to read these emails because they are obviously authomatically generated spam.

fredtheben said...

I understand your dilemma. I've been a student of this system for many years and I can assure you it's an issue which both the students and professors of the IITs are well aware of. Though I don't see how it could be realistic for any professor to skim through each and every such request, I just wish to point out what a lose-lose situation it would be, if a scenario of mass deleting/ignoring of internship requests were prevalent. There are many examples that can be cited where the right students have achieved amazing feats in their fields through such opportunities and used them as stepping stones for greater works.

One of my peers last year was interested in an internship abroad where his specific field of interest was being pursued with much interest and rigour. His request was reciprocated with the professor asking him to meet up with a fellow lecturer of our institute, who interviewed him to judge and verify his claims mentioned in his cover letter. The results of the interview were conveyed to the professor in question, who accepted the student on the basis of our institute professor's views. I feel this is quite a good alternative, which if used in absence of a MoU, can help bridge the gap between the genuinely interested students and the respectively matching professors.

On a side note, being one of the students who actually did his research before firing up letters seeking such an opportunity, I have been the recipient of a few "mass-mails" from the professor's side as well, where the mail was addressed to another student. This isn't really relevant here but I just wish to point out that I would rather hear a harsh rejection than nothing at all.

fredtheben said...

I understand your dilemma. I've been a student of this system for many years and I can assure you it's an issue which both the students and professors of the IITs are well aware of. Though I don't see how it could be realistic for any professor to skim through each and every such request, I just wish to point out what a lose-lose situation it would be, if a scenario of mass deleting/ignoring of internship requests were prevalent. There are many examples that can be cited where the right students have achieved amazing feats in their fields through such opportunities and used them as stepping stones for greater works.

One of my peers last year was interested in an internship abroad where his specific field of interest was being pursued with much interest and rigour. His request was reciprocated with the professor asking him to meet up with a fellow lecturer of our institute, who interviewed him to judge and verify his claims mentioned in his cover letter. The results of the interview were conveyed to the professor in question, who accepted the student on the basis of our institute professor's views. I feel this is quite a good alternative, which if used in absence of a MoU, can help bridge the gap between the genuinely interested students and the respectively matching professors.

On a side note, being one of the students who actually did his research before firing up letters seeking such an opportunity, I have been the recipient of a few "mass-mails" from the professor's side as well, where the mail was addressed to another student. This isn't really relevant here but I just wish to point out that I would rather hear a harsh rejection than nothing at all.

Indian said...

Dear Dr Goldberg,

Believe me,You will be a very lucky person even if the least talented of those students from the Indian Institutes of Technology(IITs) ends up as a PHD student at your institute.
I hope you are aware that entrance to IITs are undoubtedly the toughest in the world(3000 selected out of 400000)Dont underestimate their caliber.

Arkaprava Dan said...

@Prof Goldberg - I am writing as a student of one of the IITs. sidzoo and fredtheben sum it up quite well. As for some of the other comments, I find them quite offensive and unnecessarily aggressive. I wouldn't be surprised if they are guilty of mass-mailing, themselves.

I understand your point and I have been a victim of this issue myself, in the manner that I actually find it offensive to mass-mail (it's just not professional! - it's like standing in the marketplace and shouting, "Take me! Take me! I'll do whatever job you give me!"), and hence take care to frame actual individualized cover letters and even resumes. However, most professors delete them just by looking at the subject. I don't blame the professors, in your place, I'd do the same.

I know people who have gone abroad, done nothing except go on sightseeing tours, and come back. While saving money.

Unfortunately, I don't have a solution. MoUs can go only so far, and not every uni can have MoUs with every other.

Ultimately the problem lies with our society - we're still a developing country, and the wish of visiting foreign countries is strong in us. Till then, you, and students like me, interested in actual research, will have to suffer.

Rohit said...

Respected Sir,

I know that since you are on the receiving end it must be really really bad for you, however to answer the question that are these mails ever responded to ... Yes they are and to your utter surprise (from personal experience) the students go there work hard as it is part of the curriculum and make the professor really really happy. I personally know of the university which never had the history of having any interns from the IITs has called three interns this year from the same university where I was the only intern last year

Royal Stag said...

Dear Prof. Goldberg,
I hope this comment post does not get trashed as one of the overwhelming auto-generated spams you receive every hour of the day. Although, I very humbly sympathize with your plight (I find it almost ridiculously impossible to read long emails. What in the age of "tldr"!)

