The power of an internship
A key component of The Furman Advantage is for every student to have at least one internship, research or study away experience during their four years at the university. Senior Andrew Allen had that opportunity last summer when he interned at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory. The lab is a U.S. Department of Defense research and development center that applies advanced technology to problems of national security. A health sciences major from Jacksonville, Florida and a member of the ROTC program at Furman, Allen is scheduled to graduate in May and be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He hopes “to attend law school one day and eventually have a career in politics.” He talked about his internship at MIT with Furman News.
What did you do at the Lincoln Laboratory?
After meeting initially with personnel in different departments, I had the option of joining a current project being conducted at the lab or choosing my own project. I chose the latter, which involved looking at immigration policy in the U.S. and determining how developing new policies and enforcing our current laws might strengthen national security in the U.S., and possibly decrease drug and labor trafficking along the nation’s borders.
Describe a typical day at the lab.
I met with heads of departments and researchers who are leading our nation’s projects. I spent a good deal of time at my desk pulling together my own research and occasionally meeting with individuals who had some insight into the topic I was researching. I also spent time with the other interns as we shared information about our research projects.
What were some of the most important things you learned?
I learned how important it is to take full advantage of the tools and individuals around you. The people at the MIT lab have incredible expertise in science, policy, international affairs and humanitarian relief, and they shared that knowledge to assist with my research project. That interaction helped improve my ability to be a team player. Utilizing the skills of others to improve your own work is key in any professional field.
Prior to my internship, I didn’t fully realize the educational benefit of attending Furman, where every class period requires some level of preparation. While at the lab, I found myself the most prepared for every meeting; it was simply second nature. I was comfortable conversing with individuals in the lab who were heading up the Human Genome project. Furman has instilled in me a level of professionalism that allowed me to make connections that will impact my career after I graduate. I have to credit much of my development in that area to Furman’s ROTC program. The early morning workouts, class room sessions, training events on the weekends and labs during the week have almost single handedly forced me to be disciplined in all areas of my life. If you’re not getting ahead in something then you’re behind, and that’s a phrase that has stuck with me the past few years.
How did you get this opportunity?
I landed the internship through the ROTC program. The U.S. government provides a list of internships to cadets all across the country every year. I filled out the application and asked a few faculty members at Furman to write recommendations for me.
What advice do you have for other Furman students seeking internships?
It’s important to take chances when you see an open door, because you never know when an opportunity could lead to a future internship or a career opportunity. Students can get the most out of an internship by applying themselves in every way possible. I was told that my internship experience would be what I made it, and that I would only get out of it what I was willing to put in it. That turned out to be true. Working hard and showing those around you that you are passionate about what you do goes a long way.
What was your most memorable moment of the summer?
The internship did not keep me buried in the MIT lab the entire time, and I had time to experience the culture of Boston. My most memorable moment had to be attending Red Sox games. I had grown up a Cardinals fan, but getting the opportunity to attend a White Sox and Yankees game at Fenway was an amazing experience. Experiencing new cultures is perhaps one of the most important ways you learn.
Interview was edited for length and clarity.
Director of News and Media Strategy