Miles Kim is a senior mechanical engineering major who spent last summer interning remotely at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which is located in New Jersey. Although engineering majors are not required to have an internship to graduate, a professor encouraged Kim to apply for one because it provides valuable experience that can help with finding a job after college.
Kim applied to 12 internships that he found online, and was accepted into the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and put to work designing a small casing to protect people who will eventually work with a fusion reactor. However, Kim felt like he was thrown into the deep end when he began his internship: “The guy I got hired with met with me once and told me really vaguely what I was supposed to do and then turned me loose. I was supposed to be putting in 40 hours a week and I have no idea what I’m doing.”
So, Kim decided to buckle down and teach himself. He created charts and graphs. He conducted independent research and read papers. He “started attacking one thing at a time.” Slowly, he was able to understand his role at the laboratory, and by the end of the summer he had completed a 71 page paper.
Kim said of the experience, “It was really scary and frustrating at first because I didn’t know what I was doing, but by the end I was having a lot of fun and I made a lot of progress. The stuff that I did isn’t being used right now, but 10 years down the road when they finally build [the casing] they will start with my work.”
The internship helped show Kim that he wants to pursue math, which he loves, and physics. Because of the internship, he has decided that he wants to work with plasma physics, specifically nuclear fusion, which is a clean energy source. Kim plans to attend graduate school next year.
As shown by Kim’s experience, internships have many benefits including increasing the probability of being hired, giving valuable experience, and boosting a resume. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that employers rank internship experience “as the top differentiator between two equally qualified job candidates.” It can therefore be worthwhile to apply for internships even if your major doesn’t require one.
Kim encourages engineering majors specifically to pursue internships, saying, “Even though it’s not required, an internship is a really good way to figure out what you want to do and if you enjoy it.”
Posted on January 5, 2022