Anyway, without having to curse the students with stardust in their eyes or the poor professors who have to delete or mark as spam, or maybe even read and respond, I would like to ask if you ever had the chance to hire such a student for a short term?
Were you disappointed?
Till about a couple of years ago, it used to be incredibly difficult to get into the IITs. Only the top 1% of competing students would make it to the most blessed of all academic places. (Yes, I sound like I am exaggerating, but I sure am not. Top 1%, yes, it indeed is heaven). But then, ofcourse, I am nobody to be audacious enough to give a five star to the IITs.
Also, I a,m sure the traffic you received on your blog was either due to the snubbed or "accepted" students in India, or one of those who are doing what they call "research" in the US.
Sincerely,
IIT student who did once seek internship and sadly, did not get snubbed.

ASN said...

Dear Sir,

A question: have you talked to someone who has actually had an intern visit from IIT?

While I do sympathize with your plight, please note that there are many genuine students out here who have actually done their homework, followed your research and intend to work with full sincerity. The sad truth is that the quantity of emails coming in from freeloaders has taken your attention away from the ones with quality.

As a result, many, like you, have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to those who are seeking for international exposure and research experience early in their life prior to choosing a career, which I do not find dishonorable in any way. This in turn has frustrated and obfuscated those who did all the pertinent hard work, and they have increased their effort in terms of outbox count in a hope of being given a chance to prove their worth. Its a vicious cycle.

How to get around this? As a very temporary measure, Sir, and noting the enjoyment you get out of writing, I guess a paragraph or so on your website with some basic information about your current status in being (un)able to handle interns would go a long way. Granted, many people would not read that either, but those who actually do would not pester you, and maybe then you would realize the truth of my (and Sidzoo's) hypothesis.

If you care, though, take a moment to talk to a few people who have actually had IIT students work at their labs. I believe they would assist you in surmounting the stereotype that has formed in your mind. If you are amply convinced, please try to set up an MOU, or contact relevant departments with an official offer. Our professors here would be glad to help you pick the best. Thereafter, I believe you shall consider deleting this precipitate post.

Despite being in "theoretical" computer science, I am sure you are adept enough to configure your spam filter with some oft-repeated keywords. And please consider writing at least a line of polite denial to those who make it through your defenses.

Sincerely,
A prospective doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley from IIT, thanks to 3 international internships

PS: @nanopolitan - We know our English. Sometimes better than those who are really expected to.

Anonymous said...

Oh! I thought Liverpool was only known for football and John Lennon. And they once registered a big ship called 'Titanic' which kind of ...sank. Good to know that there is a university which is getting international attention.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sir,
If you are so busy that you get irritated with internship mails and have no time to reply to them either, how do you have the time to write such a long blog and also to reply to each and every one's comment on the blog? Please stop abusing IIT-ians over here and get back to your own business.
And one more thing.... although I don't understand your research, I can tell for sure that you would be more than lucky to have an IIT-ian as your intern student.

Anonymous said...

@The anonymous who posted just before me , on Liverpool : super-duper love your comment, and creativity :P

vagabond said...

@ Prof. David Kempe,

Great! Make such list. We don't want to do PhD under people like you either!
4 out of 7 of your former ms students and 1 out of 3 of your current PhD students are from IIT- the reason of you getting into the list of top professor. Aren't you ashamed of yourself making such a comment?

uk said...

Dear Prof. Goldberg,

Students from IITs visit universities/companies in India/abroad as a part of their compulsory internship in the IIT curricullum. At the end of the internship, our institute has made it mandatory for the principal investigator of the student, to complete a form regarding the student's performance during internship. Apart from other things in the form, there is a one specific section in which the principal investigator has to rate the student as "Excellent", "Very Good", "Good" and "Satisfactory". I will be delighted to inform you that in my 5 years at my institute, I am yet to find a student who was rated "Good" or "Satisfactory", and there was only one student in my knowledge, who got a "Very Good", rest of the students have been evaluated as "Excellent".

I myself went to a Canadian University in 2009 summers. The professor under whom I was working was very much impressed with my work, and I was offered to visit the university in 2010 summers again, at around double the stipend offered in 2009, apart from working from India during winters 2009, 2010. At the end of the internship, in the recommendation, he wrote, "... An excellent programmer - probably the best I have seen ... ".

