Weathering through those First Internship Jitters by Varsha Ganapathy

*This post was originally featured on

  Coming out of my last final this semester, I felt nothing but relief, excitement, and immense confidence; it was time to take on summer. This summer would be special as I was going to take that leap into adulthood by working at my first internship with a steel manufacturing company. It was going to be that initial taste into what life after college will be like and honestly, after that semester of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, how hard could this really be?
        As I drove up to the main building on my first day of work, I was pumped. Ecstatic. Meeting the other interns and going through orientation only elevated my anticipation for what was to come.  The completion of our safely training marked the end of orientation and all of the interns were sent to their respective departments; I was stationed to work at the rolling mill where steel slabs and ingots are rolled out into flat plates. I tagged along my mentor as we attended the daily mill meeting, a meeting I would not forget.

As the meeting commenced, I felt myself teleporting to another planet; abbreviations and numbers were thrown around and the phrases used seemed like a foreign language. My once in-the-clouds confidence began to follow an exponential decay even with all the side explanations from my mentor.  After the meeting, I made my way to my desk and that was when it all hit me. Was I really cut out for all this? I did not understand anything at that meeting even though a lot of it had to do with concepts I learn in my major.  What if I mess up, what will all these experienced engineers think of me?  I could not fathom the thought of becoming fluent in the language that was so casually spoken here. Just minutes after these thoughts I heard crashing against the roof in the form of a torrential downpour; to my mind at the time (which was in slight panic mode), this was a bad sign.
        Fast forward a month and these concerns took a turn for the better. By now I would have attended and spoken at numerous mill meetings, assisted with the completion of an important experiment, and was starting to understand all the abbreviations and common lingo used at the plant. I was given the freedom to go off on my own and figure out how each part of the mill fit in with the other and got to inspect defects on plates firsthand. I befriended the operators, asked them about their responsibilities and how they would go about resolving a certain situation; the operators spend the most time with the machines and plates, making them a wealth of knowledge and information for almost anything that happens at the plant.  Speaking with the engineers at the plant gave me insight into how a lot of the machinery worked and how specific delays or malfunctions can lead to different defects on the plates.

That first month taught me a lot, but most importantly to ask questions, and a lot of them.Curiosity does not always kill the cat, it makes it more alert and observant of what is going on. I made sure to clear up any doubts I had at the start of my internship and it sure made the transition a lot easier. My curiosity often led to impromptu projects and allowed me to interact with a diverse group of individuals on an everyday basis. My opinions where always heard and sometimes challenged but it all contributed to the learning experience. I no longer doubt whether I can undertake a particular task because there is always a way to the solution and a person to talk to. My confidence level continues to rise a little every week and I am excited to see what the next month will hold and how much I will learn in that time. There may be another horrible thunderstorm again, but it will not bother me because I know I can get through it.

Alumni Feature: Courtney Carlstrom

Courtney Carlstrom, BSChE ‘15, Currently Employed By: Ecolab in Joliet, IL

Prior to graduating from Purdue, I worked with the Office of Future Engineers (OFE) as a communications intern. I had the opportunity to support marketing planning, social media management, and present recruitment material to families and students interested in pursuing the First-Year Engineering Program. Working as a social media intern for the OFE had great benefits for me both academically and professionally. It allowed me to gain skills in the area of communications, which allowed me to perform better in my technical classes when I wanted to convey ideas or concepts. It was also a great opportunity to learn how to perform in an office environment, rather than a classroom. Working in the OFE also taught me how to balance projects and was a great model for how to form employee/supervisor relationships.

My supervisors cared about both my academics and my life on campus, which made me feel like part of a smaller community. They also were very supportive of my academic workload, and allowed me to move my work schedule around when necessary in order to keep up with my classes. While on campus I was also involved in the Purdue Student Engineering Foundation (PSEF), and the Women in Engineering Program (WIEP).

Now that I have earned my chemical engineering degree from Purdue, I am looking forward to being immersed in the first steps of my career – working as a safety engineer at Ecolab in Joliet, IL.

Feature Interview: Minority Engineering Program

Name: Santiago Ibarra Rico

Year: Senior

Major: Aeronautical Engineering

Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia

What program(s) are you involved in? I have been involved in SEW, Preface, ABC, and MITE.

Tell me a little bit about this program? Both the SEW and Preface programs are programs that target students in middle school and underclassmen in high school. These programs introduce the students to engineering by showing them that engineering is not only about math, but also about using your imagination to solve everyday problems. We also scale down larger engineering feats to a smaller magnitude so that the students can view larger problems in a smaller way.

