When Robin Scibek, PSC’s Senior Communications Manager, started at PSC as an intern, she never thought she’d still be working at PSC 19 years later. Hers, however, is not a unique story at PSC. Our internship program provides a valuable experience for undergraduate students, who get a chance to become part of our team, sometimes for longer than expected, learning new skills and training in a hands-on environment. In addition to building industry experience, while at the same time building their resume, students often have an opportunity to network with leaders in academia and industry to form valuable relationships.
Jared Yanovich, who participated in the program for four years (and was later hired full time), said for him the program was “absolutely foundational in terms of career development.” “The resources available and made accessible, from hardware to colleague knowledge to autonomy/freedom with direction and exposure to other organizations/conferences/industry, greatly prepared me for the next steps of my career,” he shared.
During their employment as interns, students gain an idea of what it would be like to work in various positions outside the classroom setting. They are able to explore roles in areas such as Software Testing, Graphics Design, Bioinformatics, Data Science, HPC Training, Deep Learning, Microphysiology, Information Security, Software Development and many others.
Student interns, who receive either a stipend or research credit, have an opportunity to work under the mentorship of PSC staff and faculty. To date over 700 students have been mentored under PSC’s internship program. Last year we received over 100 resumes for six internship positions.
Stephen Fancsali, a former intern who worked in the Data and Information Resource Services Group, says his mentors provided amazing opportunities to “learn while doing” with real-world systems and with meaningful impact. “As part of my dissertation research, I found myself increasingly relying on the skills I’d developed at PSC,” related Stephen.
“Mentorship was without a doubt the most significant resource,” recalls Jared. “Without the mentors pushing, support, leadership, and ideas I would simply not have advanced to where I am today.”
Hiring an intern can be a win-win for the mentor as well. The mentor has an opportunity to practice leadership and development skills, for example.
Chris Rapier, PSC Senior Research Programmer, who has mentored several interns over the years, says “being a mentor helps me clarify my thinking and forces me to look at the task from a new direction to justify why I’m doing things the way I’m doing them. If I can get a student to understand and have some enthusiasm about the project, then I think that’s a win for me.”
Chris doesn’t know if his current students will go into networking, but they are learning new ways of looking at problems and how to better explore the boundaries of the topic. “The big lesson they will take away from this,” he says, “is to spend the time to really understand the task at hand before jumping in.”
PSC Research Scientist Rozita Laghaei has had a rewarding experience as a mentor. She says her goal is to turn learning into an exciting journey of discovery for the student. “The process of building enthusiasm for learning and to maintain that enthusiasm throughout the program is my greatest challenge,” she says. “I believe my role as a mentor,” she went on to say, ”is to involve and engage the students as active participants and place their activity at the center so they are able to connect, physically and emotionally, to what they are learning.” Rozita believes many of her students complete the program feeling confident that the projects were interesting and attractive enough that many of them continued working with her for several semesters. She says the results of their work have been presented as posters in conferences and also have been submitted as papers to various journals.
PSC has no shortage of full-time staff who excelled as student interns. In their current positions they are: Alex Ropelewski (Director, Biomedical Applications), Luke Tuite (Web Developer), Tom Maiden (User Services Manager), Stephen Deems (Strategic Project Manager), Ed Hanna (Director, Advanced Systems & Operations), Brian Johanson (Senior HPC System Administrator), Rob Light (Senior Software Engineering Manager), Burt Cubbison (Software Engineer), Andrew Adams (Principal Information Security Officer), Robin Flaus Scibek (Senior Manager, Communications) and Ken Hackworth (Senior Manager, Allocations).
When asked about his experience as a student intern, Tom Maiden replied, “The thing that sticks out to me the most is the mentorship opportunities I was given, from a wide variety of professionals. Students are given opportunities to grow academically and are given access to some of the most technologically advanced systems in the world.” “The biggest value of the PSC experience,” he went on to say “was the access to very intelligent people who also happen to be terrific human beings. I would not be the person I am today without the tutelage of PSC staff past and present.”
Robin Scibek, now in her 19th year at PSC, looks back on her time as a student intern. “When I started as a student,” she says, “I was mostly just looking for an opportunity to gain some programming experience in preparation for a ‘real world’ job after graduating. I didn’t realize I was building the foundation for my ‘real world’ job at CMU/PSC.” Robin says she felt very fortunate to be hired at PSC after graduation. “In addition to building skills directly related to my degree,” she went on to say, “I also had the opportunity to grow in other areas like time management – learning to juggle school and a part-time job. What was really cool was that my experience left me feeling like I was really contributing in a real way as opposed to some part-time college job.” Robin says she was also fortunate to have some really awesome female role models at PSC who she has had the opportunity to work with both as a student and later as a staff member.
Many of these students, some whose testimonies appear here, have gone on to work in positions where they have been able to apply the training and education they received at PSC to real-world applications, such as networking, engineering, and data analytics. Regardless of whether they pursue work in technical or or computational roles, the internship opportunities at PSC aim to prepare students with practical skills and knowledge for any career path they choose.