Sarah Liang ’15, Sovatsky Counseling and Yogic Research

Sarah-LiangIn the span of just six short hours, I was able to not only meet Dr. Stuart Sovatsky ’71 in his office in Richmond, Calif. over spring break, but I was also able to learn about the very unique practice that is yogic counseling. Essentially, he focuses on unifying marriage and relationship counseling with the traditional meditative practices of Yoga. This particular melding struck my fancy because I have personally studied these two topics separately, but have never encountered them together before. He even played his shruti, a wooden box emitting a droning sound that evokes a sense of calmness and peace within oneself. I felt its effects fully and powerfully; it was truly an eye-opening and relaxing experience.

For the first half of my time there, Stuart and I simply sat face-to-face, as he would with his clients, and chatted about both the spiritual Yoga that he has researched and published on, as well as the psychology side of his practice (that I was far more familiar with). I got to hear about some incredible experiences he had across the world, such as Slovenia, lecturing with the vast amounts of research he has conducted on Yoga practices. I also got to hear some monumental events throughout his lifetime, such as the impacts he has left on people’s relationships and lives.

In the second half, I had the opportunity to meet a couple that had been seeing him for several years already. They told me about the painstaking experiences over time that it took for them to achieve the bliss and love that they felt between each other today, and then were kind enough to answer the questions I had thereafter. I was also able to meet one of the interns that works under him, and observed the different career paths I could possibly take in order to achieve my personal ends in working in the field of psychology. Overall, the hands-on experience from today was not something that I had fully anticipated but nonetheless appreciated to the fullest.

From this Princeternship, I not only Liang 1learned new skills, but developed preexisting ones from areas that I’d previously studied, and was able to explore miscellaneous career path interests in the process. I am so grateful to Dr. Sovatsky for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with me for this rare opportunity. This Princeternship has left a very positive impact on the rest of my time at Princeton, and hopefully beyond my collegiate career as well. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone considering clinical psychology as a possible field in which to study in the future.

Barbara Zhan ’16, Rentrak Inc.

Barbara-ZhanDuring my spring break Princeternship, I intended to learn more about careers in statistical analysis by observing an alumnus at Rentrak Corp. Rentrak is a leading media measurement company, and the top competitor to Nielsen. The main product is a constantly updating database of tracked viewing numbers of TV shows and movies across different demographics and time slots. I expected to shadow a lot of roles concerning research and data gathering. What I found out was the job was actually a highly integrated combination of primarily software development, programming, and research.

On my first day at the job, I was introduced to Princeton alum Dwayne Thomas ’04, who was a Quality Assurance Statistical Analyst. He, and several other people, had jobs testing the database that the programmers produced. Testing “issues,” or specific new additions to the program, the Quality Assurance team members used Kanban, an efficient workflow tool, to implement agile software development, which focuses on iterative and incremental changes to the program. Kanban is a visual process that limits the number of items in a person’s workflow at a single time-step, which Rentrak employees visualized using a third-party project-tracking software called JIRA. JIRA itself was a database holding records of all the tests they performed on the Rentrak database.

I was also introduced to several Configuration Management team members, who had the task of executing computerized tests of the Rentrak database. Whereas Quality Assurance provided real-person analysis of add-ons to the software, Configuration Management consisted of programmers who ran automatic tests, such as whether the database was updating at a regular pace, or whether each link on the database page correctly linked to another one.

Next, I observed the programmers in the Zhan 1Software Development division. The database managers pulled large amounts of raw data from broadcast companies and on-demand services, and to simplify it and fill in gaps natural to raw data. The backend programmers used C++ to integrate the data into Rentrak’s database, working individually, but combining their work to produce “millions of lines of code.” The front-end programmers used Perl to create the look of the company website and of the database system.

I also met the researchers, who acted as the step in between database and backend programming. The engineering managers would feed the researchers simplified, but un-analyzed data, and the researchers would use statistical programs such as SAS and R, to adjust the data for certain factors, such as disproportionate demographics sampled or time-zone adjusts to ensure statistical accuracy.

