For nearly a decade we have been mentoring students and alumni of Aligarh Muslim University who wish to pursue higher education in the West (specifically North America, though many of our mentees have been successfully placed in European and South Asian Universities). To realize that so many students needed this kind of assistance that was either not available or was very expensive and that with our efforts many opportunities opened up for them, has been a very humbling and rewarding experience. There is nothing more satisfying than to see our volunteer efforts benefit the very people it was intended to.
      In early 2013, it was felt that while our mentees come to the US for higher education, it would be great to have summer internships arranged for those interested, so before they came to the US and committed for a long term for higher studies, they would have a firsthand exposure of the quality of lab work and research, in addition to networking with academicians who could help in their final placement in MS or PhD programs. Therefore the International Summer Research Award ISRA) was conceived. ISRA program is offered under the aegis of the Sir Syed Educational Society of North America (SSGSA), www.ssgsa.us.
      In a few meetings, this idea firmed up and in Houston at the XIIth Annual convention of the Federation of Aligarh Alumni Association (www.aligs.org), the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sir Syed Education Society of North America (SSGSA) and Aligarh Muslim University was signed on June 23rd, 2013 by the Vice Chancellor, Lt. Gen. Zameeruddin Shah. Under this MoU, it was agreed that SSGSA will arrange the summer research internship of AMU students in laboratories at top institutions of the US such as Harvard University, Boston University, University of Chicago etc. Initially up to 5 students would be supported each year and they will be selected through a rigorous and transparent merit based screening system. Both AMU and SSGSA aimed to make the first batch of internships available by summer 2014.
      Mr. Sabahuddin, a M.Sc student, was the first receipient of the ISRA program and placed at Loyola University Medical School, Maywood, USA. We are very grateful to Prof. Mashkoor Chowdhury, who kindly accommodated and went beyond the usual protocol to mentor Sabahuddin and provide him a working space that will hold him in good stead all his life.
      We did not have much time between the selection and final placement and we were quite concerned, but all went well thanks to the many AMU well-wishers who agreed to fully support the program. Elsewhere in this newsletter, is a report written by Sabahuddin on his experiences. It is a touching report. We are quite happy with the outcome and this has strengthened our resolve.
      Next year again, we intend to select other bright, meritorious students or alumni from Aligarh Muslim University and place them in reputable labs working in cutting edge technologies and research.
      As we expand our ISRA program, we want to expand our base of partners who can assist us in this noble mission. Hopefully, in the next 5-7 years we see a higher number of students benefiting from ISRA and there is also a talk of expanding this to other areas in India.
      Therefore, the International Summer Research Award, (ISRA), is looking for hosts (families or students) for the 2015- summer internships for exceptional graduate students from Aligarh Muslim University. Given below are some salient protocols of ISRA. The host families will not have any financial burden. The host families will agree to provide room and/or participation in family meals. The summer interns will be bright scholars, have health coverage for the duration of the stay and in most cases will be provided public transport monthly pass for their daily commute. They will be responsible for their own personal expenses. The ISRA recipients will be coming under the appropriate US visas and in some cases, the placement labs may also give them a monthly stipend.
      Alternatively, if you are PI, an academician, a scientist and have an internship position available in your own or a colleague's laboratory, do let us know. We assure you that we will place someone with exceptional merit, talent, commitment and maturity -someone who will be truly an Alig ambassador.
      Hosting international students is a rewarding experience that builds bridges, creates lasting friendships, connects us to the Alig community and helps us give back to the great seat of learning that continues to bring quality education to the marginalized minorities in India.
      We hope you or someone you know will be interested in hosting. To learn more about the ISRA program or to get more details to see if you can be a host, please contact us ssgsa.apply@gmail.com. For additional information, please visit www.ssgsa.us

Scholar's Words

My beautiful days at CERN

-Wasikul Islam (SSGSA Scholar)

     Once the former President of my country India and a noted scientist, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, was asked by a reporter “what would be called the national sin ?” according to him. In his reply he said : “Small dreams are the biggest crime for a nation”! Being one of the biggest fans of our late President APJ Abdul Kalam, I was greatly fascinated by his words like millions of other children of my country. Specially the phrase :”Small dreams are the biggest crime” motivated me all the time not to dream a single trivial dream from my very childhood!

