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Students seek internships to set career goals

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Internships can make or break the chance to establish a career. Real-world, hands-on experience is valuable résumé content and indicates to employers that a graduate is prepared for the professional world. Hundreds of students in The University of Tulsa’s College of Engineering and Natural Sciences complete internships each year, enhancing their coursework, connecting with industry mentors and determining which areas of their discipline they most enjoy. The following are examples of student internships from the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences.

internship Bailian ChenBailian Chen
Petroleum engineering doctoral student Bailian Chen completed his second internship during the summer of 2016 in Utrecht, The Netherlands. He worked alongside two scientists at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research to reduce risk in the robust life cycle of production optimization. The previous summer, he interned on a reservoir simulation research team at Chevron Energy Technology Company in Houston, Texas. Chen said his internships revealed he is more comfortable working with colleagues in a research laboratory.

“Compared to my other internship, I think research is more suitable for me,” he said. “At Chevron, it was a time of layoffs, and it was stressful for employees.”

Chen is originally from China and became interested in petroleum engineering through his father. Following graduation in 2017, he plans to obtain a post-doctoral position in the United States or return home to teach at China University of Petroleum.

Mariah Heckinternship Mariah Heck
Geosciences senior Mariah Heck also interned with NASA in 2016. She participated in an eight-week student airborne research program in Irvine, California. As an introduction to airborne science opportunities, she flew on a DC-8 NASA’s research plane to choose a summer project. She studied the bark beetle infestation of California’s pine forests.

“California’s drought has weakened the pine trees and made them more susceptible to beetle attacks,” Heck said. “The result has been devastating to national forests.”

Her research compared an Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) image of consistently healthy trees from the summer of 2015 to a spectra of trees that appeared healthy in 2015 but died in 2016.

“We could only see the effects on a large scale once the trees were dying, and it was too late to save them,” Heck said.

Heck was one of eight interns chosen to attend the American Geophysical Union Conference in December in San Francisco. After her anticipated graduation in 2017, she plans to use her geosciences background and the remote sensing techniques she learned from the NASA internship to pursue a doctorate in planetary science.

internship Patrick PhelpsPatrick Phelps
Geology and physics senior Patrick Phelps has spent the past four summers learning at internships around the country, including the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., where he studied during the summer of 2016. As an intern in NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics Undergraduate Research Program, Phelps researched the reflectance spectroscopy of minerals. The internship involved computer coding and data analysis to determine how temperature fluctuations affect minerals. The previous year, Phelps participated in the Summer Internship Program in Planetary Science at the Lunar and Planetary Institute located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He was assigned a specific meteorite to study — one discovered in the Dominion Range of Antarctica.

“I enjoy research, whether at a lab or university, but I prefer the type of hands-on work I did with the meteorite,” Phelps said.

He also interned his freshman and sophomore summers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico where he focused on the physics aspect of his double major. Phelps plans to attend graduate school and specialize in geosciences, volcanology or mineral physics.

“Internships give you a different perspective when you have to apply skills,” he said. “I’ve learned the industry is not nearly as cut and dry as you think it is — it’s not what you expect. It’s nice to get experience prior to diving into graduate school or a job.”

Shannon Suddathinternship Shannon Suddath
Electrical engineering graduate student Shannon Suddath worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, as a member of the Space Communications & Navigation (SCaN) summer internship program. As a member of the High Data Rate Architecture (HiDRA) group, she studied how to improve data rates on the International Space Station using a free-space optical (FSO) link. Specifically, she studied how different parameters affect the lateral misalignment tolerance on a 20-meter FSO link.

“The goal was to improve data rates from one point of the international space station to the other,” Suddath said. “We looked at how a free-space optical link could improve the data rate to as fast as gigabits per second, specifically from the payload site to the main cabin.”

The internship project aligns with her master’s thesis, which encompasses the utilization of fiber bundles to improve the field-of-view for a free-space optical receiver. Suddath earned her undergraduate degree in engineering physics from TU. She remains connected to her NASA mentors as she prepares to graduate and begin her career in the optical design or telecommunications industry.