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Behind the scenes at IndiaBioscience: Conversations with 2023 interns

Anuja Vartak, Atharv Salvi, Debraj Manna, Shalini Sanyal, Shrutika Raut & Ankita Rathore

IndiaBioscience opened its doors to five interns in 2023. This article is a conversation between Ankita Rathore, Program Manager-Science Communication at IndiaBioscience, and the interns about their internship experience and insights.

2023 interns at IndiaBioscience. Collage credits: Anuja Vartak.
2023 interns at IndiaBioscience. Collage credits: Anuja Vartak. 

In 2023, IndiaBioscience recruited five interns across several verticals, such as Community Building, Data and Policy, Science Communication, and Skill Building. Atharv Salvi joined the Data and Policy vertical, Shalini Sanyal joined the Community Building vertical, and Shrutika Raut joined the Skill Building vertical. Anuja Vartak and Debraj Manna joined the Science Communication vertical as Social Media and Science Writing interns, respectively. Each of these verticals is managed by the IndiaBioscience team members.

During our 3 – 6 months internship from June to September/​December 2023, we learned a lot and were always excited about learning by doing. Recently, Ankita Rathore, Program Manager-Science Communication at IndiaBioscience, spoke to us regarding our internship experience. This article presents the conversation which followed.

1) What motivated you to pursue an internship at IndiaBioscience, and how does it align with your career goals?

Anuja: The spark for my journey in science communication was ignited during the COVID-19 lockdown. What began as a hobby soon transformed into a profound passion and, gradually, a potential career path. Over the past two years, I have delved into various facets of communication, ranging from blog writing to science journalism, with a particular focus on ecology and conservation. However, delving into science communication within academia had always piqued my interest, although I had yet to find the opportunity to explore it thoroughly.

In this context, IndiaBioscience has provided me with the perfect fusion of my skills in social media content creation, which I was already accustomed to, and the world of popular science in the life sciences.

Atharv: I aspire to build my career in the science policy domain, and this internship was a perfect opportunity to gain some exposure to it.

Debraj: I have been interested in science communication for quite some time now. Having initially gained experience in science communication at my institute, I yearned to broaden my horizons. With its mission to promote life science research and communication in India, IndiaBioscience offered the perfect opportunity. Working here allowed me to collaborate with professionals nationwide, enriching my writing. This experience has ignited my enthusiasm, propelling me to engage more deeply with the community as a science writer.

Shalini: Having been a wet lab” researcher all these years, I was curious about Science Communication as a career prospect. While everything I read about the subject seemed to indicate that it would be something that I would enjoy doing, I wanted to check the waters, so to speak, before deciding to make a career jump. The IndiaBioscience internship was the perfect opportunity to wet my feet and choose. And yes, this experience did allow me to decide that I wanted to turn from a SciComm enthusiast to someone who is actually a Science Communicator!

Shrutika: After diving into research post-masters, I was exposed to international grant opportunities that drive global science projects. While working on a project, I was pretty hooked on how these grants work and how they benefit global scientific collaborations. What’s even more remarkable is that I’ve got this creative side I’ve been itching to use. IndiaBioscience gave me the freedom to use my creativity to design posters and find exciting ways to make more people aware of international grants and how they can help researchers like me. Plus, I’m planning to do a postdoc abroad, and understanding the ins and outs of international grants is crucial for that journey. This internship is like a golden ticket to gaining experience and connections that will be useful when I take that next big step.

2) How has your experience at IndiaBioscience contributed to your personal and professional growth?

Anuja: My experience at IndiaBioscience has been instrumental in enhancing both my personal and professional growth. As a full-time science journalist, my usual beat revolves around reporting on weather, environment, and wildlife conservation topics. However, during my internship at IndiaBioscience, I had the invaluable opportunity to delve into the intricate world of molecular biology and neuroscience.

One of the most significant lessons I garnered from this internship is the art of simplifying complex and less mainstream subjects while retaining the essence of the research study. 

This newfound skill has expanded my horizons as a science journalist and allowed me to effectively communicate intricate scientific concepts to a broader audience, bridging the gap between research and the public.

Atharv: I have learned quite a bit in this internship, from visualising complex data to gain insights, analysing government budgets for mapping trends in spending and improving outreach for a newsletter. I developed a good understanding of working in a team with geographically distant members.

Debraj: My journey at IndiaBioscience involved every facet of article creation, from ideation to writing, editing, and proofreading. It offered me invaluable insights into crafting compelling pieces from inception. The most empowering aspect was the creative autonomy I enjoyed as an intern. The team fostered an inclusive and supportive environment, and as a remote part-timer, I honed time management skills while seamlessly balancing daily responsibilities. This experience helped me realise that I can excel under constraints.

