By Kyra Arena, Written Communications Assistant
Each academic year, college students frantically search for summer internships. It’s a tricky and stressful endeavor. But UConn’s MSE undergraduate student, Ria Paranjape has had not one, not two, but three summer internships at the global technology company, IBM.
Paranjape is a senior studying materials science and engineering after switching from chemical engineering her freshman year. “After arriving at UConn, I learned more about the materials science program through some introductory classes and found that it aligned more closely with what I was interested in pursuing,” she says. “Additionally, I knew MSE was an ‘up and coming’ field, which furthered my interest in the major.”
In the field of materials science, Paranjape is most interested in polymers research with a focus in sustainability, and product design and development in materials selection.
Undergraduate Laboratory Director Fiona Leek has provided Paranjape with a positive and enriching experience. “As a professor, she makes a huge effort to show support to her students and help every step of the way,” says Paranjape. “She is incredibly passionate about what she does, and it influences myself and my peers to work harder in our major and post-graduation when we’re in industry.”
When Paranjape was first searching for an internship, she wasn’t entirely sure on what she wanted to do. But she picked IBM because they are heavily involved in technology, and materials science is a very important part of that. “My first internship involved studying corrosion resistance, and from there my research narrowed down to what I worked on this previous summer, which was superconductor electroplating for quantum computing applications,” she states.
During her first summer at IBM, Paranjape mainly worked in the lab and ran tests on various samples with her manager. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her two following summers were online. Since she could not physically be in the lab, she focused on experiment planning, design of experiments and data analysis.
But the pandemic did not stop Paranjape from enjoying her time at IBM. “I constantly was challenged and had to think about things in ways that I hadn’t before, which helped me develop my critical thinking skills in a very welcoming environment,” she says. “Everyone I would talk to would be so open to helping me or talking to me about their area of expertise, giving advice, etc. It goes back to how I really appreciated being valued as an intern.”
Paranjape has three pieces of advice for MSE students to succeed as an intern: keep an open mind, always ask questions and be confident! “Sometimes you might land a role that isn’t exactly what you expected yourself to be doing, but the beauty of materials science is that it can be applied to almost anything,” she states. “I tend to get imposter syndrome when I’ve achieved something because I think I don’t deserve it, or I’m not smart enough to be at this place, however being confident in yourself will help alleviate that.”
And as for future students, Paranjape recommends studying materials science. “Right now, especially, the field is expanding rapidly and offers so many exciting opportunities right out of undergrad. UConn MSE, specifically, prepares you a career in industry by offering a wide range of materials classes you can take,” she says. “The professors make sure to drill important concepts and give you valuable information you can use past graduation. With the new MSE building underway, the growth that the department will have in the near future is incredibly exciting and even more reason to consider the program!”