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Most students look forward to the long summer holidays, so that they can sit back, enjoy life, and relax. But some students will be spending their summer interning. Whether the internship lasts 6, 8 or 12 weeks, the experience will be invaluable.
Studying a science means that it is vital to get as much work experience as possible over the summer – the further into the degree you are, the more important this becomes.
Luckily for physicists at Southampton, there are ample opportunities to find somewhere to work, ranging from four weeks to three months. The South East Physics Network (SEPNet) is a programme run by eight universities in South-East England to help second, third and fourth year physicists find an internship for the summer. This year there were approximately seventy internships advertised and all places filled for these much coveted placements very quickly.
The types of internships that could be undertaken ranged across all branches of physics – from photonics to medical physics; programming to data analysis; and astronomy to satellite design. The internship that I secured was in programming- something I was not the strongest at but was desperate to learn more about. And being a physicist, I can definitely say that it is essential to have programming skills.
I was expecting to be extremely out of place on the internship – but thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was, admittedly, the only female in the team of five interns, but I almost expected that. This wasn’t a problem though as I learnt quickly that my skills wore on par with most of the interns there. I also came to realise that reason I had been chosen for this internship was because I had shown myself to be highly analytical, and the CEO and CTO of the small start-up I was working for thought that this would be useful for the project that they had in store for me.
Within weeks of being at the company, I had gone from a programming novice to someone with a much better understanding of data gathering using a programming language previously unknown to myself.
At the start of the eight week program, I could barely code a basic command e.g. getting the computer code to spit out the words ‘Hello World’ on the screen each time the program was started. By the midway point I had a program that was able to scour lots of websites on the internet, returning hundreds of results that were stored as data points and by the end, this had increased exponentially. Having to learn something new for the job that I was doing was great, as it meant I was keeping my brain active over the summer.
It just goes to show that anyone willing to learn a new skill has the ability to do so. Being in a demanding 9-5 environment where you know that the work you produce is going to be used by the company you work for further down the line adds to the pressure. But the sense of relief you get when you’ve completed a task and the ecstatic feeling you get when you are successful is euphoric. There’s simply no substitute for it. You gain more confidence in your skills and yourself.
Experience is everything and spending my summer getting a relevant internship for my degree was invaluable.