At the beginning of this summer, I wasn’t sure of how my internship would affect my future goals and outlook on life. I had taken a few different computer science based courses last school year and found the subject really compelling. Previously, I had focused primarily on my neuroscience studies and held an internship last summer in a genetics lab, and this past summer, I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to engage myself in this new field. However, I did not want to let my interests in biology fall to the wayside, and I had hoped that the opportunity I had found with a lab on campus could allow me the chance to work closely with both fields. My internship provided me a number of challenges, most notably designing and implementing a sophisticated framework, as this was my first experience in software development. I had the exciting opportunity to present my work at a symposium for the first time and I could see what some other aspects of academia are like aside from strictly research and development. A crucial element of research is communicating work with others, something that can only be improved through practice. After this experience, I hope to continue working in the realm of software, particularly on problems where computer science can aid the biomedical community. Overall, I am very grateful for my experience this past summer. I look forward to exploring the role of software and computation in biological problems, and I hope to continue working in this fascinating field beyond my undergraduate career.
While my experience is not quite over, I have been working my hardest for four short months and a lot has happened between May and now.
I remember starting back in May, I felt a little lost. The test stand was close to being fully functional for the first time. I took up the challenge though. Spending some long days — not to mention the nights where lab was all I could think about — I got caught up and became familiar code, testing and positioners. This allowed me to fit into a role that was previously unfilled in the lab. This made the test stand my own research project; I know it, I operate it and I improve it. I began directing myself for the most part, this gave me a huge opportunity to do well — or fail if I had not motivation.
I had no intention of failing.
By June I began creating things of my own: nifty scripts to show the positioners in a different way and stuff like that. I worked on analysis too. I created plots to try to point out problems. I used statistics too, which felt a little weird since I had never before used statistics so instinctively to look at data before but I could tell, and others let me know too, that it was good and useful that I was doing this.
By July I began doing technical writeups of procedures and the set up. So that others could replicate it or so that others could be trained to do it. I began participating in group meetings with both our lab and some engineers and LBNL. For these meetings I would write reports and present my data on the now smoothly running test stand. I joined in on discussions about the the issues that were being observed with positioners and offered my analysis.
By August I really began to feel as a team member with the lab. My input was valued and others approached me often to know how the testing goes. I will let you know too, it feels great to be part of a team.
Overall it feels like I got to this position through a lot of hard work and dedication. Obviously having some prior experience in programming, troubleshooting, hardware and analysis helped me too but this gave me a lot more experience with those too. Some other things that I gained experience in was working as a team and giving presentations on my work — explaining it in a technical sense. This is all very valuable but it is only half of what I get to take away from this. The other half is that I worked on an exciting science project the DESI project which has a good chance of producing exciting results in the near future. Also all of the contacts I have made with my lab members, professional physicists and engineers are irreplaceable. If I ever need some help, advice or recommendations I have plenty of people I can trust to go to.
This experience has basically been the dream for me continuing my plans to go to graduate school to study physics.
As the summer came to a close, so did my time in Florida. In reflection of my experience I am happy to note a positive one for my second summer as an intern at Harris Corporation. I am able to say that I had completed and succeeded at many more tasks than the summer before and I felt a larger sense of accomplishment. I am sure that comes with having multiple internships and gaining experience in general but it allowed me to appreciate what more time in my field and on the job can really do.
To end my internship at work I voluntarily prepared a short presentation to give to my team. In retrospect I am not really sure what I was thinking volunteering to do that, but nonetheless it is good experience to practice. My presentation highlighted a little bit about me and my background/interests, the tasks that I worked on throughout the summer, what I learned and will take away from those tasks and some of the challenges and successes that I had over the summer. Not only was the presentation good practice, but it gave me a chance to look deeper at the tasks I was given and what I can take away from my summer of software engineering.