I want to conclude that, in general, students from IITs are not morons, as they appear in their cover letters. Its difficult for anyone to show a genuine intent, as a first impression (analogous to propose a girl :P). Its true that most of the students want an all expenses paid trip, but at the same time, they deliver an equal value, if not more, than the expense of the trip.

Anonymous said...

Respected Professor,
On a serious note I would like you to please consult professors around you who are still in contact with us, even after finishing our respective internships 2 years ago. Our works are going on really well and will hopefully continue to do so. Writing such an article isn't what the professors we have been working with do.

Anonymous said...

@Goldberg ..... What I think is you dont deserve an IIT student as an intern under you.
I think u forgot IITs have been ranked No.3 among tech varsities and stand just behind MIT and California University.

Paul Goldberg said...

Some answers to the above: I haven't heard much from academics who hosted interns; I would welcome some more data on how may of them found it worthwhile.

I often read the emails, that's how I know that some of them come from very good students. I repeat the main point of my original post which is that I am not complaining about the students but rather complaining about a problem with the marketplace.

Perhaps more of us should indeed put up a web page that gives guidelines to would-be interns. I heard about one such web page that asks applicants to put some keyword in the subject line of the email; that way he knew if the writer of the email had read the web page. In my case the web page would usually just admit that I don't have funds to support them.

With regard to good PhD students originally from IITs - yes I know there are many of them. Indeed, I would guess that many academics who support interns are hoping to identify good students to start PhDs with them. This is because you get credit for supervising successful PhDs, but not much credit for hosting interns. Internship emails should maybe mention an interest in going on to PhD work, if applicable.

Paul Goldberg said...

and by the way, most of us in Liverpool are nervously hoping that the football doesn't go the same way as the Titanic...

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Goldberg,

Here is something you can really do. Since you have found out a way to bring a lot of traffic, you should setup a Google ad words account and continue hurling slurs between publishing papers and whatever else you do.
This will bring you more revenue than you earn right now. Trust me, I am a SEO expert.
Oh and I think you are going in the right direction, the next destination is China of course!

PS: I can't put my head around how someone could have mailed at your department with such bad facilities! You are so justified in your opinion.

Sudipto Karmakar said...

OMG! some of the anonymous responses from the IITians have left me reeling with laughter.

You sure have touched a nerve there by pointing out a real problem.

I will give you a general no joke view of the successful intern candidates in IITs: On an average they need to send around 500-1000 mails to receive an acceptance!

BTW I am an IIT student and failed to secure such an internship because I sent only about 50 mails. It proved impossible for me to read 500 web-pages of professors related to the subject I was interested in. And clearly just 50 mails did not do the job. One of my friends sent around 1800 mails and secured an internship. Yes he got an intern by spamming! Nevertheless he was so successful at the intern that the university offered him a PhD.

Paul the octopus said...

.well dont be so overwhelmed by the fact that there are only 28 posts by now to this blog entry of yours ... just as you said that you spam them mails ( if you recieve any at all ( and i highly doubt ( in fact i am sure you dont(if you do any at all the sender hasnt gone through your page seriously else he/she wouldnt send an intern request to you atleast i suppose)))) guys who go through such blogs spam them .. well how long do you want us to give attention to jelous eyes .. in fact we humor ourselves " hey see another douchebag" ... "yeah just another frustrated guy who cant believe in the existence of someone as smart as an iitian so trying hard to make himself believe otherwise ... leave this nobody lets get back to our work"

Murthy A V N said...

Dear Prof Goldberg,

Request you to read through page 5 article of The Scholars' Avenue April 15th Issue, the campus newspaper of IIT Kharagpur, the oldest IIT. Here's the link: http://issuu.com/scholarsavenue/docs/2008apr15?viewMode=magazine&mode=embed

As the past editor of the newspaper (I have long graduated), we students did bring the issue to the fore. Sadly, as you would have deduced by now, students are not culpable entirely. It has a lot to do with IIT administration and burgeoning student strength.

Regards

Murthy

Murthy A V N said...

Here's a pdf version: http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/2067224/Issue%20Archive/2008apr15.pdf

Mainak said...

@Prof. Goldberg: You must realize that IITians searching for internships at universities abroad is simply a search for better opportunities. The trouble is with the IIT system and not with the students.

If the internships could be more streamlined, you might not only see a decrease in the quantity of spam mail but also a better bunch of applicants genuinely interested in your research area.

As a student of IIT Kharagpur, I can tell you that the system is changing slowly & maybe in a year or two from now, you might be having second thoughts about your post here!!