Shalini: The IndiaBioscience internship gave me a chance to gain some hands-on skills and the opportunity to learn so much — people who are in the field, the kind of prospective career opportunities that this field holds and most importantly, find an encouraging team that allows me to experiment and grow.

Shrutika: These three months as an intern have given me invaluable learnings on the professional and personal fronts. It has deepened my understanding of international grants and their intricacies and refined my design skills and knowledge of colour psychology as a technical design aspect. Beyond that, the importance of teamwork became evident to me during my time at IndiaBioscience. 

Collaborating on projects taught me that the success of an initiative often hinges on collective effort.

3) Can you share an example of a challenging situation you encountered during your internship and how you overcame it?

Anuja: Multitasking on multiple projects with tight deadlines is something I initially struggled with. However, the team’s unwavering support and motivation helped me to overcome the challenge and manage time better.

Atharv: Not the most challenging, so to speak, but one of the most learning experiences was when suddenly I was tasked to work on a past project with a restrictive deadline. I learned how to prioritise tasks at the time.

Debraj: While not inherently challenging, coordinating interviews within tight deadlines posed difficulties. With repeated instances during my internship, I learned to structure my work effectively, ensuring timely discussions without compromising on quality or missing critical insights. It helped improve my interview management skills.

Shalini: Well, I wouldn’t call it challenging, but the looming deadline for the close of my internship tenure and the number of things I still want to accomplish before then does seem daunting. 

Shrutika: Well, to be honest, I did face a creative block while trying to make newer poster designs; I was unable to create unique, original designs after many attempts. However, discussions with the team and their suggestions helped me regain confidence and incorporate their ideas into designing a better and more appealing poster. 

4) Can you share a memorable achievement or moment from your internship that you are particularly proud of?

Anuja: Undoubtedly, my most cherished achievement during the internship was the opportunity to spearhead the design of the Journey of a Young Investigator (JOYI) 2021- 2023 compendium. Initially, when I was asked if I had any prior experience in book design, I must admit I was nervous. However, my career in social media had inadvertently introduced me to the world of graphic design, albeit in small doses.

After careful consideration, I embraced the challenge of designing the compendium. To my astonishment, it turned out to be a precious experience and a revelation of a hidden talent. Crafting this compendium pushed my creative boundaries and allowed me to explore a facet of my skills that had remained largely untapped until then. It was a moment of personal triumph and professional growth that I shall always hold dear.

Atharv: Every last edit of the spreadsheet or the PowerPoint which concluded a project made me smile. I feel fortunate that I felt it twice.

Debraj: Engaging with experts to capture their diverse perspectives has been rewarding. Witnessing how a single word can have distinct meanings due to our inherent biases was eye-opening. These conversations have enriched my understanding, and I take pride in accurately representing these varied viewpoints in my articles.

Shalini: I was tasked with updating an IndiaBioscience booklet, Means to a Beginning — Funding Opportunities for PhD Students and Postdocs in India,’ during my internship. However, I was given free rein to make the booklet my own — to add things and make changes, even to try designing stuff for it. So, while it is still a work in progress, I am proud of how it has come up.

Shrutika: Well, the realisation that the posters I designed with the help of the team would be featured under the International Grants Awareness Program (iGAP) resources on the IndiaBioscience website is a thing of pride for me. Knowing that my work would be visible to a broad audience and contribute to the platform’s identity fills me with immense satisfaction and fulfilment. 

5) What is a quirky and unexpected hobby or interest that your colleagues might be surprised to learn about?

Atharv: I like writing and reading fiction. In fact, the only section of English exams I wholeheartedly wanted to attempt was writing a short story based on a given prompt.

Debraj: Beyond science communication, I indulge in diverse interests. I’m passionate about reading and reciting poetry, participating in plays, and playing the violin. However, my most calming pursuit is nurturing the plants on my balcony. Their vibrant foliage and flowers, blooming even in unconventional seasons, never fail to excite me.

Shalini: I enjoy nature — tiny flowers, creepy snakes, and spiders! In fact, spiders were not something I had appreciated earlier, and someone at IndiaBioscience taught me to appreciate them. Now, I spot beautiful” spiders everywhere I go.

Shrutika: I love painting and sketching. It’s my way of finding balance and letting my creativity flow. Whether it’s capturing the beauty of nature or creating abstract pieces, it allows me to release all the week’s stress on blank canvases, which eventually go up on my collection wall!