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During and After an Internship

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During the InternshipIt is natural to be fearful of a new situation, especially one involving a project for which you know little or nothing. Almost every other intern shares your anxiety and anticipation. Be assured, however, a mentor almost always does not expect you to be familiar with the particular project and will help you gain the necessary background. Part of the benefit of an internship is having the experience of working with a team on something beyond your previous classroom work.

During the internship, be prompt for work and meetings and perform your assigned tasks diligently. If you have any difficulties after seriously attempting to do a task, do not hesitate to ask your mentor or others for assistance. Often, such people can quickly guide you in the correct direction and keep you from wasting valuable time.

An organization that has a number of interns often has a series of talks, tours, and social activities for the students. Try to participate in as many of these opportunities as possible. Besides being fun, you can learn much and meet many interesting people through such experiences. Outside of work, try to see as much of the surrounding country with other interns. The learning experience should extend far beyond your work at the company or laboratory.

Presenting Your WorkMost organizations will ask you to write an abstract of what you accomplished during the summer and to make a final presentation on your project. The abstract and presentation can server as a basis for a later conference paper (see below). A daily journal can be helpful in summarizing the summer's activities and in realizing just how much you are accomplishing.

The following are some hints on giving an effective presentation using presentation software, such as PowerPoint:

  • On the first slide, give the title, your name, your mentor's name, the organization, and the date.
  • Have a short topic header at the top of each slide.
  • Do not use complete sentences.
  • Do not have too much on a slide.
  • Make sure the font size is large enough to read.
  • Use graphics and pictures in your slides.
  • For a graph, have a title and labels for the axes with units.
  • Practice the talk by yourself and in front of others. Have them give you suggestions for improvement.
  • In your practice, time the presentation to allow for a few minutes of questions at the end.
  • Set up everything, such as computer programs, before the time for your presentation.
  • Before your session, try to practice at least a few slides in the room where you will give your paper so that you can become familiar with the arrangements.
  • During the presentation, look at the audience and make eye contact with a number of people.
  • Speak loud enough for people to hear you.
  • Avoid saying fluff words, such as "uh" and "basically."
  • If you stumble verbally, do not apologize but continue.
  • Do not criticize the internship or organization with which you had the internship
  • Do not rush the presentation.
  • Look at the computer screen or a print-out of your slides, not the screen behind you
  • Do not read your slides or have your presentation memorized word-for-word, but speak about your work from the bullets on the slide.
  • Use a pointer very sparingly or not at all. An arrow or point of light whirling around the screen can be very distracting.
  • Smile.
  • Light-hearted, tasteful, relevant humor is appreciated.
  • Remember, the audience is on your side and wants you to succeed.

Upon returning to campus, volunteer to give a presentation on the work of your internship. Student discipline-related organizations, such as the Association for Computing Machinery or Tri-Beta, are usually delighted to get speakers. Other students and faculty can learn from your presentation, which might also inspire other students to seek internships. Moreover, such experiences add to your poise in such situations and can help to prepare you for conference presentations.

Most conferences have sessions for undergraduate papers or posters. By presenting your work at a conference, you have the opportunity to connect with other professors and students with similar interests. Also, such a presentation makes a valuable addition to your resume. Ask professors for appropriate conferences. Many conferences only require that a student submit an abstract of one or two paragraphs instead of a lengthy paper. In the proposal and conference presentation, be sure to give the location of the internship and to acknowledge your mentor. Have a professor or your mentor review the abstract or paper before submission. Be sure to start the process early enough so that there is time for revision and completion of the application.

Some conferences provide assistance for students making presentations. Universities and colleges also might pay all or part of your expenses. If several students and professors are attending the conference, they can share driving and hotel charges.

Previous Student Presentations 

Several organizations that have student sessions appropriate for computational science topics are as follows:

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