Track: Polymer Science
Undergrad: Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA - Chemistry
Internship: Delphon Industries
Current Job Title: Chemist II at Gel-Pak
What about the program intrigued you?
At the beginning of my senior year of college, when I was starting to seriously consider my plans after graduation (with a B.S. in chemistry), I became interested in going into materials science. At the time, I was mostly deciding between trying to find a job straight out of college or going straight into a PhD program, the most common path for chemists looking to go to graduate school. I was apprehensive about both options, as entering the workforce straight out of college would have me looking for jobs with no specialized schooling, but taking the traditional PhD route meant signing up for another 5-7 years of intense study.
I wasn’t really aware of any options in between, until a professor brought up the Master’s Internship Program while discussing my decision. After doing more research on my own, it seemed like a perfect fit for what I was looking for. A shorter-term graduate program with a focus on materials science in industry.
What was the intensive summer like for you?
For me, the summer was a perfect example of “work hard, play hard”. The subject matter was dense and came at you very rapidly. Classes and labs would run all day almost every day, and a lot of time outside of class was spent studying or working on reports. But despite the busy schedule, I still ended up spending a lot of time getting to know the other students in the program, exploring Eugene and the surrounding areas whenever we got the chance. I was kind of expecting to just show up and work through the program without really getting to know anyone else, but I ended up forming a few friendships that have continued well beyond my time in Eugene.
The last few weeks of the summer were especially brutal, comprised of the 3 week “immersion project” for the polymer track followed by networking and interviewing with industrial partners for the internship phase. But the project really was a great sink-or-swim kind of test, forcing us to put all that we’d learned over the last few months to practice. Similarly, the interview process was certainly stressful, but it was a fitting culmination of the professional development side of the program, which focused on non-technical soft skills (resume writing, networking, etc.) needed to navigate a career in industry. It’s something that not many graduate programs focus on and has proven to be massively beneficial, despite being an aspect of the program I didn’t really consider much in my decision to attend.
Where did you do your internship?
I interned at a company called Delphon, in Hayward, California. Delphon is a holding company that encompasses a few brands, and I did the vast majority of my work with the Gel-Pak brand. Gel-Pak makes elastomeric substrates used to immobilize microelectronic devices (diced wafers, lenses, sensors etc.) for shipping, handling, and modification processes.
What was your internship like?
The internship varies a lot from person to person, but I was essentially brought on to be a chemistry-specific resource for the company. At the onset I was given a significant amount of “busy” work to fill my time and get me started, but after a while I started doing more meaningful and interesting work. The balance between mentorship and independence was quite good throughout. I never felt like I was way in over my head, but I was also given a lot of freedom to drive my projects.
The company is fairly small, with a single group encompassing all of QC, R&D, and process engineering. This meant that while each individual in the group may have had certain usual projects and responsibilities, we all had to “wear multiple hats” and help out on different projects or tasks as needed. If you like having a structured and well organized work flow I would not recommend interning at/working for a smaller company, but I like the fact that I can’t really come up with a typical day. The constantly changing workflow keeps things interesting.
Did you feel the program prepared you for the internship?
The program did a great job of exposing us to a wide range of analytical techniques and polymer technologies. Upon starting up at my internship, I found that I had at least a basic knowledge of pretty much every piece of analytical equipment that my company had in the lab. The time constraints of the program limit the amount of time you can spend learning about any given technique, but in reality you aren’t expected to be an expert on every piece of analysis equipment or every relevant technology coming out of school. The broad exposure you get in school simply makes it much easier to learn and master the specific techniques that you’ll use at your job.
What else would you like to share with students??
I personally could not be happier with my decision to go through the Master’s Internship program. It ended up being a perfect way to gain tangible experience (and an advanced degree) in a field I wanted to start a career in, along with providing tools and connections to actually start that career.
Coming straight from college, I can certainly see why someone would chose to pursue a PhD instead of this program. It’s clearly the best option for those looking to become professors or eventually lead their own research groups. But if you’re deciding between this master’s program and going straight into the workforce with a bachelor’s degree, in my opinion there’s no good reason to forgo the program. The benefits far outweigh the costs and time requirements.