ABC Bootcamp and MITE are different from the two other programs in that they target upperclassmen in high school. MITE helps prepare students for the SAT and also begins to show them the type of material that they will see if they choose to pursue an engineering degree after high school graduation. ABC, on the other hand, begins to expose incoming Purdue freshmen to the curriculum that they will begin once school starts in the fall.

What do you do for this program? For SEW and Preface I served as a Program Assistant. As a program assistant I was in charge of answering any questions that students had. I also had the opportunity of directing my own project, an egg drop. This project was a simplification of the landing of the Curiosity Mars Rover. For this project students had to construct a shell that would protect an egg as it fell from one or two stories, very similar to what NASA engineers did to protect the rover as it landed in Mars.

For ABC and Mite I served as a tutor to the students where I was able to interact with students on a one-on-one basis. I not only answered questions about the work they were given but also questions ranging from Purdue courses to campus life.

What is your favorite part of the program? I truly enjoyed working with and getting to know the students that I interacted with because only a few years ago I was in the same positions that they are currently in. I was also able to see the students’ growth throughout the programs.  Engineering is not for everyone and while some students decided that they did not want to further pursue engineering, some others grew more passionate about engineering which is the program’s goal. However, all students were able to expand their knowledge about engineering and learned why this major did or did not interest them; something that is truly vital when preparing for education after high school.

Why did you get involved in this program? I first learned about the programs from Dr. Cinthia Sanchez, MEP’s Outreach and Retention Administrator, and having previously worked with younger students I saw it as a good opportunity to expand the minds of younger students that will become future engineers.

How has this program affected you as an engineering student? I have had the opportunity to work alongside and gain knowledge from other engineering students that are not only pursuing their bachelor’s degree but also their master’s or PhD.

Would you recommend this program to incoming students?  I would highly recommend these programs to any and all incoming students because it gives them a perspective that not all other incoming students are able to obtain, and for ABC students it allows them to get to meet and befriend other students that they will be working with during their schooling.

Do you have any advice for incoming minority engineering students? My advice to all students, not just minority students, is to stick with it and most important of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Also, remember that MEP is in a way your family away from home and anyone here will do whatever they can to help you succeed and reach any goal that you set for yourself.

Did you participate in a similar program when you were younger, and if so, how did it benefit you? I did not participate in any similar programs when I was younger. However, after seeing these programs’ results, I would highly recommend them to any student that is interested in learning more about engineering.

How has MEP or this program benefited you academically and professionally? I became a part of MEP in January and in that short time I have grown a lot. I have also been able to meet a lot of highly motivated and friendly individuals that share my same goal and are more than willing to share their experiences and knowledge with me.

What other organizations are you involved in on campus? I have been involved with College Mentors For Kids as well as AIAA.

So what do you plan to do professionally? After graduation I plan on pursuing a job in either consulting or computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and later returning to school to pursue a master’s degree in engineering.

Making the World a Softer Place

My name is Katie Polson, and I am a rising sophomore in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University. This summer I am working at Procter & Gamble as a Product Supply Fabric Care Technical Engineering Intern in Cincinnati, OH. What that title really means is that I am involved in several projects supporting Downy® Fabric Softener.

Through the interview process, and especially when I started my internship, I was very nervous that I would lack the technical skills that other, more senior engineers possessed. I had only just completed my first two semesters as an engineering student and only a few weeks prior had I been actually admitted to the School of Mechanical Engineering. I had yet to take a thermo, statics, or fluid dynamics class, but there I was – a technical engineering intern at a Fortune 500 company; needless to say, I was more than a bit intimidated.

However, as I neared the end of my internship, I can say with confidence that Purdue’s first- year engineering program prepared me well for industry. I have been able to build a technical mastery of the Downy® making and packing processes. I have earned Intermediate Level Certification in Micro Clean Design. I have created my own test plans and run trials at our plants to find the root cause of issues and I have grown and developed my analytical and problem solving skills. My first-year engineering courses taught me how to systematically approach a problem like an engineer and helped me learn the right questions to ask when I lacked understanding. I found this skill set far more useful than knowing a plethora of fluid flow equations, since those are easy enough to look up.

Katie wearing her Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

This summer, I learned that having a passion for engineering and genuine curiosity can take you much further than a long list of completed courses. There is no class at any university that could have taught me all the specific skills and knowledge set I would need to succeed as a Fabric Care Engineer. However, what Purdue did was equip me with the set of skills that all engineers need to be successful – thinking like an engineer. Because of this, I was able to be a successful engineer working on real projects and leaving a lasting impact in the projects I worked on.

