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MIT PhD Scholar and IIT Bombay Alum talks to Nirali Advisory about her Study Abroad journey!

Rushina Shah


Undergrad- IIT Bombay- Mechanical Engineering



Postgrad- Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Mechanical Engineering



Doctorate - Massachusetts Institute of Technology




LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rushina-shah/



My favourite thing was the many different activities that happen on campus, student teams and clubs, as well as the many brilliant people I got the chance to learn from.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your Educational and Professional Background? Which college, company and role did you work in to get you where you are today? Also, tell us a little bit about your current job profile and work.


I did my undergrad in Mechanical Engineering at IIT Bombay, and then my Masters and PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I interned at Uber ATG during my PhD and currently work at Nuro as a Software Engineer for Behavior. Nuro is a robotics company that is building a self-driving delivery robot.



2. When and why did you decide to study abroad?


I decided in the third year of undergrad that I wanted to apply to schools abroad. I didn’t think my education was complete and didn’t find many job opportunities in my field (Mechanical Engineering) in India. I also wanted to explore living in another country, and another part of it was I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do career-wise immediately after undergrad.



3. Did you receive a scholarship? Do you recommend any good organisations/institutions that provide scholarships or financial aid?


I received funding in the form of RA-ships at MIT. At the time I was applying, MIT guaranteed funding for MS and PhD grad students in Mechanical Engineering. I didn’t look for other organisations/institutions that provide financial aid.



4. Why did you choose that particular course in this particular university/college for your studies abroad? What was the process you went through while choosing the university/college?


Based on my GPA and resume, I had narrowed my application list to 8 universities, 3 top-choice, 3 back-up and 2 reasonable fits. MIT was among my top choices, and it also offered funding during my Masters (which other places did not offer). That pretty much made the choice for me, I didn’t consider other options too seriously.



5. Any particular advice you would like to give for the application process from SOP Writing to Academic GPA to other things which you thought were important that helped you get into that course at that university?


I got help/advice from friends that were also going through the application stage, which helped a lot, especially in proofreading my SOP and resume. I believe having a strong reference letter from a professor that I worked with at IIT Bombay for a reasonably long time (on-off for 2.5 years through undergrad) helped -- I don’t know the internals of decision making, but just based on what differentiated my application from others, I think this helped.



6. Were you satisfied with your choice of university? What is your most and least favourite thing about the university experience?


I was. My favourite thing was the many different activities that happen on campus, student teams and clubs, as well as the many brilliant people I got the chance to learn from. My least favourite thing was that it was a slightly isolating experience and research is a slow process, which can be frustrating at times, especially since my project wasn’t very collaborative.



7. How was the overall campus diversity?


It was pretty decent, with a significant oversampling from Asia.



8. Tell us something about the on-campus faculty and resources


The campus is great - Cambridge is a university town but just across from Boston. Campus resources are excellent, great libraries and fitness centres. Lab workspaces and offices can be slightly dingy in the older buildings, especially if the office is in the basement or attic, which happens often.


9. What were the career opportunities available? How does one manage to grab them?


At least for technical fields, I think many career opportunities are available in computational fields (simulation, AI, software, data science). There are also opportunities in hardware, but fewer, and lower-paying. Internships are a fantastic way to work on your resume and get exposure to different fields if you’re interested, but it is important to have some prior experience even to land such internships.


If your graduate course is not directly related to the field you want to be in, I would suggest doing a project with a professor in that field, and/or taking relevant classes. For software internships/jobs, it is useful to have someone in the company refer you (people are usually happy to refer you, so you should reach out to them even if you don’t know them too well). Once you have a recruiter reach out, preparing for these interviews using things like Leet Code is very useful.



10. Any other suggestions or advice you would like to give fresher’s starting out.


I would strongly suggest connecting with people that have already graduated from the course that you are considering. For a masters, you should look at people that have graduated from that department (connect with people on LinkedIn if you don’t know someone immediate).


If you’re considering doing a PhD, you should take a look at what students from that lab are doing now-- that should give you a good idea of what career opportunities might be available to you later since these are much more dependent on the lab than the course or the department.



11. How did a study abroad help you?


It opened up career opportunities that weren’t available to me in India, as well as gave me exposure to the academic and career opportunities here.


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