Purdue University - PURE Program

Purdue University PURE Program
© Purdue University
I’m Susnata Bhowmick, a fourth year undergraduate student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB). Presently pursuing a 4-Year B. S. Chemistry degree along with an Honors, my area of specialization is Synthetic Organic Chemistry and its applications. I hail from a family in Howrah, West Bengal where I used to stay with my parents and completed my schooling there itself from Don Bosco School, Liluah.
Tell us about the PURE program that you took up
To start, PURE stands for Purdue Undergraduate Research Experience, which is a strategic program envisaged by Purdue University, collaborating with IITB, IITM and IITH. Through this program, undergraduate students from these respective IITs can visit Purdue as summer research interns, for a period of approximately two months. This summer, there were around 34 students who visited Purdue through this program, to work on various projects, like Drug Development, Biology, Computational studies, Nuclear Engineering, Computer Science, Entrepreneurship, etc. So, as can be inferred, students from various backgrounds work on projects that may be related to their field or to interdisciplinary research, which is on the rise these days.
How did the experience help you academically?
Personally, I had some experience of working in organic and organometallic chemistry before I went to Purdue, but when I joined a laboratory in Purdue, I found that the way research problems are approached there is very different from the way we approach them here. Almost all of the projects were interdisciplinary, requiring researchers from various backgrounds to work together.
I worked on a project that might eventually be successful in developing a new class of antibiotics, which humanity is in dire need of. While I worked on the synthesis part of the project, we had collaborators who did animal studies of the synthesized molecules.
As a result of this experience, now I have a wider view and am open to new ideas about how to approach a problem and how to solve it, which I think is probably one of the most important traits of successful professionals.
Also, students who are a part of this program gain a competitive advantage during their graduate school applications and elsewhere in academia and industry.
How important are programs like PURE for students? What are the advantages?
Unfortunately, in India, we are still in a phase where we try to solve problems with the limited knowledge of just one or a couple of fields, but times have changed. The traditional barriers that had existed for long are breaking, and interdisciplinary research is the way of the future. Through the program, students get a holistic approach to problem solving.
In our academic years at our IIT, not many students have been exposed to research; as a result, students end up having no clue about what they’re missing out on.
Therefore, programs like PURE, which provide such opportunities, are very important, not just to attract meritorious students to academia and higher studies, but also to provide exposure to all aspects of life on the other side of the globe. At the end of the program, quite a few students who didn’t know if they wanted to go for higher studies, decided that they definitely wanted to go to graduate school. So yes, programs like PURE can change the way people think about research and other spheres of life. And of course, through programs like this you make some new friends too and the cultural exchanges via such friendships are truly beautiful.
What makes the Purdue University program stand out from the others?
Firstly, the PURE program is one of the most organized UG exchange programs of its kind. From the day we were selected, to the end of the program, we always got help whenever we needed it. There were sessions imparting information about preparing a competitive graduate school application, as well as sessions about each other’s research, cultural exchange, etc.
Secondly, the program is highly flexible, with students working on projects in fields in which they had little experience. This made students very enthusiastic as they got a lot of exposure to other fields that were related to their main areas of study in India.
Lastly, the atmosphere at Purdue is very welcoming (as compared to other places). Many fun cultural activities and festivals take place in and around Purdue, which all of us really enjoyed.
So considering everything, it was an experience I will always cherish.

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