This Princeternship experience not only exposed me to careers in statistical research, but also to a career as a software developer or software tester. This Princeternship was valuable in that it showed me that tasks in the real world are not so clear cut – developers and researchers could spend most of the day working together, and yet, still have separate but integral roles.

Magdalena Henke ’16, Princeton Education Foundation

Maagdalena-HenkeFor three days during spring break of my freshman year at Princeton University, I was lucky enough to do a Princeternship at the Princeton Education Foundation. The PEF is a nonprofit organization that tries to ensure excellence at the local public schools by functioning as a link between schools and the community – encouraging private philanthropy to support many great programs that students benefit from. Relying heavily on volunteer work, the PEF has only one paid employee, Executive Director Adrienne Rubin ’88, who I was “princeterning” with.

For the PEF, a big fundraising gala was coming up soon, so finalizing all plans for that took up a substantial amount of time.  I got involved by updating files that kept track of items to be auctioned off at that gala, sorting through letters and sheets and getting a tad creative while writing descriptions for all the articles that were not in the data system yet. On my second day I had the opportunity to attend two meetings, including a “Women in Development” meeting which gave me new insights into the how and why of fundraising. On my last day, I spent some time researching existing programs similar to a new program the PEF is thinking about starting, so I collected data and came up with some suggestions on details of the program. All the while I not only felt like I was getting a much better idea of how the PEF functions, but was happy to also feel like the results of my work were in fact useful.

On the go, I learned a lot about PrincetonEducationFoundation1how valuable personal relationships are in fundraising, or really in organizing any bigger event. If you need people to be committed to a project, spending time with them on a personal level is hugely important, and only after that personal connection is built can other requests successfully follow. In the end, the best relationships, in the workplace or really anywhere, are the ones that create a winning situation for both sides.

However, I learned so many more things than “just” about the work of the PEF or nonprofits in general. I would consider my opportunity to meet Adrienne Rubin herself and get to know her better as just as valuable an experience. Mrs. Rubin has an interesting story to tell: as she originally graduated from Princeton with a degree in music and an opera voice, her path from there to the PEF was incredibly fascinating to hear. Since we were working almost side by side in the office, I luckily had plenty of time then and at lunch times to ask questions, all of which were thoughtfully and honestly answered. For all of this, I owe Mrs. Rubin a big thank you.

PrincetonEducationFoundation2After all, I not only got new insights into the PEF, but also took home many new ideas and thoughts about Princeton University, my time here, and how the Alumni network might influence my life after. Friday afternoon I left the office and found myself sad that the Princeternship had only been three days. It was an amazing experience I definitely would not have wanted to miss.

Phoebe Tran ’16, Prescription Advisory Systems and Technology

Phoebe-TranMy Princeternship at PAST Inc. this Spring Break was a valuable and memorable experience. For three days, I was able to become an integral part of this technology and healthcare startup, founded by Mr. Joe Studholme ’84.

A newly established company, PAST Inc. has its headquarter in the recently furnished office space on Nassau Street. A week before our official Princeternship, another Princetern, John Su ’16, and I were invited to the office for an introductory meeting with Mr. Studholme. With warm orange lights, PAST Inc. offices bear a welcoming atmosphere, professional but at the same time friendly. We greeted Mr. Studholme and were introduced to Katrina Maxcy ’15, who is working at the company as a research analyst. Mr. Studholme first told us about his Princeton career, and his decision to join a startup company and become a part of the budding technology entrepreneurship scene in the U.S. during the mid-1980s. He then discussed his own entrepreneurial endeavors, which resulted in the successful creation, development and sale of Restricted Stocks Company at the beginning of 2000s. After this, Mr. Studholme began to inform us on the business model of PAST Inc., which was founded in response to the growing issues of prescription drug abuse and the resulted concerns over the patient-physician relationship that affects healthcare quality. The company’s product analyzes data concerning the history of prescription drug purchases of residents in certain states and informs physicians who are treating these patients whether they are abusing, or have the prospect of abusing prescription drugs. The hour-long meeting laid the foundation for my market research project during the Princeternship.

