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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


STEM students benefit from summer internships

Summer is fast approaching, and for many UA students, that means lounging by the pool, traveling to new places or getting ahead in coursework by taking summer classes. For many students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math, however, summer is the time to expand their educational and professional horizons through internships.

These summer experiences allow students to get a sense of what working in their chosen field is like and strengthen an applicant’s resume for a future job search.

“If you have training or experience in your field, it not only shows that you have some context for what you will be doing, but also that you’ve done your due diligence,” said Farrah Dalal, the career and industry coach at UA Career Services. “You’ve gone out there, researched whether the career or industry was right for you and made an informed decision about applying for a full-time job in the same career or industry.”

Internships are an important part of a STEM student’s education because they show students the real-world applications of the material they are learning in class, according to Dalal.
Dr. Kasi Kiehlbaugh, a chemical engineering lecturer at the UA, agrees.

“What you experience in school as a student is not what you will do as a practicing engineer,” Kiehlbaugh said. “Here, the point is to teach you concepts. … In a working environment, you’re applying that knowledge. Going blindly into a job having never seen what that application looks like leaves you at a disadvantage.”

Internships also serve an important purpose in allowing the student to determine whether their chosen field is right for them.

Kiehlbaugh said her own internship experiences as an undergraduate student showed her that she wanted to go deeper into engineering than a bachelor’s degree would allow, which inspired her to obtain her doctorate.

Internships can help students adjust their degree program or course load to respond to these experiences and continue to prepare for their career of choice, especially when completed early.
In addition to helping students determine which field is best for them, internships can be a deciding factor later in a student’s job search.

“We hear from employers time and time again that they will offer the job to the student who had an internship or work experience over the student who had the grades from their major alone,” Dalal said. “Doing well in an internship for many students could mean a job offer is in hand before graduation.”

The UA offers a number of resources to help interested students land an internship. Wildcat JobLink, an online service open to members of the UA community, allows students to search for careers and internships in their field. In addition, UA Career Services hosts a major career fair each semester, which allows students to directly connect with potential employers.
Dalal and Kiehlbaugh both recommend starting the internship search early in one’s college career.

“Start as soon as you are a student,” Kiehlbaugh said. “Any time you have the opportunity to go get that kind of experience, it is well worth it to try and do so.”

What should students consider when looking for a company or organization to intern with? Dalal and Kiehlbaugh both advise students to consider their own personal and career interests before deciding on a particular internship.

“[Students should look for] an opportunity to do a meaningful project where they feel like they’re making a real contribution … and doing work that you and the company feel is meaningful and significant,” Kiehlbaugh said.

It’s not too late to apply for a summer internship, so all interested STEM Wildcats should keep looking for that perfect opportunity.

Follow Frances Willberg on Twitter.

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