Nicole Futch: Study Abroad

When the summer began, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew I had signed up for a study abroad program in New Zealand and Australia that would run for a month. I knew that I would be studying rainforest conservation and corresponding policies in both countries (yes, there is a rainforest in Australia). I also knew that it wouldn’t be like anything I had ever done before.

This program turned out to be one of the highlights of my life, to say the least. Previously, I had never thought that I would be able to see what I saw that early in my life. I got to take opportunities that would have never arisen if I had just gone there on a visit; for example, our class stayed with a Maori family for three days in New Zealand, learning about their history, culture, and current ways of life. Had I been just a tourist, I don’t think I would have gotten an opportunity like that. I believe that the experiences I’ve had on this trip will help me in my future endeavors, as I have learned many things during this course.

The first thing I learned was how to travel, as this trip was extremely travel-intensive. Simply traveling to and from these places required six different flights (three of which were international and made us go through customs), two separate hostel stays, countless hours of getting into and out of assorted vehicles, and learning how to exchange and use foreign currency and payment systems, to name a few.

I also learned many things that could benefit me in a classroom. In fact, I was one of only two engineers out of 20 students on the program. Being such, I more or less proved myself as being able to think analytically and see solutions wherever problems arose. I got called on for mechanical difficulties, computer problems, and even questions about how the airplanes we were on flew (good thing I’m an Aerospace engineer).

This program, however, rounded out my mind to be able to think more along the lines of a biologist, who is trained to know about the things of nature and who doesn’t have to think in steps all the time. This different way of thinking helped me to see that the answers I seek are, in fact, actually right in front of me sometimes.

Finally, I learned about other people. There were 20 students in the program, including myself. The program was set up to require everyone to live, work, and study as a unit, very nearly 24/7. This organization made it crucial to understand and learn to work with all of the different personality types that surrounded me for the entire month. All of these skills will be helpful to me in both my current education and a future career, plus I will have a fantastic experience to remember as well. This was one of the best programs I’ve ever completed, and I know I’m way better off because of it.

Äventyr på Sverige (Adventures in Sweden)

My name is Ashley Devore.  I just finished my sophomore year in Environmental and Ecological Engineering.  In my two years at Purdue, I have joined many clubs and organizations and have been able to participate in many cool and unique experiences.  This summer I got to participate in my most exciting experience yet: studying abroad!

This summer I went on a 10 day Maymester program to Sweden.  The focus of this program was on sustainability, and was open to students who had taken CE/EEE 350/355.  There were about 17 of us students who went, and it was the first year of this program; most were either in Environmental and Ecological Engineering or in Civil Engineering.  We went to Sweden because Sweden has implemented many sustainable practices and has gained prominence as being a very sustainable country.  We looked at what Sweden was doing to be sustainable in all of its different sectors, such as energy, food, water, and government.  We also compared what the U.S. does and what Sweden does and looked at why it is possible for Sweden to do certain things but not the U.S. and vice-versa.  I definitely learned a lot about sustainability in Sweden, as well as a lot about Sweden culture. 

While I was in Sweden, my group and I stayed in the capital city of Stockholm.  Stockholm is a very unique city in that it is actually an archipelago of islands all connected together by bridges and public transportation.  Stockholm is definitely a modern city, but it is still rich with history; there are modern parts of the city, and then there are older parts of the city. 

As I said above, we looked at sustainability in Sweden across its different sectors.  The first sector we examined was Sweden’s government.  We went to several of Sweden’s government offices and learned about what they do there and got an overview of Sweden’s government system and what role environmental issues play there.  Sweden has at the moment 8 political parties represented; in fact, the green party in Sweden actually holds a lot of power!  Sweden also has a monarchy, but they are mainly symbolic and do not hold any real power.  While we were looking at Sweden’s government, we went to the Riksdag (the Swedish Parliament), Stockholm City Hall, and the Royal Palace.

Stockholm City Hall
Royal Palace

We then looked at Sweden’s energy.  Sweden uses a lot of biogas for their energy so they are very green.  We got to go to a district heating plant and saw how it operated.  It was very cool because it brought some of my classes to life and applied things I had learned that year (such as thermodynamics)

We also took a look at Sweden’s transportation.  Sweden uses a lot of public transportation; we didn’t use a car once while we were there!  We mainly used the subway and bus systems, as well as LOTS of walking (no wonder everyone is so fit there!).  We got to opportunity to attend lectures about Sweden’s bus fleet, which is unique because all of the buses run on bio-fuel. We also got a tour of the Arlanda Airport, and got see what sustainable things they do there.