The first day:
With quiet excitement, John and I arrived at the office at 10 am, preparing to meet the company staff and learn more about entrepreneurship. We got to choose our own working desks and were given a tour around the office by Ms. Davitt, the office manager. We also met Mr. Schultz and Ms. Hartz, the two other members of the office staff. At 10:30, the company staff gathered in the conference room, where Mr. Studholme explained the plan he had in mind for the two Princeterns.

Tran 1

John Su ’16 and I working on our market analysis report.

We were to complete a market analysis project in three days and gave a presentation on our findings on the last day to the company’s board and staff members. We were assigned the responsibility of compiling relevant data from a DEA report and other information sources on states’ Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in the US. We then devised a scoring algorithm to evaluate each state’s market potential and ranked them according to these preliminary scores. At 1 pm, we went out for lunch with Mr. Bayazitoglu, the company’s attorney, and talked to him about his position and also his career choice. John and I finished a productive first day with a comprehensive report.

The second day:
Knowing my way around the company and the appointed tasks, I felt more comfortable and prepared to continue to tackle the project Mr. Studholme asked us to do. By this time, I had also learned a lot about not only the company’s product but also the day-to-day operations of the company. The staff convened again that morning to discuss the newly designed business card and logo of the company, a task seemingly simple yet it required a lot of careful consideration. During this day, the two Princeterns plunged back into research and were given an incredible amount of independence in deciding research method and process. The task on the second day turned out to be much more complicated than the first, and we had to come up with a reasonable and effective scoring algorithm that could add on to the results of the day before. With thoughtful guidance from the staff, we again ended the second day with success, learning the hardship and excitement of market analysis. I was thrilled to present our report to the company the next day.

The final day:
On the last day of our Princeternship, since we had completed our reports, Tran 2John and I spent time in the morning revising and improving our data tables and written reports and thought about our afternoon presentation. After lunch, Mr. Studholme set up a Web conference for the Princeterns to present our research findings. We got to know a few more members of the company’s staff and the co-founder of PAST Inc. The presentation went smoothly and our report would be used to consider the future direction of the company’s operations and research.

This Princeternship gave me a wonderful opportunity to have an inside look at a startup in its early development. Thanks to Mr. Studholme, who created this opportunity for Princeton students, and the company staff, who welcomed us so warmly.  I was able to learn about the decision making process of the executives, about market targeting, about the market research necessary to help these considerations, and the working culture and environment within a technology startup. The experience, as a whole, informed me about the process of creating and managing an entrepreneurial business, which I aspire to do or be a part of in the future. I would like to thank Career Services for this wonderful internship program and again Mr. Joe Studholme for this invaluable experience.

Yixian Su ’16, Prescription Advisory Systems and Technology

John-SuI was actually able to sample a small taste of my Princeternship experience before its scheduled dates. The other Princetern, Phoebe Tran ’16, and I met up with Joe Studholme ’84, our host, one week before our start date for an hour or so worth of orientation at his startup, P.A.S.T. During that time, we learned about the company’s mission as well Joe’s background and experience. P.A.S.T is a startup aimed at developing technology in conjunction with Prescription Monitoring Programs in order for physicians and pharmacists to better serve their patients and customers. The startup aims to use their technology to ensure that doctors can be confident that the right consumers are using prescribed medicine, thus combatting the high annul rate of deaths due to mis-prescription and prescription abuse.

