opens interns eyes
by Dan Grogan
Giannelli, Erica Kohn, Brian Fox, Sarah Fischer, Korina Kalopsidiotou,
Joseph Gay, Edward Hallen, Ryan Ewalt, Ryan Murphy in front
of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
By Charlotte Crystal
equations are part of the routine for engineering students. But
last summer, nine U.Va. engineering
students who served public policy internships on and around Capitol
Hill learned about a new variable.
an internship program is common for political science majors,
but unusual for engineering students, said Dean Richard
Miksad, who came up with the idea three years ago. Our kids
learn how to work within the political realities of the system.
the engineering students and one student from Arts
& Sciences did their share of answering telephones,
overall they were given a striking amount of responsibility, said
Kay Neeley, faculty coordinator for the School of Engineering
and Applied Sciences Washington Internship Program.
interns got meaty assignments because of their technical background,
said Neeley, associate professor with the Division of Technology,
Culture and Communication. They did real jobs. One student
prepared a report on anti-landmine technology that recommended
which avenues of research the White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy should pursue.
past summer, U.Va. engineering students filled internships in
three congressional offices and helped at the House Science Committees
subcommittee for space and aeronautics, the White House Office
of Science and Technology Policy and various other offices.
to this program, I had always viewed myself as an engineer with
a separate interest in government, said Ed Hallen, a systems
engineering major who worked for the Information Technology Industry
Council. After the program, I view the two disciplines as
incredibly interrelated. I hope to use my technological experience
to shape the public policy of the future.
was pleased with the mix of placements. At the end of the
day, the kids had an opportunity to exchange views, compare notes
and engage in lively, intellectual community.
the students saw that their expertise and work ethics were valued,
said Michael Gorman, program director and chair of the TCC division.
Because of their technical and research skills, U.Va.s engineering
students quickly moved into positions of prominence in their offices,
launched the program with the help of James Turner, the Democratic
counsel for the House Science Committee and a member of the deans
advisory committee since 1996. Miksad realized there was a need
for the internship program during his annual trips to Washington
to visit legislators with deans from Virginias other engineering
schools. He found it frustrating to talk to staff aides who were
well-trained in political science but didnt understand the
technological issues the deans wanted to discuss.
goal with this internship program is to raise the level of technological
literacy in the national science policy-making process,
organized the U.Va. internship program along the lines of a similar
program he established for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
about five years ago.
U.Va. and M.I.T. students shared living quarters and together
attended talks and special events arranged for the program. Speakers
ranged from NASA astronaut Susan Kilrain to William Wulf, president
of the National Academy of Engineering.
in the value of the program, the Virginia Engineering Foundation
and the deans office this year committed $70,000 in funding
needed to pay for the students living expenses plus a small
stipend, and programming and administration costs.
signed up for an elective class beginning late last spring. Along
with the work involved in the eight-week internship, students
also kept a journal, wrote two papers and gave an oral presentation
related to their policy work in the early fall.
The program organizers believe the internships will have a lasting
effect on the students lives. For some, it reshaped their
views of their studies.
reading numerous reports at the National Academy of Sciences,
I realized how many interesting, computer-associated fields there
are, said Korina Kalopsidiotou, a computer science major
who worked with the National Academy of Sciences and the National
Academy of Engineerings Executive Office of the Division
of Engineering and Physical Sciences. As a computer science
major, I became interested in expanding my options through a minor
in biology, which would let me enter the emerging field of bioinformatics.
Murphy, who worked in the science division of the White House
Office of Science and Technology Policy, said his eyes were opened
to new career possibilities.
a systems engineering major, I thought I might work for the government
as a consultant or through private sector contracts, but never
imagined the possibility of working directly for the government,
Murphy said. I am now more confident about finding a job
most of the students, in different ways, the summer internships
in Washington were life-changing experiences.
summer internship was one of the best things that ever happened
to me, said Kalopsidiotou. My work and the program
activities allowed me to see a completely different side of science