Computer Science

Computer science interns learn by doing

By Jan Joslin | December 28, 2018
Computer science interns from CSU

Six computer science majors and minors share the lessons they learned during internships this year. 

Kaitlyn M. Vinson, a senior majoring in computer science with an art minor, interned at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions in Aiken in the Process Control and Automation Engineering group helping to develop a web application using Javascript, HTML and C#. She said, “I learned how to use code that will help me develop my own senior project and learned how to work as a part of a development team.” 

Rebecca L. Jackson, a senior majoring in mathematics with an applied computer: computer programming minor, was part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates program, funded by the National Science Foundation and held at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York. Jackson was paid a research stipend and worked on mathematical research in Graph Theory.  

Jackson said, “As strange as this sounds, I learned how to fail. Research is all about trying something and seeing if it works. More often than not it doesn’t. Sometimes you end up being stuck on one idea until someone else comes in and suggests a much simpler idea which automatically works. Other times, you think you have the perfect proof written up only for someone else to look at it and immediately find a counterexample. You have to learn how to handle failure, or you will end up frustrated and unable to continue.” 

Carla N. Contreras, a senior majoring in computer science with minors in applied computing: cybersecurity and Spanish, was at SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic in North Charleston and was part of the software integration team for Tacmobile, a Navy project.  

Interns often experience things they don’t in the classroom. Contreras’s favorite memory was riding in an LAV, a light armored vehicle, at SPAWAR. “It was fun because it was easy to get over flooded areas and move people out of the road.”  

Peter Kaufman, a junior with majors in computer science and Spanish and a minor in math,  interned at ACS Technologies in Florence where he had the opportunity to work with a team which created a heatmap that displays live events and allows for playback data for specified periods of time.  

Kaufman said, “I learned that training others, while it may not be the most enjoyable action, is something that should be done and can save time in the long run.” 

Sydney Garling, a senior with a computer science major and a minor in applied computing: cybersecurity, interned at Blackbaud in Charleston with the Cyber Security Engineering team and learned about the different aspects security takes in companies and its necessity.  

Garling was surprised to learn how many people can’t recognize a phishing email. 

Phillip “PJ” Neidlinger, a senior majoring in computer science, was an Information Technology intern for The Boeing Company in St. Louis, Missouri, as a Programmer/Analyst. He said, “Hard work is allowing me to have the opportunity to work part-time for Boeing throughout my final semester, and I will begin working full-time for Boeing in January 2019 in Charleston.” 

Neidlinger learned to write code and contribute it to a team project. “I would be assigned something by the team, and then I would go write the code, and then submit the code into the repository where others were contributing their own code. It was a great learning experience to get an understanding of real world environments like that.” 

Jackson credits her relationships with her professors with her acceptance into the Research Experience for Undergraduates program. She said, “I love that I can go to my professors with basically anything. I was so excited to come back to campus and tell them all about what I did this summer. What made it even better was that they were excited to hear about it. I don’t think I would be the person I am now without them pushing me to be a better mathematician.” 

Photo: PJ Neidlinger, Peter Kaufman, Rebecca Jackson, Kaitlyn Vinson and Sydney Garling. Not pictured is Carla Contreras. Photo by Sydney Garling 

Article originally published in the Fall 2018 edition of CSU Magazine.  

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