Thursday, 29 June 2017


"Never let success get to your head. Never let failure get to your heart"

I was finally in Japan. After one year of filling out applications, messaging random people, stalking University professors, sending out hundreds of unsuccessful emails, I landed a fully funded research internship at the National Institute of Genetics (NIG), Japan. It felt surreal. I had dreamt of that moment many times but the reality was way better. I was smiling like an idiot at the Tokyo International Airport with a sense of accomplishment.  Few hours before that, I was in a totally chaotic situation. My flight from Chennai to Mumbai was delayed by two hours which gave me only 15 minutes for immigration at the Mumbai Airport. Also, due to the delay, I did not receive my luggage at the Tokyo airport.  Fortunately, I was in a country that embodies kindness. The airport personnel provided me with compensation money to buy the basic necessities and also sent my luggage to the place I stayed in after two days.

I took the famous Shinkansen or the bullet train from Tokyo to reach NIG which is located in Mishima. It is a small town located in Shizuoka and it takes about 2 hours from Tokyo.Once I reached there, I was cordially invited by my Guide and the members. When I told them about my luggage fiasco they immediately took me shopping. Well! That’s the dream, right? Land in a new country and go shopping!

Group Discussions.

I started my internship the next day. I was excited and nervous. It was exactly like my first day in school. The lab is working on some interesting topics related to cell signaling pathways.  Basically, they try to figure out the cues responsible for cell-cell communication. This is very important in developmental biology (embryogenesis) where a single cell becomes a whole human being. Additionally, fields like cancer biology, antibiotic resistance studies also benefit from cell signaling. I got to meet really passionate people and experimented with cool techniques like RNA interference, confocal microscopy etc. My mentor and my lab members were great teachers. They taught me the concepts from basics and helped me in every step of the way.

I  made great friends from different countries. We went out on weekends, cooked food together organized farewell parties. We also took the Japanese lessons offered at the institute. They definitely made the stay more fun.

Trips In Japan

Tips For Students Applying For Internships!

               1. Start early : This gives you enough time to browse through websites, read about the internships and prepare all the necessary documents.  You can find these internships on websites like Internshala, Twenty19 to name a few. Otherwise, you can visit the institute’s website to find more information.

                  2.Watch the deadline like a hawk: Trust me! Deadlines are easy to miss. Nothing hurts like a missed opportunity. So, just note down the deadlines in your sticky notes or Google calendar or anything.  The deadlines for most of the research internships may range anywhere from September to April.

                3.Do your homework: Read about the research work, the professor/scientist, the University. Be thorough. Some internship may ask you to give an interview. So being prepared helps
              4.Mail a lot of professors:  There are different ways of obtaining an internship. One is formally applying to a program and another highly underused way is emailing the professors.
Use your social media stalking skills and find professors on the university websites/on LinkedIn and mail them. Before doing that read up, make sure you have enough information and then proceed. Initially, there might not be any replies. I emailed around 40-50 professors and got no reply. Don’t feel dejected. Apply as many as possible. Read some blogs about emailing professors.
Again! Don’t underestimate the value of volume. You try 100 different things, you will definitely hit one.

Even though it was only for a month, I learned a great deal of science and life skills. The experience was not all sweet. I did have my doubts and fears. But at the end, it was all a learning experience and it was totally worth it.

I was fortunate to have a healthy support system. My friends encouraged me to apply every time I got rejected, my family taught me to laugh it off. So, make sure you are not in a negative environment. Also, I had incredibly amazing teachers who gave me a letter of recommendation every time I asked.  No single person can achieve anything alone. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Farwell Dinner

Another, important lesson I learned during this process is that you should not stop applying because you think it is out of your reach. Your job is to apply and they decide the results. Don’t every take their position. For example, if Harvard is offering a program, just apply! You never know! :P

I am no big brains. I just tried hard. So, it is not impossible and it is not a complex task.  So good luck! Make the most of your summer vacation.

About the Author: Anjana Sundarrajan is a true Tamilian who will not shut up about Chennai and curd rice. She completed her B Pharm from Manipal University. She is passionate about research and innovation. She is on her way to study Masters in Biotechnology at 
UPenn in the United States.  

She can now write a whole blog for you or better write content for your website for $5.Doesn't that sound like a steal deal? To know more visit

You can contact her on her Facebook or Linked In

Thank you for sharing your experience and tips with us. We hope you continue to support this blog and write for us in the future. We wish you all the best.  

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