Career Information for Current Students

2013 Summer Reflections: Building connections through internships

By: Katherine Stankus
Year / Internship: 2013 Mather Public Policy intern

Job Title: Class of 2013 at Portland State University in Oregon

My summer internship with the Society of Physics Students was a wonderful experience. As a Mather Public Policy Intern, I not only learned how science policy is conducted at the national level but also furthered my career interests.

Working with the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology allowed me to see firsthand how things are done on Capitol Hill. I conducted research for staff members, attended hearings and markups, and learned the importance of being an involved and informed citizen. In addition to my internship duties, I also had the opportunity to meet congressional representatives, go to receptions and luncheons held on the Hill, and spend time with influential people.

The diverse summer internships SPS provides help to demonstrate the different career paths a physics student can pursue besides academia and research. Participating students were also able to meet other physics students from across the country and live in Washington, DC, for the summer, which was exciting for me as a West Coaster. On the weekends, the other interns and I explored DC tourist attractions such as the Smithsonian museums and the monuments. We watched Fourth of July fireworks from the National Mall, went to a Washington Nationals baseball game, attended a classical music concert at the Kennedy Center, saw the band She and Him live, ate breakfast at the US House of Representatives dining room with Rep. Bill Foster and Physics Nobel laureate John Mather, met Bill Nye, and toured the city on Segways.

Having graduated, I now plan to work for a couple of years in my field. I have returned to the Pacific Northwest and begun to apply for jobs related to my interests in environmental issues such as atmospheric science, climate change, clean energy technologies, and science policy. My internship helped to solidify my desire to find a career that will contribute to finding solutions to global environmental problems.

I met so many wonderful people this summer and had so many great experiences. I encourage all undergraduate physics students to apply for the Society of Physics Students summer internship program.

by Jose Avila, 2013 AIP Career Pathways Project intern, Class of 2014 at King University in Bristol, TN

At the beginning of the summer I could not imagine what my internship in the capital of the United States, working with the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and SPS, was going to be like. I knew I was going to meet a lot of people. I knew I would need to catch on to a new rhythm of work and get accustomed to my boss's expectations. I knew I was going to be very busy.

But I, for sure, did not know how much fun I would have—how many great people I would be working and living with, how important and useful the project I worked on would be for physics undergraduates and other students, and what a great experience I would take away from this opportunity.

I learned how to apply my physics skills and knowledge to the AIP Career Pathways Project, which develops resources for students going into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce. I had heard about career preparation in school but had never gone into as much detail as I did this summer. I researched related topics and talked to people about them, I analyzed ideas, I rewrote resources several times, and finally, I had them reviewed by my mentors and bosses.

I think my contribution will help students looking for a job, as well as undergraduate students undecided on their major. Career services centers in universities can use the resources as recruiting tools to draw more students to physics and STEM.

There was so much I took away from this summer internship with SPS. The friends and contacts I made will be very important for my future plans. We shared the same interests and some of the same experiences as we worked and lived together and learned about each other. And, of course, we all share one fundamental interest: PHYSICS.


This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of The SPS Observer.. Reprinted with permission.