Summer Research Experiences: Materials Science in Burlington

On September 17, 2013 by Grad Forum

Wong at the Champlain Valley Fair.

The Graduate Forum has invited graduate students who did work out of town this summer to reflect on their experiences. Andrew Wong, an MS student in engineering, reflects here on his time as an intern at IBM in Burlington, Vermont.

As the summer winds slowly down to a brisk New England fall, I have an opportunity to reflect on my internship at IBM. The internship was rather unique in many respects. Even though I am in engineering at Dartmouth, I was connected with members of the IBM System and Technology Group (STG) through the physics department (thanks to Nick Wimer D’12 Th’13). My project at IBM was the development of a unique materials characterization tool performing scanning surface photo-voltage (SSPV). Whereas I was expecting to be handed simple intern assignments, the team in the scanning probe microscopy (SPM) lab empowered—and trusted—me to become one of the world experts on this novel tool.

Wong (third from left) with his IBM lab group.

Wong (third from left) with his IBM lab group.

The lab was incredibly generous with their time and effort to ensure that my experience was both enriching and enjoyable. My daily schedule was flexible, and in addition to work, I had plenty of time to otherwise occupy myself. During the summer I lived in the home of a local family, who belonged to the church I attended, Christ Memorial Church (CMC), just outside of Burlington. I participated in a number of church activities, including ultimate Frisbee every Sunday.

IBM has many awesome attributes, such as hundreds of bright, talented and experienced employees and lots of multimillion-dollar machines for research, development and manufacturing. It also has its own challenges. In my first month of work, about 20% of the employees were laid-off during a resource action. My manager was compelled to take an early retirement as a result.

Wong hosting a potluck for friends from the church he attended in Burlington.

Wong hosting a potluck for friends from the church he attended in Burlington.

These experiences have been quite an eye-opener to some of the issues of working in a public multinational corporation. That being said, the majority of the people I worked with have been loyal to the company for many years and would confirm that IBM is a great place to work.

I am very appreciative of this internship opportunity and of all the people who made it possible; I encourage anyone who is interested, particularly my peers at Dartmouth, to aim for an opportunity to experience IBM. While my time had its challenges, it has overall been rewarding and helpful in understanding what direction I want to head in the future.

by Andrew Wong

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