Arlanda airport

In addition, we also took several tours of wastewater treatment plants.  One tour that we saw was of an experimental waste water treatment plant where they are doing labs and experiments.  Another was of a working wastewater treatment plant that cleaned water so it could be returned to the sea.  That one was cool because they produced bio-gas from their activities which they then sold to other companies and people to use. 

Wastewater Plant

While in Stockholm we also spent a lot of time at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.  We would go to KTH to attend lectures put on by professors and learned about a number of different topics, such Sweden’s bus fleets, robots, and algae farming.  KTH is a beautiful campus and we all had a great time just hanging out on campus as well.  We even got invited to hang out with some of the students there, and we ended up playing soccer with them.  That was a really special experience because afterwards we saw that we were near the 1912 Olympic Soccer Stadium, and we went and checked it out.

KTH Royal Institute of

We also had time for some touristy stuff as well.  While we did have homework assignments while we were there, we quickly learned that if we stayed on top of them we could still have time for lots of fun stuff.  For example, one day we went on a boat tour of the archipelago.  It was a 3 hour boat ride, and we ended up going to a little island and hiked around.  It was very nice because we got to see some beautiful views and it was just fun to be on the water too.

Studying abroad is a great way to spend your summer, and I am so glad that I went on this trip.  I did a lot of new things and was really brought out of my comfort zone.  If you are ever thinking about studying abroad, I highly recommend it.  You will get to experience and learn so many new things, and make many lasting memories.  My study abroad experience will definitely be a highlight of my college career.

Interning with Intel

My name is Alex Marcellus. I am a junior in Computer Engineering, and this summer I worked as an Application Developer at Intel. I worked in Intel IT as part of the Collaboration and Productivity organization. I got the job through the Industrial Roundtable, a career fair that is put on by the Purdue Engineering Student Council during the fall of every school year. An Intel recruiter was at the fair. I handed him my resume and talked for a while about the company and about what I knew from previous internships. After an interview at the Union the next day and a couple interviews over the phone, I learned that I would be interning at the Intel offices in Folsom, CA.

One of the first things I learned when I went to Intel is that anyone from any major could find an internship there. Many of my friends at the company are Computer Engineers and Electrical Engineers working on the microprocessors and software there, but I have also met Industrial Engineers working on processes, or even Chemical Engineers and Material Engineers working on cutting edge materials for new products. Many of the interns I eat lunch with every day even major in diverse fields such as business or supply chain management.

Computer Engineers even get a choice in what type of work they do. Since Intel is a microprocessor company, many ECE graduates are working on those, but I have the opportunity to work on higher level software. Although most of the rest of my team are Computer Science graduates, I am working on web applications that employees throughout Intel use to collaborate with each other and increase productivity, regardless of the work that they’re working on or what product group they are working with.

The one main takeaway that I am bringing back from Intel is that you should always keep your eyes open no matter what company you are interning at or what you are doing. You may love what you are doing like I do, but there are always opportunities to see what other people are doing or how other companies operate. Who knows, you may find something that you love even more. My experience with Intel has taught me a lot about both working in a corporate environment, and what a Computer Engineer can do when he or she leaves Purdue with a degree.

Summer on Campus

Hello, my name is Leo Kullman. I am a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering and a student in the honors college. I will begin a co-op with Cook Pharmica this fall. In order to meet graduation requirements in a timely fashion, I am taking classes this summer at Purdue West Lafayette. For the Maymester, I took Microeconomics and am now taking Mechanical Engineering Statics and Calculus 3. Summer classes are an interesting experience. The curriculum is sped up twice as fast as the regular semester, but I spend the same amount of time in the class as if I had taken it in the fall. That means the biggest difference is in the time I have to do homework and the time I have to study. For this reason, summer classes can be more difficult that regular semester courses. However, most professors give less homework and comprehensive exams to make up for the accelerated pace.

Overall, I’ve been enjoying my time in these classes. It’s a good way to get ahead or stay on track, and because I’m only taking two courses at a time, I get to focus more on the coursework than in the regular semester when I’m taking many more classes. This has also been a good time for me to meet other co-op students who are taking classes over the summer to also stay on track.

