An internship is an ideal way to learn the actual prospects of a field and to explore the future scope of inter-disciplinary projects. Such was my internship at National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR) in Goa, a global marine research institution in collaboration with Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Finding the right internship for me

Coming from a chemical engineering background, interning in the off-shore and seismology fields goes a bit outside my area of study. It all started in my third year when I was discovering my interests. I wanted to gain expertise in offshore drilling, and that’s how I started exploring this field. Seismology and Image Processing were the two subfields which excited me the most. I browsed through many organisations, institutions, and MNCs with expertise in this field. For MNCs, I found Schlumberger and Halliburton which have operations in India. For national institutions, there were NCAOR and National Institute of Oceanography. I applied at all four places, but NCAOR was always my first preference. I had emailed the head of the concerned department at NCAOR and I was fortunate to get a reply after one week. During my telephone interview a week later, they asked me questions related to optics, fluid mechanics, and inorganic chemistry. It was not a hardcore interview but they were keen to know my motivation for doing this internship. In a subsequent email, they confirmed my internship. After a month, I got an email from the HR department asking me to submit certain details. There was a link to a form which I had to fill and submit.

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I was ecstatic; in part because of the location, Goa, the land of beaches. The project assigned to me was also in sync with what I was looking for. However, I was flooded with all kinds of questions as to why I chose ocean research, why I was aiming for a future in off-shore despite being a girl, etc. I kept my cool and didn’t let those questions dampen my enthusiasm.

Starting my internship

On my first day, I arrived at my mentor’s office at 9 a.m. sharp. My mentor was very nice and humble. After a short formal conversation, he took me to my desk and introduced me to the whole team. He initiated a conversation about the latest happenings in the company and appreciated my motivation to work in that field. It was a great way to break the ice. My project was on the topic of Marine Geophysical Data Analyses. My first task was to understand seismic data acquisition. The concept of physical optics had to be applied in different combinations of reflective and refractive mediums. I started from scratch and made many systems starting from 2 to 7-8 mediums with various combinations. The main role was of the parameter – density. As the density of the water medium changes, the velocity of the rays also change accordingly which was the key point to understand. Every system required a lot of analysis. This analysis could help in detecting the presence of carbonated salts, hydrated gas, etc. under water.

 

As I was new to this field, I went through a book by Robert Sheriff in the first fifteen days. It was really a good and informative book enlightening the history of oil exploration in offshore and how the big names (like Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes) started, their mergers & acquisitions, followed by technical aspects in subsequent chapters. I read about 10-12 chapters and applied the concepts in the ProMAXX software installed on our workstations. I made different systems and learnt how the change in velocity could indicate density. With the help of density values, we could tell what type of particles were present under water. As we cannot drill randomly anywhere on earth, we need to take into account two main things: the availability of natural gas and hydrocarbons, and environmental hazards. That’s why a ProMaxx analysis is done first and if the region is found to be economically feasible, the drilling process starts. As far as environmental hazards are concerned, I went through the technical details of six disastrous oil spills which had taken place in the 19th and 20th centuries and tried to understand the reasons that led to those occurrences.

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The intern lifestyle

I had 5 working days a week. NCAOR provided a free accommodation facility to its interns, but it was subject to availability. There was a canteen on the premises, and the food was quite good with a tinge of south Indian style. A bus facility was also provided to Vasco, one of the beautiful cities of Goa, twice a day. NCAOR shares border with the Arabian Sea, so one could go around and sit for a while; it was so peaceful and serene. Friday evenings used to be the best. I had become friends with a couple of fellow interns and so the weekends used to be super fun. We used to plan a lot on Friday evenings and wander around the whole weekend, enjoying the beaches, the nightlife, and the parties!

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The 2 months that I spent with the company were as fulfilling as anything I’d done professionally in quite a while. The learning involved was huge. Every day brought with it an opportunity to learn something new. As a result of my internship, today I’m working in the same field of mineral exploration in a company, Vedanta Resources PLC, headquartered in London, and I’m specialising in process engineering.

About the Author: Nidhi Aggarwal, a student of BITS Pilani, talks about her experience interning in the field of seismology and how the internship helped her get a clear idea about her career choices.

Courtesy: Internshala, an internships and trainings platform