Day 1:
After arriving at around 10 am, we were given a tour of the various office spaces at P.A.S.T and met the key figures of the startup. Then, we listened to a powerpoint presentation in the conference room about Prescription Monitoring Programs (PMPs) and their implications in each of the 50 states. From there, we were assigned our first task as research analysts: to process various types of data on all the states and then rank the states by the feasibility of success of P.A.S.T’s prescription monitoring software based a key report from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Phoebe and I split up the work by dividing our research to focus on 25 states each, as we created various excel tables that documented, and in a sense quantified, the categorical data in the DEA report on PMPs. By the end of the day, after coming up with a methodology of ranking the states, we color coded and labeled a map in the office into 5 tiers, and we summarized our research process and findings in a report that was later forwarded to the rest of the company for reference.

Day 2:
Our research today expanded on the concept of ranking states that would be favorable for P.A.S.T’s technology to develop in. In addition to considering implications from the DEA report, today’s research focused on quantifying data from state laws and statutes on the sharing of the Prescription Monitoring Program with outside parties for research and statistical purposes. We developed an algorithm in excel for taking into account how a state’s population — its number of prescribers, consumers, pharmacies, etc. — would play into its final ranking. Like Day 1, we went HAM on our research and despite staying at the office until 7 pm, we were happy with our process and were able to produce significant results which we put into another research report that was forwarded to the CEO and our host, Joe Studholme, of which he later forwarded to the rest of the company.

Day 3:
Today was a more lax day at the office. Rather than prying various sources for research, we went over and refined our past findings from the first two days of our Princeternship. This was so that we could be better prepared for our presentation to the company later in the afternoon. Shortly after lunch, we all gathered in the conference room and had others who were not present at the office call in and listen in on our presentation of our findings. After a 30-minute presentation, we called it a day, took some pictures with Joe in the office, and walked over to Triumph for some late afternoon appetizers while watching some March Madness on television. We chatted with our host Joe, and a few other key people in his company — his legal consultant Ahmet and his marketing expert Steve — about their college and life experiences. After a few hours of long stories, life lessons, and laughs, accompanied with helpings of cherry grove cheese plates, crab dip, and calamari, we all parted our ways — a bittersweet, yet fulfilling end to these P.A.S.T 3 days at this awesome Princeternship.

The types of actives we were engaged in at this Princeternship exceeded my expectations in a good way. We were given time engaging in the presentations and shadowing the routines of the key people at this startup, but we were also able to work on a research project that the company can really make use of even after we left. I don’t think Phoebe, Joe or I and the others at P.A.S.T would have thought that we were able to crank out so much significant research in just the few days we were there. Since Joe had already seen enormous success with his previous company that he had started from scratch and later sold for more than $15 million, the work environment at P.A.S.T was most likely more upscale than the classic startup atmosphere, which was very nice. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, and there was a little kitchen stocked with Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Fig Newtons, ramen, juice, soda, and water for our consumption.

Since we were at at startup, this experience was a great Su 1opportunity for us Princeterns to really engage ourselves with not only the CEO, Joe, but a range of professionals crucial to a successful company; this included the legal consultant and lawyer in the house, Ahmet; the marketing and public relations key person, Steve; the office manager, Traci, and the business manager, Sue. This experience was a great time for me to see a company at the intersection of medicine, technology, and business — three of my top interests. Though you can’t get a feel of the long term work that such a startup does, you can, in these few days of a Princeternship, get a feel for what the work environment at such a company is like — the workplace, the team chemistry, the overall atmosphere.

I benefitted from this Princeternship by applying some of the aspects I learned about statistical analysis from my Statistics for Engineers ORF 245 class which I took in the fall and applied it to a real life scenario. Moreover, the experience really gave me an inside look at how a company is run and the various facets needed for a successful company to survive and prosper. Though the work I did these days was insightful and rewarding, I would have to say that the most valuable part of this experience was when Joe and his key partners took us out to eat at Triumph, just a few steps away from the office. It was during this time that they shared their college experiences, and it was really fascinating since most of them were Princeton alumni. We also talked about the various career paths and life experiences they’ve come across, and it was just a really amazing time for me to interact with such accomplished and influential, yet down to earth people. That said, I strongly recommend the Princeternship Program to other students! Thank you to all the people at P.A.S.T, the Princeternship Program, and Career Services for making this one segment of my Spring Break memorable and rewarding!

