SCALE’s ‘something to be proud of’ internship boosts sophomore’s confidence, future career

Purdue SCALE student Zach Au (Purdue University Photo)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Overcoming typical freshman-year apprehensions about myriad unknowns — potentially tough professors, even tougher courses, hectic schedules, etc. — Zach Au bravely dove in when he found out what joining the SCALE program could do for him.

Now a Purdue sophomore majoring in electrical engineering, Au already has a summer internship under his belt, thanks to SCALE – the Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement program for semiconductor workforce development.

“I applied to SCALE immediately,” Au said. “I was interested because it just seemed like a good opportunity for professional growth and to do research at Purdue, and get to know professors. Especially during freshman year, professors can seem very intimidating, and it is difficult to form meaningful connections with them. So, doing research and participating in SCALE activities, you get to know people. And it’s a great experience overall.”

SCALE is a program aimed at expanding the skilled workforce for national defense. It’s funded by the Department of Defense Trusted and Assured Microelectronics program and managed by NSWC Crane – the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division – based in Odon, Indiana, 40 minutes southwest of Bloomington, Indiana.

During his 2023 summer internship at NSWC Crane, Au was part of a team performing radiation-hardened testing, a process of evaluating and ensuring the resilience and reliability of electronic components and devices when they’re exposed to ionizing radiation that exists in outer space or other high-radiation environments.

Asked if he could come up with ideas on how NSWC Crane might make its internship experience better, Au paused. He said he wasn’t sure what he would change.

“They’re just very accommodating,” he said. “There were several times throughout the internship when I met with my supervisor. She asked, ‘Hey, how’s it going? Do you have a lot to do?’ They were really conscious of giving us work to do to make sure we’re learning things we couldn’t learn in a classroom. And that’s the whole point of an internship.”

Au speaks very highly of his mentor at Crane, Doug Martin: “He was a great teacher. He was always open to us asking questions, and then he gave us some real responsibility. We felt like we were really contributing to the project. And that was really something to be proud of.”

Au said he hopes to return to NSWC Crane for a second internship this summer.

“I would love to go back. One thing I love about Crane is it’s a very big base with thousands of engineers and scientists there. So there are a lot of different areas,” he said. “And if I wanted to work in another area of electrical engineering like radar or something like that, I could email my manager and she would probably make that change. So, the possibilities seem endless. You never get bored. It’s a great work environment. So yeah, I would love to go back there next year.”

Au also enjoyed the location of the internship and specifically the proximity to the campus of Purdue’s archrival, Indiana University.

“I was actually living with one of my buddies from high school who went to IU,” Au said. “I also took a summer class. So, I worked on my class and hung out with him. Bloomington has a lot to offer. We went to parks and played some tennis – I’m a big tennis player.”

Asked what advice he might give to freshmen considering the SCALE program, Au said: “Consider what SCALE has to offer. It offers a lot of opportunities, whether it be meetings with professors from different universities, good internship opportunities and opportunities to do research. These are opportunities not requirements, so there’s no harm in joining SCALE, it’s only a good thing.”

Writer: Amy Raley,

Source: Zach Au,