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