With only one semester left of school, it is becoming crunch time for full time job search. I am fairly confident that I will receive an offer from this company and I am looking forward to all the other opportunities that I will search for as well. I couldn’t leave without getting some feedback about my performance this summer, and was happy to hear some helpful tips from my manager. What stuck out to me the most was his encouragement for me to have more confidence. I hope to improve on that along with many other skills that I have learned in the workplace. Thank you for a great experience Harris!
Written on August 10th:
Last week one of my coworkers approached me with a very interesting opportunity that caused me to realize exactly how important these international experiences are in a global world. He proposed a potential collaboration with him at the Climate Protection and Energy Institute in Germany and the University of Michigan. I feel anything along these lines is very interesting and productive so naturally I agreed to meet with him to discuss it further in depth and work on his behalf as a Michigan student. Over ice cream, he told me more of what he had in mind and that he was looking to work with a master student to further research on the subject of energy performance contracting in Europe. Cooperations between him and a professor and master students at the University of Illinois already exist and he was hoping to be able to do something similar with the University of Michigan.
This is a very exciting prospect and I will be working to contact the necessary individuals here at the UM Energy Institute in an attempt to foster a relationship between both organizations. Although the work is still focused on energy contracting in Europe, it is unquestionably valuable for graduate students here in the United States to learn from the processes that are finding success and expanding in helping Europe to reshape their energy systems.
After about six weeks on the job, I was able to go into the field with my boss to see how our work was implemented. We traveled to a living and working community for people with disabilities in a small town outside of Stuttgart named Schorndorf. We met with two people in the community administration to lay out the complete case for energy performance contracting and how it can be used in their community. They had plans to demolish three old buildings and build two new ones which will serve all of the same purposes. With energy performance contracting, they will be able to implement efficient energy systems to meet all the needs of the community while spending hundreds of thousands fewer Euros over time. The retrofit will be able to receive funding from European Union programs intended to see the meeting of energy goals. By taking on a contracting project, the community is able to have an ESCO take on the risk associated with the energy savings guarantees as well as the maintenance of the systems as well as obviously their installation.
We also toured the community after the sit down meeting to see the different buildings and the water heating systems that were already in place. There were two well known restaurants in the main square of the area which account for about 10% of the total energy demand, including one restaurant which is completely pitch black inside and designed to give diners a unique gastronomic experience. Up the hill beyond the center lie the different residential buildings and buildings housing the water heating systems. We looked at all of those buildings in order to get a sense of the total scope of the project and which measures are best suited for the community and how best to implement them.
It’s been a fun and exciting journey. I’ve had my struggles, but I’ve also had my fair share of successes. Working at the startup has taught me how to be independent, but at the same time, know when to ask for help. Looking back on it now, I feel like I truly learned a lot about what is means to be a programmer. Not just the coding aspect, but also having the interactions with the co-workers and the weekly group meetings. Would I want to go back? No. Not because I don’t like the company or my experience there, quite the opposite in fact. I don’t want to go back because I’m ready to move on. That chapter of my life has ended. I’ve saved all the knowledge I could from that opportunity and now I’m ready to start a new chapter of my life.
The end of the summer has been comprised of a variation of mini-projects, resulting in a slow and lazy end. From converting cassette tapes into digital audio files to grading questionnaires subjects fill out for one of our experiments, I accomplished many important but monotonous tasks. It was even fun seeing how well or poorly the subjects performed on the questionnaire, indicating just how many of them weren’t playing close attention.
Anyhow, this slow pace was a welcomed change for me, for working at the lab turned out to a nice and relaxing transition to the hectic school year. However, this is merely the calm before the storm. The summer portion of working at the Computational Neurolinguistics Lab is over, though there is so much more to be done. Once the school year starts, we’ll jump right back in recruitment, experiment sessions, and the more advanced stages of data analysis – and I’m more than excited for these next stages.