Anonymous said...

@ Prof Goldberg:
Sir I would like u to know that making politically correct statements doesn't actually make u right! Anyways what does i even hope to get out of this, coz' u of course are using this platform with a totally different agenda - marketing!
By the way, let me tell what this blogpost of your make an impression on a general student is definitely not good. It shows you in a light of "wannabe professors" who are passionate about anything but actual "research"

ani said...

Dear Professor Goldberg,

I would first like to apologize on behalf of some of the students of IIT who have replied nastily to your post. I hope you understand that they are writing this as your post has offended them.

I am a student of an IIT who did an internship in the UK this summer. I would like you to know that I am deeply indebted to my supervisor for trusting me and giving me the opportunity to learn about a whole new way of research. And I will always be grateful to her for that. Having been offered a Ph.D. in her lab, I can guess that she liked my work.

If you are interested in reaping the mutual benefit of keeping a cheap and enthusiastic employee in the form of an IITian internee, you could use Skype interviews to gauge students before taking them. If you are completely averse to the idea and are bothered by the emails, you could probably block the mails by searching for keywords. But I request you to kindly not post such offensive posts on the web.

Thank you.

Circe said...

On a different note, I once heard a story about a "serious" mishap which came out of this practice.

I am not sure why, but perhaps due to these mass emails, IIT Kanpur email addresses were filtered out as spam by Bell Labs servers in 2002. The story goes that the initial version on of the AKS primality test, which were sent via email(of course, from an IITK email account) to a number of researchers on a Friday, were actually tagged as spam by the Bell Lab servers. This resulted in at least one researcher, Carl Pomerance, being able to hear of the result only on the following Monday, from second hand sources.

Disclaimer: I attended one of the IITs a while back, and this malaise seems to have been present for a long time. I believe some of the IITs have even gone to banning foreign internships all together.

Raunak IIT-Guwahati said...

the main reason we search for foreign internship because here, in India the universities are known through quality of students rather than quality of research

about some contacts, try contacting Oxford or Germany DAAD programs or Canada's MITACS program

Even I student of mathematics and computing got an internship in University of South Australia, one of the top Australian Universities, on topic of mathematical modeling, one of the topics never offered to UG's to work as they were highly impressed by the work our seneiors have done.
(and my CV offcourse)

We app only on our academic interest. you were unlucky that u got such a general nonspecific mail.

We are known for delivering and never disappointing. This year my department guys have got internship in Yale, Princeton,(based on reco from Oxford professor) Georgia Tech, Adobe, Microsoft, Google, UniSA, University of Queensland,..........

orangerinds said...

Sir, being an IIT student myself, I can definitely say that this tendency has somewhat increased.

Being in Civil engg at 3rd year, I could see many people around me who just wanted to do an internship - whatever, wherever, however.

I believe it goes down to the Indian thinking and culture that has developed slowly. The rat race has increased a lot more and so has the willfulness to explore reduced by as much.

The only respite is if there comes a paradigm shift in the Indian education structure and/or the mentality, without any of which happening, such internship spam would just keep on.

Anonymous said...

It's rather unfortunate that a few rotten eggs end up spoiling the rest in the basket.
Anyway, I'm a first-year student at IIT Madras, and after reading this, looks like I'll think twice about sending infinite spam mails to professors all over the world.
A very entertaining post!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post, Prof. One question though. Ever heard of Asok, the intern?! ;)

bharathhm said...

Sir,

As an IITian, I can connect your experience with what I see here. There are two reasons for IITians spamming such mails:
1. The urge to go abroad as a student, which is generated out of the 'special treatment' given to foreign returns in India. This mentality was more dominant a few years ago, but still it exists.

2. Inside IIT, many students are successful in getting an intern through such spamming. That pushes others too, to try it.

I hope that this blog post makes many more of us think about our attitude

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof Goldberg:
Good to know that a UK University Prof has so much time to write a long blog post over a non issue. I on the other hand, being a Professor in the IIT system itself hardly get the time to count how many mails I have deleted (so any way no question of writing a blog based on that!). My perception about Profs in the west (for example UK, Germany, USA, mainly the people I personally know/ visited and worked with) was pretty much the same. But then, you are afterall at a low end Univ, and surely doing low end research. So please feel free counting how many mails you have deleted from IIT students and feel privileged! Happy mail deleting ..

Srishti said...

