The SciTechsperience Internship Program has been fortunate to have more than 1,200 STEM college students enroll in the program since the pilot launched in February, 2012. The program’s director, Becky Siekmeier, has an opportunity to meet many of these talented students at campus events and during site visits when they are placed in an internship. It’s always fascinating to meet the students, especially when one comes along that stands out as a rising star. Carla Pulles is one of those students (above right).
Siekmeier first met Pulles during a site visit at Aspen Research Corporation in the summer of 2012. Pulles and two other SciTechsperience interns each gave a presentation about their internships. “I was so impressed with her ability to communicate not only what she was doing and learning during her internship, but also her passion for her field. She’s such a bright and gifted young woman,” Siekmeier said.
Pulles is a senior in the Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering program at the University of Minnesota. She’s participated in the SciTechsperience Internship Program for the last three years, first as a student at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and twice while at the U of M.
“After I was accepted to the U a couple years ago, I really didn’t even know what I wanted to major in,” Pulles told a crowd that was gathered at the Weisman Art Museum for the North Star STEM Alliance Summer Opportunities Expose last Tuesday. “I knew I wanted to work in some science-related field, but I didn’t quite know what that meant.”
To help find her way, Pulles applied to the SciTechsperience Internship Program. She strongly encouraged the students at the event to do so as well. After being accepted to the program, Pulles contacted half a dozen companies and went on a handful of interviews. “This process was not easy and it took some time, but I got help. I had a couple people read over my resume, and practiced some common interview questions with a friend,” Pulles said.
Pulles went on to say that she got to work on many different projects while at Aspen Research, where she’s still working part time during the school year. “Some projects involved dissolving a metal sample in acids in order to identify and quantify which metals were present, which was really cool.” She added, “I read and learned about some of these things in a text book or heard about it during a lecture, but nothing compares to doing and seeing it for yourself.”
Pulles is grateful for the experience she’s gained through her internships. “Yes, I made some mistakes, but that’s the benefit of being an intern. You’re there to learn. But more importantly, I also found out what really interested me, and that was working with biobased products.”
Pulles shared some other insights on how her internship was tremendously beneficial:
- It helped her determine a focus area in her degree;
- Showed her what industry she wanted to work in professionally;
- Allowed her to better understand some difficult concepts because she was able to draw upon her work experience at Aspen Research;
- Revealed her work-related strengths and where she excels; and
- Helped her understand the expectations and responsibilities of being an employee
Because she’ll finish her degree in the spring of 2014, Pulles has turned her focus toward getting a good job after graduation. Not just any job, she explained, but one that she will enjoy that provides challenges like her internship at Aspen Research.
The Minnesota Department of Education estimates that our state is going to need 188,000 STEM workers by 2018 to keep up with developing technology and retiring baby boomers. Based on rising stars like Carla Pulles, Minnesota’s STEM future looks very bright.
For more information on the SciTechsperience Internship Program, contact Becky Siekmeier at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enrollment forms for companies and students are available at SciTechMN.org.