Edward Fashole-Luke ’15, Pocono Environmental Education Center

Eddie-LukeDuring my three-day Princeternship experience, I shadowed Jeffrey Rosalsky ’85, the Executive Director for the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC). I had the opportunity to see how this private nonprofit was working with the National Park Service in the Delaware Water Gap to provide its students with a deep understanding of nature, environmental processes, and sustainability. Mr. Rosalsky was very dynamic and reveled in the opportunity to show me around his office, the EcoZone, and various parts of the education center. He was also eager to discuss how his work experiences finally brought him to environmental education, which was by no means a direct route.

On the first day, I sat in on a student course and helped the teaching staff with morning classes. After assisting the staff with the EcoZone course, I sat in on Mr. Rosalsky’s conference call with a Princeton alumnus from the Princeton AlumniCorps to plan more environmentally friendly retrofitting in some of the residential buildings at PEEC. Mr. William Woodrow ’70 wasBald Eagle very excited to help with the cause, and also seemed excited to meet me. Mr. Woodrow came to PEEC two days later to discuss projects in further detail with Mr. Rosalsky. I also sat in on another business meeting with building contractors.

On the second day, after assisting the teaching staff with another morning class, I helped develop the sustainability exhibit for the EcoZone to teach students the value of saving electricity. The sustainability exhibit consisted of a basic bicycle-powered electricity generator called a “Pedal-A-Watt” attached to a 12 VDC converter with attachable appliances to teach students how much more energy heating appliances consume, and the value of saving electricity. I worked on developing the sustainability exhibit to include different light bulbs, such as incandescent, CFL, and LED, to teach the students about how energy consuming lights are, if left on excessively. I later updated the sustainability curriculum’s lesson plan to include my additions to the exhibit, as well as energy consumption calculations for all the appliances used. I then proofread and edited grant proposals in Mr. Rosalsky’s office. After that, I helped Mr. Rosalsky and his children collect tree sap to make his famous maple syrup.

WoodrowMeandJeffOn the third day, I started by continuing my work on the EcoZone sustainability exhibit. I sat in on a meeting  with Mr. Woodrow and Mr. Rosalsky after having spoken to Mr. Woodrow during the conference call two days earlier. We showed Mr. Woodrow around PEEC and Mr. Rosalsky discussed his future plans for the education center, and taught Mr. Woordrow and myself a great deal about Fracking and Nuclear energy from his energy computer model.

The most valuable part of my experience was developing the sustainability exhibit and editing the lesson plans for the sustainability curriculum. I had to do quite a bit of research on energy consumption and learned quite a bit about energy conservation in the process. I also valued hearing about Mr. Rosalsky and his wife’s non-linear work experiences after graduating from Princeton. They had very interesting paths, which led them to where they are now, and that was definitely very enlightening. Moreover, staying with the Rosalsky family was a pleasure and I literally felt like their fourth child. I would recommend this Princeternship to anyone interested in either Education or the Environment.

Bethany Sneathen ’16, National Hemophelia Foundation

Bethany-SneathenMy day at the National Hemophilia Foundation started at 10 am when I arrived. My host, Ayana Woods ’98, is the Director of Education for the Foundation. We spent an hour discussing how she came to work at the National Hemophilia Foundation, the goals of the Foundation, and their patient education initiatives. One of Ayana’s primary projects is the Steps for Living website, which provides accessible information to hemophilia patients and their families, organized by age category of the patients. Ayana also provided other informative materials, such as pamphlets and coloring booklets, directed at patients of various ages and backgrounds. For instance, several of the materials had been translated into other languages. We had a thought-provoking discussion about the ethics of a nonprofit patient advocacy organization being funded by pharmaceutical companies. I also learned about how hemophilia patients receive treatment at comprehensive Hemophilia Treatment Centers at which they receive care from a specialized medical team. This model could be useful for other types of conditions that affect many aspects of a patient’s life.