Dear Professor Goldberg,

I would first like to apologize on behalf of some of the students of IIT who have replied nastily to your post. I hope you understand that they are writing this as your post has offended them.

I am a student of an IIT who did an internship in Manchester this summer. I would like you to know that I am deeply indebted to my supervisor for trusting me and giving me the opportunity to learn about a whole new way of research. And I will always be grateful to her for that. Having been offered a Ph.D. in her lab, I can guess that she liked my work.

If you are interested in reaping the mutual benefit of keeping a cheap and enthusiastic employee in the form of an IITian internee, you could use Skype interviews to gauge students before taking them. If you are completely averse to the idea and are bothered by the emails, you could probably block the mails by searching for keywords. But I request you to kindly not post such offensive posts on the web.

Thank you.

Rahul said...

Its sad to hear such words from a person of such stature. I myself, being an IITian know that I've been through the toughest entrance examination in the world and am better poised to outclass any of your so called 'hard-working', 'dedicated' or 'meritorious' students so to say.

Trust me, you're lucky to be receiving such high frequency of mails probably because you might be a faculty member at a very reputed institute in the States. (P.S. - Sorry, but I didn't bother to check your details out because I didn't feel the need to). Try and close your eyes for once and give an IITian a chance without any such prejudices and then make a new post on this blog about your experience. I'm sure you won't be let down.

And yes, please give a thought before defaming IITians once again since its the scenario out there which is to be blamed and not we guys. no one likes sending 1000 apps seeking an acceptance. Doing away with an internship doesn't help either. But I guess it'd be tough for you to comprehend that.

Mayuresh said...

@Prof. Goldberg

A very easy way (not the best, but the probability of alpha errors is much lower than beta errors) to screen the applications (if you do decide to take an intern from an IIT) is to consider them only if they are in the top quartile of their class w.r.t. their cumulative grades till the point of application.
It's reasonably safe to assume that any applicant who does not mention either his/her grades or class ranking in his/her first email is probably looking for a paid holiday and deserves an email delete.
That said, a GPA of 8.0 is a reasonably good cutoff in most departments at any IIT - I know because I had a GPA of 7.5, which is considered average to below average. There will be beta errors, no doubt, but if you do select a student using this thumb rule, s/he will most likely be genuine.

Rajat said...

Well I have seen Professors writing explicitly on their webpages not mail such things, as most of the time webpages are visited to get email id for bulk messaging - I remember one of the Professor clearly mentioning that don't make him part of bulk mails and mail only if you are genuinely interested.

When you completely read the webpage of this Professor at the bottom you will find a title that you need to paste in subject line of your email. If you paste that line then your email will be considered "genuine" else it goes in trash.

By this way or may be any other creative way you can still get genuine folks and IIT is one of the premium institute - no one will ever be disappointed while working with students from IIT.

Neela said...

I have received multiple such emails, right from my days as a doctoral student. I remember composing a detailed reply to the first such email I received with advice on places to apply to and other strategies. However, I received no response from the student, possibly because I revealed that I was not a faculty member looking to hire students. Other emails I have received have gone straight to trash. This is a serious issue for both students and faculty members alike. I once talked to a professor from IIT-Kanpur, who told me that he was unable to communicate with faculty members at other schools using his official ID, since many schools now filter emails from the domain @iitk.ac.in as SPAM. As rightly pointed out, streamlining the internship applications through formal processes at the IITs is the only potential way to overcome this hurdle. Expecting the professor to screen or go through every individual resume is painstaking and mostly unrewarding.
As a final note, to all IITians with negative comments on this post: I strongly condemn all comments by current and former IIT students which read like "you will be lucky to have an IITian as your student". Students at the IITs believe that getting into to IIT through the entrance test is the toughest challenge they have faced, little are they aware of the real challenges which lie ahead. Please stop devaluing an institution or professor purely based on the average ranking of an institution.

Chelsea forever said...

Dear Prof Goldberg
While some profs get frustrated, smarter profs in smarter universities devise ways to streamline the internship process.
For example, jealous of the way the US is home to the IIT grads, canada has introduced this program-->
http://www.mitacs.ca/globalink

As a result, a lot of students are heading to Canada for grad studies. Similar programs exist for EPFL, which I believe is the best in Europe. They are not fools to be spending so much money every year on IIT students. They get quality work, and that is why they do.

Bottomline : Universities WANT us. Most do. Some like yours, are happy with mediocrity (as is your football club).

