Internships are undeniably a great opportunity for students to engage with industry. Internships provide valuable on-the-job training and skill sets that connect much more directly to employment needs. Indeed, because of this it might be profitable for many students to have an opportunity to engage in both on- and off-campus internships, and on-campus research.
Some internships do involve research. This is particularly true of internships in government laboratories. The Denver region enjoys proximity to several such institutions, including:
- National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)
- National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST)
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
In most cases, the cultures of these institutions are more familiar to academics (and vice versa!). Several of our students have enjoyed productive experiences at these institutions.
Example: Active Optical Devices
Don Morgan did his senior thesis “Theory and Fabrication of Active Optical Devices Using Rare Earth Elements” under the supervision of Kevin Malone at the National Institute for Standards and Technology. This was a voluntary (unpaid) internship, but the experience fit Don’s aspirations to learn about optics and surface physics. His ultimate goal was to develop a career in photo voltaics. In fact, after graduation, John found employment in a company working on photo voltaics and he eventually enrolled in graduate school at the Colorado School of Mines.
Example: Characterization of Diamond Surface Films
Robin Vojdani had an exciting paid internship at the National Renewable Energy Lab under the supervision of Roland Pitts at NIST. Robin learned about the application of highly intensified sunlight to the growth of diamond films on various substrates. She also had a chance to work with highly sophisticated surface microprobes and to become acquainted with a wide variety of data analysis techniques. Dr. Pitts has since been a frequent guest at our university, giving several talks in an undergraduate-run seminar series and providing valuable advice on curriculum development. This demonstrates the importance of internships for establishing fruitful professional relationships.
Finding the right internship
Students are encouraged to talk with faculty members whose interests parallel their own. Faculty members maintain connections with local industry and governmental organizations and will have insights to offer students.