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My story is a bit different from most of the intern blog posts I’ve read on the UCS site so far.  I wasn’t searching for a way to fill my summer vacation.  In fact, I don’t have summer vacation.  I’m a fourth year Ph.D. student in the chemistry department.  Luckily for me, my advisors allowed me to take three months out of my regularly scheduled programming of academic research to gain some experience in industry.

My internship is a thirteen week research position at Intel Corporation, the largest semiconductor chip manufacturer in the world.  The work I’m doing here is studying materials for use in microprocessors.  In my department, each of the interns is paired with a full time Ph.D.-level researcher who acts as our mentor.  The mentor-intern relationships vary, but my mentor and I have met almost daily to evaluate data and outline the next steps for the project.  Most of my time is spent in the lab making materials and analyzing them.   I have access to about half of the analytical tools I need, and rest of the samples need to be sent to external labs or analyzed by other staff at Intel.  Logistically, the whole process is a lot like the way I conduct research in grad school.

So, what are the benefits to taking an internship as a physical sciences grad student (if it’s just more of the same research)?  It’s an opportunity to gain relevant job experience and network with professionals in your field.  Not only do you have a chance to make an impression on hiring managers, but you may learn about job opportunities that might never make it to public postings.  Intel has activities for interns to network with current employees and managers to learn about jobs around the company.  In my department, the intern manager also organized a weekly presentation by one of the staff members, ranging from engineers to the director of our department.  If you’re considering a job at that company, you have a unique chance to experience the culture and decide if it’s a good fit.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time as an intern.  The research is fast-paced and interesting, and I still have those moments in the middle of the day where I’m suddenly amazed that I’m actually working at Intel (how cool is that?!).  But that’s only part of the experience.  What I’ve enjoyed most about this internship is the people that I’ve been fortunate to work with.  The managers and other scientists and staff that I’ve met have all been friendly and interested in what I’m working on.

Me on a Hike at Tunnel Falls near the Columbia River Gorge

My last rave is about one factor that I didn’t consider very important when searching for internships, and that is location.  Personally, I think that the quality of work and the company trump location, but I lucked out that I found a great job in a great location.  Never having been to the Pacific Northwest before, I had no idea of the number of awesome sights that awaited: mountains, waterfalls, the Columbia river gorge, and the pacific coast.  I have spent almost every weekend hiking and exploring.

At this point, if you’re hooked and want to land an internship at a major semiconductor company, I suppose the most useful advice I can relate is the story of how I got here.  Of the six interns in my department, only one intern actually found and applied to an online posting.  My advice in this arena is to be proactive, let people know you are looking, and ask questions.  You will find out that there are hidden opportunities you didn’t know about.

During the time I was scouring company websites for internship postings, reps from Intel had an info session at Northwestern to recruit full time hires.  At the end of the session, I told them I was interested in an internship, even though that’s not what they were recruiting for.  I handed over a hard copy of my resume, and when I followed up with e-mail (*the e-mail follow-up is a key step*), they asked for an electronic copy of my resume, which got forwarded on and eventually found its way to the intern hiring manager in my department at Intel.  A couple of weeks later, I got an e-mail asking for a phone call to discuss more details, and the rest, as they say, is history.

About the NU Intern Blogger Program
This summer, over 50 Northwestern University students will be sharing stories about what they are experiencing at their internships from across the country and internationally. Each week new students will share an inside look at what it means to be an intern. Please contact Betsy Gill, Assistant Director, Internship Services if you have any questions.