So, I would just borrow a line from a Merseyside club, and you should "Walk with hope in your heart", to ever have the privilege of an IITian as your student.

Seeing as you have not replied for a long time, you probably won't. Typical.Profs don't reply, and the spamming continues.

-Someone who got an intern in US, and was offered a PhD

siddharth said...

This makes for an interesting read - experiences of IITB students on internships, often in universities abroad.

Anonymous said...

I am an Oxford student from department of medical sciences and I believe that even the cream of Oxford is average compared to IIT students and I say this from my own experience. Getting into oxford is thousand times easier than getting into the lowest ranking IIT of India.

Piyush said...

Dear Prof. Goldberg

I understand your concern which is quiet valid but as I can see from your post, you are not trying to look for any solution rather you are showing your frustration on a public forum.

I am a pass out of one of the IITs and I did two summer internships during my stay at IIT and I would like to mention it here that both the projects resulted in two research papers which clearly shows my contribution during the internships. In addition to this, I was given an opportunity to pursue Ph.D in the same univeristy.

But above point is not a justification for your concern, it's just to make you see the possible outcomes of an internship that can be. Such posts, not only create a bad picture of an IIT student but can also block good achievements for the world.
I can suggest you following solutions:
1.) Make a spam filter for IIT/internship etc
2.) On your web page, mention clearly that you are not entertaining interns and such mails.

Thanks

Anuj said...

Dear Prof. Goldberg,

I understand your concern, yet how can you say that "Most of them would clearly be hopeless".
Please justify how you can call most of the students of India's top universities hopeless. Maybe you or your colleagues had a bad experience with someone from my university, but that does not make us a hopeless lot.

1)Please excuse me if I misinterpreted your words.
2)I should REALLY not use such words against a Professor! I am extremely sorry!

I had a great internship experience, with a great professor, at a great institute. So folks, keep up with the e-mails, though I'd suggest applying to those professors whose area of research you're interested in!

Also, Prof. Paul, its not possible for students who've just completed the 2nd year of their Bachelors to read through the research work of the Professors, given the low probability of the Professor actually offering him an internship. I think that the students just seek some basic exposure at a prestigious university, and VERY few are looking for a free foreign trip.

The Scribbler said...

Prof. Goldberg,

Ahh, Sir, didn't you get yourself in a pickle?

An entertaining post but, the comment thread was much more amusing.

As of 2012, There are 15 IITs in India. All of these IITs are filled with students who camped out under a rock for two/more years to get in. So, yes, you can see why they are so sensitive. The exile from civilisation during preparation combined with the pedestal respect given to them in our country will make them lash out at you.
Don't take it personally. You were just making a point.

But, the research conditions in the country are dismal and students are genuinely desperate so maybe you can cut them some slack.

Also, too bad for the FA Cup Final. All the best for the next season. :)

To all the IITians who lashed out, you're all brilliant students, I'm sure. I studied with some of you in school. But, the attitude's not helping.

I know it is hard to get into an IIT. But, you haven't conquered the world yet so a little humbleness would be nice.

Shitiz Bansal said...

I wouldn't want to get into a flame war here about the pros and cons of hiring such interns. But when I was a student 10 years ago( and even now for that matter) my inbox did have a decent amount of spam from both foreign and local universities seeking students for their various programs. None of the universities tried to understand my interests or inclination before shooting off their emails. Why is a student expected to go through the cumbersome process of short-listing professors to send the emails to when the universities themselves brazenly use email as an advertising platform? Or are institutions and corporations above any moral scrutiny?

college secrets said...

I dont know ,why the topic is too much raised , and the Indian Students (SPL IITANs)feel disappoint about what Prof Goldberg posted, And i want to say all IITIAns that they would be in best in the field but there is a ton of hidden talent in the market that also to be explored
Its all about choice and looks like he is more interested in criticizing the way the IItians hitting him emails for internship.
The perfect way to give the internship opportunity is to the credibility of the student s and that will be measure by his/her profile.
There must be a deadline to send emails and and separate email ID to get mails for only internship .
emails to the personal email id of the prof are not be considered.


BEST!
R

Anupam said...