     Hence, I am a dreamy student of Physics from West Bengal, India. When I was at school, at that time collisions started at LHC for the first time. I used to read all the news articles of different newspapers with lots of excitement and I used to convey all the updates to my friends and family. In my school days, for the first time I met an Indian Physicist from Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics who works for CERN. And after attending his lecture at my school, I was so excited that I used to take pride in conveying the news of my introduction to a CERN guy! And after that day, my interest in CERN increased a million times and I dreamt to reach CERN once in my life to see what is going on there with my own eyes!

     During my 5 years study (Bachelors and Master degree of Physics) at Aligarh Muslim University, India, I got motivated immensely by the Professors of Physics, specially by the Experimental Particle Physics group. They are working in the ALICE experiment at CERN since 15 years and they have significant contribution in the ALICE Di-muon spectrometer. During my MSc. Physics, I took Particle Physics as my specialization and studied lots of aspects of Particle physics, its issues and how CERN is trying to address them! That theoretical knowledge made me more excited about CERN. With the encouragement of my Professors (Specially Prof. Muhammad Irfan Sir) at Aligarh Muslim University, I applied for the Summer Students Programme for 2015 and I was fortunate enough to be selected. Me along with my Professors were very happy mainly for two reasons: 1. Only 4 Physics students were selected out of more than 700 applications from India this year, and I was one of those four students. 2. I am the first student from my Univercity to be selected for the Summer Student Programme at CERN!

     This summer programme at CERN gave me unique opportunities to observe and to work for the world’s greatest scientific project, an amazing experience for me. I attended lecture classes from the world experts and also had the opportunity to interact with some of the greatest scientific minds of the Physics Community (Especially Prof. John Ellis). There was a time when I used to watch video lectures of John Ellis at Aligarh. So, when I met him in his office, gossiped a lot, exchanged many emails, I was feeling blessed.

     I was allotted my project under ALICE secretariat and my supervisor was Yiota Foka, who is now working for GSI, Darmstadt. I was very excited to work in the ALICE experiment, specially because of the physics goals of ALICE. I felt immense happiness to feel that our ALICE experiment is trying to solve the mysteries regarding the origin of our universe! My project was on Accelerators. Our target was to assemble all the materials for "Understanding Accelerators" and create a common platform for all the useful materials in a webpage; also to classify those materials for people of different age groups.

     Hence, for three different categories i.e; 1. for school students 2. for school teachers 3. for University beginners, I have separately prepared different presentations and collected all the useful web links, videos, animations, games etc. related to accelerators to be uploaded to a single webpage. I hope this work of mine will be useful for making people understand about accelerators and their importance and applications, which is the need of the hour!

     I participated in several workshops, such as: CERN LHeC Workshop 2015; Workshop on Characterisation of Scintillating Fibres; ROOT Tutorial Workshop; Cloud Chamber Workshop. I had official visits to: the Synchrocyclotron (CERN’s first accelerator) and ATLAS; the Data Centre & the Antiproton Decelerator (AD); the SM18 & CERN Control Centre (CCC); The Point 2 of LHC where the ALICE detector is installed.

     Among innumerable special memories at CERN, I would like to specify some. During my stay at CERN, I had a golden opportunity to participate in a documentary made by CERN on the summer students, where few selected students including me were asked about our journey to CERN, our childhood dreams and future goals, and the impact of the internship. On the other hand, I have myself taken an initiative to make a documentary on my “Aligarh Muslim University and CERN”, which I hope will popularize the activities of CERN more at least to the people of my country India.

     Besides that I got great exposure and lots of physicist friends from almost every corner of the globe. I hope the relations with them, the exposure, the wonderful CERN experience will be benefitting me forever in my career. My two months experience at this greatest scientific environment of the world will motivate me more for research in Particle Physics, for which I am going to start my PhD at Oklahoma State University, USA, just after the completion of this programme. For the rest of my life, this summer experience of CERN will always inspire me to work hard and to prosper in life, to think internationally, to work for all the people of the globe ! Heartfelt thanks to CERN for giving me this golden opportunity once again!

(This article is published in one of the official newsletters of CERN i.e; ALICE MATTERS)