Summer internships provide students with career-enhancing opportunities

Grad student Joe Thomas in the lab

Ph. D. candidate, Joe Thomas, interned at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where he worked on predicting the aeromedical and environmental health threats faced by today’s military members

The overworked intern forced to fetch coffee for an imperious boss has become a trope in popular culture, but this group of students disproves that image: their highly competitive internships allowed them to do hands-on work at important companies and labs, make practical contributions to major projects, and forge long-lasting professional connections.    


Caspar Lant (Physics, ’19)

Casper in labIf Caspar Lant published a book about his summer travels, it might be a toss-up as to whether to shelve it in the science and technology section or the adventure section. A project leader on the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) initiative devoted to smart cities technology, he garnered a $10,000 NYU Office of Sustainability Green Grant and spent two weeks this summer in Shanghai, modifying and deploying air-quality monitors in collaboration with the U.N. Environmental Programme.

This summer Lant — who has previously conducted research in Germany at the Leibnitz Institute for Surface Modification and the Energy Materials In-Situ Laboratory — also won a highly selective Department of Energy research fellowship at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, famed as a site of the Manhattan Project. There, working under Dr. Aditya Savara of the Surface Chemistry and Catalysis Group, he conducted complex molecular-beam experiments on perovskite crystals that could eventually have industrial-scale applications in the production of biofuels, and he designed and fabricated an innovative ”heating enhancement” for an effusive molecular beam, which may result in a patent.

The son of an NYU professor of cinema studies, Lant, who attends the NYU College of Arts and Science, has been interested in science and technology from a young age. He recalls spending weekends combing his neighborhood for discarded electronic scraps that he could experiment with. With graduation approaching, however, he hopes to explore interdisciplinary graduate programs encompassing not just STEM fields but the arts: amidst the many science-focused internships and fellowships on his CV are multiple commissions as a new-media artist at the Berlin Atonal Music and Art Festival and a long stretch as part of a New York-based contemporary-classical youth orchestra.


Joe Thomas (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Ph.D. candidate)

Joe Thomas wearing safety gogglesWhen Joe Thomas, a member of Professor Jin Kim Montclare’s protein engineering and molecular design lab, heard that a fellow graduate student was meeting with an Army recruiter he was intrigued. What, he wondered, could the military offer in the way of a career to someone who seemed more likely to land in an industry research lab or academia.

The answer, as it turns out, was the chance to work on projects with long-term impact, contribute to the national defense, and safeguard the health and well-being of the country’s service members.

Thomas discovered all that after he accepted a summer internship at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio. The massive base — headquarters for a vast, global logistics system — encompasses Huffman Prairie Flying Field, the site where Orville and Wilbur Wright perfected the first practical airplane capable of fully controlled flight. It also includes the world-class Naval Medical Research Unit Dayton (more commonly known as NAMRU-Dayton), the home of the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory and the Environmental Health Effects Laboratory, aimed at conducting research to enhance warfighter health, safety, performance, and readiness. (Their mission, as they state, is to deliver solutions “to the Field, the Fleet and for the Future.”)

The Wright Brothers could never have predicted the aeromedical and environmental health threats faced by today’s military members, but Thomas — who received his B.S. in biochemistry and M.S. in molecular biology from Kent State University before coming to New York for his doctoral studies — was tasked with doing so. “It’s vital to know what the long term health effects are,” he explains, “of the different operating environments to which service members are exposed.”

He spent the summer doing hands-on research using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), a technique that allowed him to separate and identify various compounds and develop a protocol for the instrumentation. While many people are content to simply express pat sentiments about supporting our troops, Thomas had the gratification of acting for the national good in a very real and practical way. He’s now considering a career in military research and has forged the professional connections to pursue that.


Burlyn Andall-Blake (Computer Science, ’22)

Burlyn holding a sign that says "I love Watson. Let's get digital"Glance quickly at Burlyn Andall-Blake’s CV, and you might get the impression that you’re looking at a document from a seasoned computer science professional many times her age. That would be an understandable mistake, considering the multiple mentions of such major companies as Goldman Sachs, Twitter, and IBM.

Andall-Blake, a graduate of the elite public high school Brooklyn Tech, began compiling her impressive CV in her early teens, serving as an IT specialist at the Brooklyn Public Library. The Goldman Sachs stint came not long after, courtesy of the educational nonprofit Girls Who Code, which had partnered with the company for what Andall-Blake describes as a transformative educational experience.

Following a string of other posts as STEM instructor, tutor, and app developer, Andall-Blake arrived at Tandon, where, as a first-year student, she was promptly chosen as one of only 20 college freshmen from across the nation to spend a week at Twitter's San Francisco headquarters. “I knew that it was a highly competitive process, but I applied and crossed my fingers,” she recalls. It didn’t take crossed fingers to catch the eye of the Twitter judges, however; Andall-Blake, whose life has not always been the easiest, created a compelling hashtag, #RiseFromTheAshes, evoking the legend of the phoenix. (It was a savvy move considering how avian-oriented much of Twitter is; the program for first-year students bears the hashtag #EarlyBird.)

This past summer, Andall-Blake, who has already been named a 2019 NetApp Grace Hopper Celebration Scholar, relocated to Massachusetts to work as a data science intern at IBM. There she worked with a partner to develop an asset health management project, participated in hackathons and showcases, and marveled at the opportunities being presented. (IBM, in addition to planning a plethora of educational and professional activities, flew some 700 tech interns from facilities around the country, to Disneyland to unwind.)

With the fall semester well underway, Andall-Blake, a math minor, is engaged in activities with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), studying hard, and looking ahead to next summer. “I like to prepare in advance,” she says. “I attended the recent Tandon career fair, and there were a lot of exciting companies represented there, so I’m in the process of applying for my next internship.”


Ja’Shon Tyson (Civil Engineering, ’21)

Burlyn holding a sign that says "I love Watson. Let's get digital"Ja’Shon Tyson spent part of his summer traipsing through the woods. He wasn’t hiking the Appalachian Trail or backpacking some forested European hamlet, however. “To inspect a culvert, which is a tunnel that runs under the highway to carry water, you have to first get to the opening,” he explains, “and in the case of the New York State Thruway, the terrain can be pretty challenging to navigate.”

Tyson was working under the auspices of the New York State Thruway Authority, scrutinizing the integrity of the large pipes that make up its system of culverts and assuring proper drainage, checking for damaged asphalt paving, and performing on-site inspections of concrete bridge piers and abutments, among other tasks vital to keeping New York State residents and visitors safe.

Fascinated by bridges and tunnels since he was a student in middle school, Tyson, now a member of Tandon’s National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) student chapter, was excited to get a first-hand look at infrastructure the average person will probably never get to see — despite the sometimes less-than-welcoming topography involved.  

It was, he admits, very different from the adventure he undertook last spring, studying British architecture and urban design in London. “It was great to experience working with a government agency in Albany, though,” he says. “That could provide a solid and interesting career path one day.”

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