Dear Professor Goldberg,

I had the good fortune to host several students from IIT, since 2004, and supervise them in the capacity of a PhD student, and later as an assistant Professor in RWTH Aachen, Germany.
While it is painstaking to go through the bunch of emails I receive from them, it makes up more than the effort while working with them. Most of the time, I found the students of IIT to be sincere, motivated and hard working. The only situations when the students did not leave up to my expectation was partly because of my failure to come up with an internship project, which is challenging enough for them and which is doable within short period of 2-3 months.
At the same time, I must say that, being an Indian, it helps me to quickly judge the potential of a student from their CV.
I hope this helps.

--
regards,
Anupam

Billa said...

Dear Paul Goldberg and other IITians

You sure have pointed out a genuine issue. But if you are getting thousands of these mails then how come most of the students are genuine and purely interested in research?? People please do some calculation. Every year almost 5000 people get into IITs of which lets say 2000( worst case ) are applying for internships abroad. In this case also more than 50% of the applicants are fake.

Sandeep Injarapu said...

1. I think the problem can probably be solved to an extent by a credible existing social network, say, LinkedIn which can act as a platform for showcasing opportunities and students' expertise.

2. The students of an institute(IIT) can form a committee which will channelize the list/profiles of students to the professors/colleges rather than the each student mass-mailing/spamming. Through this, at least the profiles remain authentic and the professors stay out of multiple emails/spam.

3. The professors/colleges can form official channels of communication (which might be difficult since it involves funding) where the students can send their profiles. This system is prevalent in many universities abroad.

Yes, I was a student at IIT. I emailed about 30 different professors in my field and got a positive response from 2 but couldn't go due to funding. I ended up working at a research institute in India.

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul Goldberg,
An IITan Work harder than any any other Student in Colleges like Howard or Stanford and you will be the lucky person on earth if you get one.
I myself worked 14 hours a day in my last intern,far more than any other student in his research lab.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Looks like this blog has been spammed to death too by IIT students...

I can only empathise with Dr. Goldberg here. The emails are SPAM and need to stop. Every email I have received from IIT students sounded like a cut-and-paste job. I shouldn't even be getting these types of emails, I'm not a professor nor even a member of the faculty. You can't just rip somebody's name off a research paper and expect that they have an internship available. I suggest more research on the IIT students part, and to be clear I mean research about the professor!

G.S. Visweswaran said...

I am a Professor at one of the IITs. The template application is a virus that has spread across the length and breadth of our nation. If undergraduates from IITs and some other reputed universities send mail to Professors outside India, the students from other universities write to Professors in India using the same obnoxious template. I get mail from students wanting to work in areas where I have no papers at all but where students have read at least 15 to 20 papers of mine in those areas.
The only solution I have found is to ignore all such mail, notwithstanding the injustice done to genuine students.

Novel Martis said...

Basically, IITians are too naive. A foreign intern is seen to be a great mention on a resume. So, inspite of us having great professors spread out over India, they prefer a foreign internship. And when it comes to having actual knowledge about the topic they mail you about, it's sad to let you know, but half of them don't know what they talk about. It's the fanfare that takes away all their thinking prowess.
Well, given the population of the country, and the no of students at the institutes, it is indeed a rat race out here. About the spam mails, I know they would be hard to be filtered. And that's because IITians ARE smart. Most of them are just lazy. What happens in mist of the cases is that they just follow in the steps of their seniors, mail the same profs presuming that they would have a greater chance in succeeding. So, that's that.
Don't get disheartened though. If you really care about taking interns, read the mails at least. I guess, given your posts, that you can identify template mails. If you think it's bullshit, send a 'I can't take you as an intern'. How much time does that take? Else if you don't want to take interns, write so on your webpage, and inspite of that if they mail you, just humbly redirect them to your weboage.
If you don't have time to respond, don't. Well, use the Grover's algorithm to solve your 'apparently huge' search problem.. :D Just kidding.. :)

Akshay Singhal said...

dear sir,
I understand your concern. But i think by reading the mails you can understand whether it is genuine or not.

I am interested in cryptography and information security and i am a student of IIT. In my institute there is only one person who know cryptography so if i want to learn further in this what do you suggest? I just mail my research paper on the same topic and seek atleast a reply(either positive or negative)

Sir with due respect i am saying this that you are a professor and in ancient india a person who teaches someone has a place above God. So if somebody wants to study under you and you don't bother to reply, are you a real professor?

Chatterbox said...

Paul, You have pointed out the problem. And both professors and students are victims of this thing. Students go to this extent only when they succumb under pressure.
On further thinking, I do feel that there might be a mechanism possible to avoid this scenario. This would benefit both professors and students, obviously. Since you are the first one to talk about this publicly, I ask you: Would you be willing to cooperate and support someone who is developing something to avoid this situation?