Overall, my internship provided me with many new opportunities and some exciting challenges to overcome. Most notably, I faced the challenge of presenting my research from this summer at a symposium of my peers, something I had never had the chance to do before. When I found out that I would be taking part in this event, I was incredibly nervous as public speaking as never been my strong suit. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to attend conferences and symposiums on campus this summer and talk to others about their research. This gave me the chance to see what would be expected and start thinking about how to showcase my own research. Using what I had learned from these events, I began crafting my poster and an “elevator speech” to give when describing my research to attendees. Additionally, I knew that I would be given only a short amount of time to describe my research and thus needed to be mindful of time during my presentation. When the time came to present my work, I felt confident that I could represent my efforts and team well.
Through this experience, I not only learned how to prepare a presentation but also how to better communicate with others. One of the most important aspects to scientific research is effective communication. While it is important to discuss work with people in the same field, it is also equally as important to share ideas with those outside the community. I aimed to talk about my work in a sophisticated but straightforward way to those people who were not familiar with my work. What I have learned from this experience will help me not only prepare for future presentations but also in many other situations where I will need to communicate my work to others, whether that be in future research or for my career.
At most jobs, the gap between boss and subordinate is very clear and the relationship is very estranged. This week i had the wonderful opportunity of being taken out to eat by my supervisor. At the DTE site, where I work, everyone treats each other like family members: some people you like, some people you love, some people you hate, and others you are nice to. As my supervisor took me out, I got to see her in a more relaxed setting and have personal conversation. She gave me advise and genuinely asked my questions pertaining to my goals and aspirations. She explained her struggles of being an African American woman in the company, and by excelling in her job, she broke barriers and rose to the top of her position. She explained to me that when you are doing a job, that someone is always watching and you have to be better than your best, and as an African American man, all eyes are always on me. Some might even wish for my downfall so I have to be better than the best. She gave me some advise on how I should go about getting my degree and she promoted higher education and told me getting my masters would be very beneficial. She explained in her own words, “Because this is how my degree was set up,” she had most opportunities than most. She is a fellow wolverine and wears maize and blue on her heart at all times. She told me to be proud of my university and take advantage of all it has to offer.
By having this lunch with my superior, I got to see a different perspective on the path my life could take. From talking to her I figured out that just because I have a career does not mean I can’t do other things and create new dreams for myself. I learned that DTE is a company that gives you a lot of leeway and freedom where you can change positions and have downtime to pursue other interests. And its not just the freedom, it is the positive environment. Since working at DTE, I have received nothing but love from random coworkers, partners, and higher up. They promote self involvement and something called 200% accountability where I am 100% accountable for myself and 100% accountable of my fellow coworker. They encourage us to talk about our personal lives, learning experiences, and promote higher learning. These are all things that will help me in the future and I truly value the time spent at DTE so I have a better understanding of these values.
During my last week at MiHIN, we had a staff trip to a Lugnuts game. It was there that it hit me how much I was going to miss all of the people I had met and worked alongside all summer. The great part about being at a small health IT company just past the startup stage, is that everyday is fast paced. That kind of environment fosters amazing relationships and teamwork among employees. Even though I was only there for 4 months, I feel as if I have accomplished and learned so much with each person there.
Filling out the internship evaluation made me realize how much I really had gained from this internship experience. Besides making great friends who will be connections in the IT industry, I learned so much about IT, Health IT, office culture, professionalism, and also myself. This internship showed me so many more opportunities and career paths that I had never even known about before. I learned that I love IT and that it is way more complex than I previously thought. I learned that I am interested in cybersecurity and networking and how critical it is to businesses and society. On top of all of this I learned how to manage administrative duties for various accounts including Microsoft 365 for the entire company. I had admin access to every single employee’s email account including the executive director. I also had access to everybody’s machines through a MDM which I helped to deploy. I never thought I would have that much responsibility during an internship position. But that is what is so great about Michigan Health Information Network. Interns are truly part of the team. Working here has made such an impact on my personal and professional life. I am so thankful for my experiences at MiHIN and for the Internship Networking for helping to make it possible.