In addition to my summer classes, I’m also working as a student researcher for Dr. Eric Nauman. Dr. Nauman is head of Honors Engineering at Purdue and is in charge of the Seminar for Top Engineering Prospects, a summer camp for incoming high school seniors run by honors engineering. I am working with a team of other honors engineers to develop curriculum for the week long engineering experience. My main duties involve building a hexapod robot, wiring the electronics to be compatible with the tasks we wish to do, and writing code for robot movement using inverse kinematics. All of this while trying to find a way to teach students how to do the same in a matter of days. When the camp begins in mid-July I will be on the Projects Team Staff. This has overall been a very good experience and has let me interact with both professors and upperclassmen researchers.

This summer I’m living in Harrison Hall with a friend from my freshman dorm as a roommate. Living in summer dorms is very different than living in the dorms during the regular academic year. Due to the variety of lengths of summer courses, there are students moving in and out of the dorm every weekend. Also, there are only two dining courts open during the summer, with much more limited hours. The Co-Rec also has shorter hours. However, there are still events to go to during the summer. Every Wednesday there are snacks and games on the Union lawn, every other weekend there are free movies at Fowler Hall, and about once a month there are cookouts for students to eat at and meet new friends. Between class, work, and campus life, I am having a very good experience at Purdue this summer.

Being Involved: Symphony Orchestra

Kelsey (on right) enjoys a spring day with her roommate and best friend, Mallory (left)

My name is Kelsey Delehanty and I am a sophomore in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at Purdue. During my freshman year, most of my school day was taken up with my STEM classes: First Year Engineering, Calculus, Chemistry, Physics. This wasnt a problem for me; after all, I decided to pursue a major like engineering because I enjoyed these types of classes. However, too much math and science still put a strain on my brain, which was why it was nice for me to have a non-engineering related outlet, like Purdues Symphony Orchestra.

Id been playing the viola in my schools orchestra since I was in 4th grade, but upon graduating high school, I was unsure whether I would continue with it in college. I loved playing my instrument, but I was never too serious about it. I was worried that I wouldnt be up for playing in a college-level group.

However, once rehearsals started, my doubts were assuaged. The group was lively and very accommodating of a nervous freshman. I might not have been on the same playing level as the five juniors that made up the rest of the viola section, but I certainly learned a lot from them. Most importantly, it was time out of my day that I could take a break from the stress of my other classes.

There are so many activities to get involved with on campus, and I feel its very important to pick at least one and stick with it.  It could be used as an opportunity to continue with something already familiar, like orchestra in my case, or maybe intermural soccer, or a photography club. It could also be a chance to try something new, a previously unexplored activity, like joining the swing dancing club, or the Purdue Bells.

Doing engineering 24/7 no matter how much I like it would probably drive me insane. I was glad I was able to find an enjoyable pastime to distract me from the stress of my schoolwork and I would certainly recommend the strategy to any other future engineers.

Anne Roach’s Journey to a Co-Op

I knew that I wanted to be a chemical engineer in research and development since I was nine-years-old. That summer, my mother took me to Take Your Kids to Work Day at Proctor and Gamble, and seeing all of the amazing things that engineers could create to help other people, I realized that I wanted to be just like them. Over the years, that lead to WIEP summer camps and many hours of studying, but when I walked onto Purdue campus as a student for the first time, I knew that it was all going to be worth it. Purdue has given me many opportunities to get to know other women with my passions for helping others and creating new things. In the first semester of my freshman year, I joined the engineering sorority, Phi Sigma Rho. As I started exploring what I wanted to do during the summer after my freshman year, it came down to a big decision: Should I pursue an internship or a co-op? The difference between the two is that an internship is a commitment for only the summer, and a co-op is a commitment to work at the same company for three or five terms (3-5 months each). Internships give more flexibility in where you work, but co-ops give more work experience. Having an older brother who is a chemical engineering student in the co-op program, I was able to ask him about his work, what type of projects he does, and how valued he feels in his job. After a couple months of thinking about it, I decided to co-op, and it has been extremely rewarding even though I am only in my first term.

I now work for Mead Johnson Nutrition Company in Evansville, IN, in their Global Research and Development department. We make Enfamil and the Enfa-brand infant formula. My projects change people’s lives all over the world! I have worked with premature infant formula, which is fed to preterm babies in the hospital, and Nutramagen, a formula for children with special dietary needs. I have already had a business trip to Michigan in order to work with production there. I am a valued employee and am trusted with fairly large projects right out of freshman year in college. One thing that I have learned through this experience is to not be afraid to be wrong or to not understand. I am surrounded by accomplished scientists with their PhDs who are very well versed in the many facets of our products. The key is to not get intimidated. You do not need to know everything, but you do need to be willing to learn and ask many questions. It is better to say when you do not understand than to struggle and not ask for help from those who are willing to explain.

Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions! My address is

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