Students get a jumpstart on engineering careers

Dawid Zawislak

Computer science student Dawid Zawislak interned at Argonne National Labs after freshman year. “I loved what I did,” he says. — Photo: Wes Agresta

 

UIC engineering students are getting experience in the field — early in their collegiate careers.

The College of Engineering’s Guaranteed Paid Internship Program began last summer, placing 91 students in an internship the summer after freshman year. Qualified first-year students are placed with engineering firms, companies or research labs.

The engineering college is the first in the country to offer this kind of guaranteed internship program.

Dawid Zawislak said his internship made him confident about his career choice.

“The idea of working 40 hours always seemed terrible to me,” said Zawislak, a sophomore in computer science. “But since the first day I started my internship, it flew by and I loved it. I loved what I did.”

Zawislak interned at Argonne National Labs, where he worked with scripts, data and supercomputers. He was the only freshman intern. “I was surrounded by seniors,” he said.

After his internship in August, Zawislak was offered a co-op work agreement, keeping him on board until fall 2017.

Florian Richter said his internship at Knowles, an audio and technology development company, is the reason why Apple offered him a co-op position for next summer.

“There’s no way I would have had enough experience for this position without working at Knowles,” said Richter, a sophomore in electrical engineering.

At Knowles, Richter gained experience in subject areas that typically aren’t covered until junior or senior year. “My big role there was really to learn,” he said.

Sophomore Anthony Gliganic was one of two engineering interns at the Great Lakes Sediment Surveillance Program, a research project that explores the role microorganisms play in cycling pollution and nutrients. Gliganic, a student in civil and material engineering, worked on the project with engineering graduate students under the direction of Karl Rockne, interim department head of civil and materials engineering.

Rockne said his interns exceeded all his expectations. They quickly proved they were more than capable of doing the work and took on broader responsibilities.

“I was pretty impressed,” he said. “I didn’t have huge expectations and I was pleasantly surprised. It was a big success.”

Gliganic said that his time with Rockne was unexpected but worth the experience. “I just kind of waited to see what UIC had in store for me,” he said. “Research wasn’t something that I expected to do, but it ended up being a pretty cool thing.”

His internship gave him a peek behind the scenes of engineering. “If I’m ever confronted with a problem where I don’t have enough knowledge about a situation, I can go ahead and solve it,” he said.

Rockne said his own undergraduate experience interning for a company and conducting research helped him decided on his career path in engineering research.

“What allowed me to make that decision fairly and compare them was by doing an internship and also doing research,” he said.

“I hope that all of them are placed in industry, but, selfishly, if they don’t get placed in industry I’d love to have them in my lab,” he said with a laugh.