Students Interning Across the Globe this Summer

July 22, 2016    

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Nearly 200 Illinois Wesleyan University students are interning this summer in locations around the globe, from California’s Silicon Valley to a hospital in Kenya.

“Summer internships are the ideal time for students to gain work experience and career knowledge in places far from home, and in work settings far outside what they might experience locally or in Illinois,” said Laurie Diekhoff, associate director for career engagement at the Hart Career Center. “It’s exciting to hear about their internships and to know that students are not only gaining valuable experience, but also putting their critical thinking skills and adaptability to work for employers.”

Experiential learning, whether through an internship, research with a faculty member, or study abroad, is a hallmark of an Illinois Wesleyan liberal arts education. Nearly 70 percent of Illinois Wesleyan students complete at least one internship during their time on campus.

Following are the summer experiences of a few Illinois Wesleyan interns:

Thomas Bravos ’17

Thomas Bravos ’17, Peoria Symphony Orchestra

Seeking administrative experience in a music-related position, Thomas Bravos ’17 sought the advice of Hart Career Center staffers in applying for an internship with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra administrative office. 

“I assist with promotional events, organize the music library, create advertisements and help with mass mailings,” said Bravos, a contemporary musicianship major from Saint Charles, Ill.

“I’ve learned a lot about how a musical entity operates. Even if I don’t end up with a similar position (after graduation), I think assisting with the administrative operations will benefit me with any job I may end up having.”

Emily Brown ’17, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA)

One of Emily Brown’s tasks as an intern in the Governor’s Environmental Corps (GEC) program has been to design materials for the IEPA booth at the upcoming Illinois State Fair.

Emily Brown ’17

“This responsibility has allowed me to do research on topics I find interesting and can potentially reach a very large audience about things they probably don’t know, such as what kinds of plants can purify the air in your home and how long certain items take to decompose in a landfill,” said Brown of West Chicago.

Brown has also learned how the IEPA permit process works, and she cited a field trip to an oil refinery as especially eye opening. She has also observed staffers in the Office of Site Evaluation on a field trip, using GPS to find soil samples.

She learned about the competitive internship through the Hart Career Center and then talked with Associate Professor Laurine Brown, her professor in the course “Health and the Environment.”

A physics and international studies double major, Brown is interested in environmental law and policy and hopes to continue to learn about those areas in graduate school.

“I’m interested in environmental justice, so it’s been beneficial to learn how the EPA works and the research that goes into it. GEC interns also have the chance to meet the IEPA director multiple times, as well as many different people in different areas of the agency and the programs it sponsors. The networking opportunities are great.”

Veena Hamill ’18

Veena Hamill ’18, Research & Development Internship, AbbVie

Veena Hamill is combining her interest in chemistry with her passion for helping those in need through her internship in research and development at AbbVie, a leading biopharmaceutical company. Hamill is designing new molecules for new medicinal therapy in treating tuberculosis.

“Currently, TB patients require four different drugs across a 6-month period,” said Hamill, a chemistry major. “This is not a viable option for those living in remote areas or without regular access to a physician, especially in developing countries.” She noted AbbVie’s TB research is part of the Gates Foundation TB Drug Accelerator consortium.

She said the internship has helped her perfect her lab technique and allowed her to make valuable connections in the pharmaceutical industry. “The solid background in chemistry gained at IWU has prepared me well for this internship and I am really enjoying applying skills learned in the classroom to these real-world issues,” said Hamill, a native of Glenview, Ill. She is considering medicinal chemistry as a career.

Paxton Johnson ’18, Marketing Intern, Aeris Communications

Paxton Johnson ’18

Paxton Johnson describes the Silicon Valley business atmosphere as “intense.” Her liberal arts background, however, has helped her acclimate to a marketing internship at Aeris Communications, a Santa Clara-based leader in the market of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Aeris is an operator of end-to-end IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) services and a technology provider. The technology allows businesses to transform unconnected products to a data internet that can be sold as a service, Johnson explained.

“I am completely foreign to working in the technology and IoT industry,” said Johnson, an English-writing major and native of Paxton, Ill. Her liberal arts background has widened her worldview and helped her adapt to new ways of thinking and writing, she said. Her marketing tasks have included writing blog articles for the company website and an online trade magazine, researching statistics to create infographics, and tracking potential customer leads.

“I am learning an incredible amount about the IoT/M2M industry,” she said. “The innovation in a burgeoning industry like the Internet of Things moves incredibly quickly, which means there is no one right solution to the many questions or problems that I come across in my day-to-day work.”

Simon Liu ’17, Observational Cosmology Research Fellow, Caltech

Simon Liu ’17 

On the advice of Associate Professor of Physics Thushara Perera, Simon Liu ’17 contacted Dr. Jamie Bock and his observational cosmology group at Caltech. Bock’s research program develops unique experiments to study the early universe, so Liu applied for Caltech’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program.

“Dr. Bock's TIME-Pilot measures the intensity of CII spectrum and seeks to figure out the process of structure formation of the early universe,” said Liu. “The project also utilizes many advanced techniques in millimeter/submillimeter observational cosmology.”

Liu is working on the mechanical design of support structures of a cryostat, the main body of the TIME-Pilot experiment. “TIME-Pilot is the leading project in CII intensity mapping experiments,” said Liu, a physics major from Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province. “From a technical standpoint, I have improved my design skills with SolidWorks (computer program),” he said. “Now I can rapidly design hardware with high precision. I’ve also learned things in related fields, such as 21-cm observations, CO observations, and evolutions of galaxies, via both simulation and observation.”

Liu said the experience has also solidified his goal to pursue a Ph.D. in cosmology.

Arham Sattar ’17, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

Arham Sattar ’17

At the IEPA’s Bureau of Water and Pollution Control, Arham Sattar ’17 compiles data and writes reports in support of the Illinois EPA’s goal of converting the majority of the state’s streams for recreational use.

A student in Illinois Wesleyan’s 3:2 pre-engineering program with an interest in electrical engineering, Sattar is also majoring in physics. Through his internship, he said he is applying his theoretical knowledge to real-world problems in protecting human health and the environment. “I have also learned how to use different software to carry out calculations and how to write technical reports.”

He said the IEPA opportunity has taken him one step closer to his future goal of helping people in his home country of Pakistan to develop more efficient water treatment plants. “The majority of the people there have limited access to clean water,” he said. “By working with the EPA I believe I am making a difference in this world and contributing to make the world a better place, even if it’s on a small scale.”