November 3, 2017

STEM interns share their stories

Grace Grieve-Carlson ’19

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This summer, hundreds of Mount Holyoke students interned at companies and organizations around the world. Wondering how to get a STEM internship and what the experience will be like? Read on: Four students who did internships related to science and technology share their takeaways and insight.

Thalia Brown ’19, Girls Who Code

Thalia Brown ’19, Girls Who Code

What did you get out of your summer internship?

This past summer, I interned for Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization that works to close the gender gap in computer science related fields. I assisted with teaching a group of 20 high school girls how to code in a classroom set up within Goldman Sachs. My work presented me with new challenges each day and I saw my skills as both a programmer and teacher massively improve over the span of three months. I emerged with a tightknit group of friends, an interest in pursuing financial tech and strong confidence in my role as a woman in STEM.

How did you find the internship, and what was the application process like?

I heard about this internship through a friend in the computer science department. I was on the board of Mount Holyoke’s Girls in Tech conference last semester, and another board member who worked for Girls Who Code the summer prior encouraged me to apply. For my application, I first sent my resume and a cover letter, and then was emailed an invite to interview over Google Hangouts. The interview lasted about an hour and consisted of technical, behavioral and situational questions. I received an offer about a week after. 

What do you wish you had known before you started?

I wish I had understood the importance of asking for help and being able to admit when I don’t know something. I soon learned how important these traits are, especially as a programmer and a teacher, and now feel much more comfortable seeking support when I need it.

Sizhen Fang ’18, Cornell University research assistant

Sizhen Fang ’18, Cornell University research assistant

What did you get out of your summer internship?

I got to know what doing research, at least undergraduate research, is like. I also gained experience with coding and I worked with many intelligent and hardworking people who I learned a lot from!

How did you find the internship, and what was the application process like?

I mainly used the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates site to look for programs. I also asked professors for program recommendations. I learned about this program from a friend who is also a math major and intended to apply last year. The application process was not much different from other summer research programs. They asked for my CV, personal statement, transcript, two letters of recommendation and an application form. 

What do you wish you had known before you started?

My project was very coding-intensive, and as a math major I did not have much experience with coding. Although I did learn a lot about coding during the summer, I wish I had known more from the start.

Whitney Lapic ’18, Paleontological Research Institution

Whitney Lapic ’18, Cornell Universitys Paleontological Research Institution

What did you get out of your summer internship?

I spent the summer at PRI studying predatory micro traces in snails, which give insight into predator-prey interactions. Beyond everything I learned about vicious predatory snails — which are bigger than your hand — I went on digs, networked with incredible people in my field and presented my findings at a symposium. I’ve turned my findings into a thesis that I’m working on now and will soon be presenting at the Geological Society of America conference in Seattle. On top of all that, I learned how nonprofits operate.


I found out later that this one line on my resume is what really caught their attention: experience with scanning electron microscope.”


How did you find the internship, and what was the application process like?

I knew that PRI was the place to be for my field, so I sent an email to the director of education. They don’t advertise their internships, but because I reached out I got a list of their open internships. I sent in my application, got an interview and was offered a position! I found out later that this one line on my resume is what really caught their attention: “experience with scanning electron microscope.” I used the scanning electron microscope for a two-credit class here, and it was totally fundamental to my summer research. They brought back a project that hadn’t been worked on for a few years because I had the right experience for it.

What do you wish you had known before you started?

That I would be working in a basement lab! I loved the work I was doing, but on most days I wouldn’t see daylight until about 5:30 p.m., which got old pretty quick. That being said, I’m excited to head back to PRI next summer.

Kayla Nguyen ’18, Google

Kayla Nguyen ’18, Google

What did you get out of your summer internship?

I was a software engineer intern in the App Engine Flex team at Google this summer. I built a framework to measure, analyze and find performance data and performance limits of applications using App Engine Flex with different configurations. From that data, I managed to improve the overall performance of App Engine Flex. From my internship, I improved my coding skills and gained experience working in tech industry. The internship also reinforced my passion for computer science.

How did you find the internship, and what was the application process like?

I found out about it through Sidnie Davis, a women’s outreach specialist at Google, who came to campus through the CDC’s recruiting program. I’ve now interned at Google for two summers in a row. For the summer of 2016, I submitted an application online. The application consisted of three short essays, a transcript and a resume. I emailed Sidnie right after I submitted my application to accelerate the process. Then I did two back-to-back video call interviews. The whole process, from submitting an application to receiving an offer, was five weeks. I got a return offer from Google after my first internship, so I didn’t have to reapply this past summer. 

What do you wish you had known before you started?

That just because I’m an intern, it doesn’t mean that I can’t make a big impact on the system. In fact, I can make as big an impact as I want to, with the right push from managers and coworkers. I wish I had been more confident about what I could achieve.


Looking to begin your career in science or technology?

Your faculty advisor and academic departments are great places to start. You can also call 413-538-2080 at any time of the year to make an appointment with an advisor at the Career Development Center. During the academic year, the CDC also offers personalized walk-in advising:

  • at the CDC from 2 to 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday
  • at the MEWS from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday.

And check Handshake to see upcoming information sessions and workshops!

Get more out of your future. Visit us!

Grace Grieve-Carlson ’19, an English major and Arabic minor, is a marketing and design assistant at the Career Development Center. She is the general manager of WMHC and hosts a radio show on Friday afternoons. She is also a member of the Unusual Suspects improv troupe, a cartoonist for the Mount Holyoke News and co-leads the student organization Comedy Collective.
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