Anonymous said...

interesting to read comments from IIT students as well. I'd say 40% were composed and had contructive views on how to remedy this problem. the other 60% were just pissed off people rambling.

i think what touched a raw nerve was when Paul Godlberge said "Most of them would clearly be hopeless". taken out of context, its offensive. but the reader should keep in mind that Paul is talking about the bunch of template style crap that he (and I also) gets and not the good students who've actually done their research and would be a good fit.

I've received 3 emails from IIT students so far. They claim to have read my paper and want to apply for an intern in my lab....but the thing is that I'm only a grad student.
It's annoying to know that you've been template-spammed.
My grad student friend also has had a similar experience. What's even funnier is that his paper was written in Japanese (all japanese papers are required to also have a translated english title) so we know he hasn't read it.

IIT probably has some very excellent students who deserve a place at another top institution to further broaden their horizons. but lazy mindless spamming to other researches just gives IIT a very bad name.

@IIT students in general:
do your research properly. read up on the laboratory website. read up on the papers. make sure you are a good match. THEN only send an email giving a DETAILED proposal on how your project experiences can become useful. hopefully, the professor will read it and his lab also has the funding. if not, too bad. we all know that life isnt fair.

@Sudipto Karmakar
congratulations to your friend for securing an intern after spamming 1800 emails. unfortunately the 1799 spam emails he sent that were rejected most probably annoyed some researcher out there, especially if its obvious in the email that your friend had not done his research and is just mindlessly spamming. so while your friend is happy that he got an intern place, he's made it harder for his juniors to get a place because there are now 1799 researchers out there who do not view IIT in a good light.

Anonymous said...

Prof GOldberg..Despite this several of IIT students end up getting great internships in several top universitites of US,Europe etc. They crack into DAAD,MITACS,EFPL,SN BOSE ETC EVERY YEAR....

This means they are good...they deserve it.....

Anonymous said...

We app only on our academic interest. you were unlucky that u got such a general nonspecific mail.

We are known for delivering and never disappointing. This year my department guys have got internship in Yale, Princeton,(based on reco from Oxford professor) Georgia Tech, Adobe, Microsoft, Google, UniSA, University of Queensland,..........

Anonymous said...

Most of them are not that smart (speaking from experience). India is overpopulated, so people have to compete and fight out with each other to grab a few scraps in every field. They use terms like "talent", "merit", "caliber" so often because of this very reason. Also, getting a foreign internship is perceived positively by the families of these institutes, not to mention the foreign currencies they earn and save in return. Most of them slog hard for 2 or more years to go to IIT, not necessarily to study. But because it brings great material benefits along with it. For example, greater esteem and respect among the vast joint family in the village. A higher dowry from a prospective bride of the same caste (but different gotra). And so forth. Granted, they are hard workers for sure. But in this day and age, one should be a smart worker more.

Gau said...

To All Prof:

Spamming is not good way of applying for scholarships but this has been a trend to increase the percentage of success for acquiring an Internship, but relating to talent you will surely find Good talent in people from Indian Institutes of Technologies.

I have seen some of the comments where in people have mentioned that students apply to countries richer than India for getting funds etc...I need to clear that talent at IIT in India get the salary for internship equivalent to the salary they get in a paid Internship in Labs in other part of the world. So per sake if its 500 GBP in a International Lab the students gets the same in the country itself. So for students who are talented and applying to your universities seriously are interested in carrying out work with you. Neglecting emails coming to you from IIT Students and taking a negative view on IITians is loss to you and to students as well. As you might be looking for someone talented but because of the negative approach you have had before... will drive you to neglect talent at your doorstep...

Take it as positive that there are people interested in working with you. (Leave certain mails which are seriously spam). People are interested they are applying to work with you. If you stop taking them or start neglecting the emails from students its not the end by the way...World is so big for talent to find its place...is what i see...

Also i like to apologize for serious spamming from students at our side. They are just crazy to work at your countries to see what they can learn and contribute in terms of technology.

vvd said...

2011 -2014
seriously people , leave Mr.Paul to his world of opinions and let him judge students and pass comments without having a single clue about what goes on in real world.
My deepest sympathies to Mr Paul, moreover pity all the people who worry too much about some blog post from 2011 and comment on it still in 2014.