After our conversation, Ayana introduced me to Marla Feinstein, who is involved with health policy. It is her job to ensure that hemophilia patients are not overlooked when policy-makers write healthcare laws. For example, the government and insurance companies may prefer covering only one type of medication for a specific type of hemophilia, but that medication may not work as well as another type of medication for a minority of the patients with the condition. Ideally, both medications would be covered by insurance policies, but when funding is limited, a minority of patients with a rare disease may not be seen as a priority, despite the fact that their medications can cost over a million dollars per year.

Next, I spoke with Angelina Wang about the history of the National Hemophilia Foundation, the national and international efforts of the Foundation, and how the Foundation funds research projects relevant to hemophilia. Scientific research and clinical trials provide the information needed to support the arguments for policy-makers to consider the needs of hemophilia patients, but it is difficult to run clinical trials involving a rare disease with a small patient population. Research has been turning towards genomics, since analyzing the genotypes of individual patients can allow for more individualized treatments. I learned that the Foundation is also very involved with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C campaigns because, in the 1980s, the medications for hemophilia patients were made from donated blood plasma, and the blood supply at the time was contaminated since no one knew to screen donated blood for HIV or hepatitis C. Therefore, many hemophiliacs contracted these diseases. Additionally, we discussed the recent efforts to assist a hemophilia foundation in Nigeria, where hemophilia has so far been ignored for political reasons. 

At this point, I went to lunch with Ayana. Over sushi, we discussed personal aspects of living a professional life as a Princeton alum. Upon returning from lunch, I met with Development Manager Kristin Hokoyama and Senior Development Manager Jeremy Griffin. They talked about seeking funding from various sources, including individual donors and events such as Hemophilia Walks throughout the nation. They advised me on the importance of networking, and described the culture and dynamics of the office. Everyone I met at the National Hemophilia Foundation was very passionate about nonprofit work and the goals of the Foundation.

My last meeting was with Manager of Media Relations Keith Hudson. He described the hierarchy of the public relations department, and emphasized the importance of being an “everyman” when it comes to communications in the modern work environment. The National Hemophilia Foundation communicates with the public through social media, and with a more targeted audience through their magazine called Hemaware and a more condensed online Enotes version of this magazine.

Spending a day at the National Hemophilia Foundation Sneathen 2provided me with valuable insight into the workings of a national patient advocacy program. Since my interests lie in the health sciences and health policy, it was deeply beneficial for me to see how the National Hemophilia Foundation interacts with government and insurance policies, patients and physicians, the public, and research institutions to promote what is best for the hemophilia community. I enjoyed this opportunity, and I am very grateful to Ayana and her coworkers for being so friendly and sharing their experiences, information, and advice with me.

Rana Ibrahem ’15, National Hemophilia Foundation

Rana-IbrahemDuring my Princeternship, I had the chance to spend the day shadowing the Director of Education at the National Hemophilia Foundation, Ayana Woods ’98. This extraordinary opportunity was filled with numerous conversations with her colleagues and herself regarding the nature of their work and any lessons they learned in their career paths.

Throughout the day my fellow Princetern and I learned about the work that Ayana does to further the ‘Steps for Living’ website that educates those suffering with hemophilia. Learning about all the initiatives and efforts that go into producing a website of that magnitude helped me gain a better understanding of the educational component to public health.

Ayana also set up meetings for us with many of her colleagues so that we could learn from each department in the organization. Ibrahem 1Furthermore, I had the chance to discuss public policy regarding the coverage of hemophilia medication by health insurance companies. I was also able to gain a better understanding of the efforts and measures taken by the National Hemophilia Foundation to implement and utilize new scientific research in their advocacy, education, and policy efforts. Lastly, I was able to learn about the structure of a national foundation and its relation to its chapters across the country.

Overall, I found the experience to be incredibly rewarding and eye opening. It was a great chance to be able to speak with people who work so hard on matters related to public health at the national level. I was able to explore both my career and academic interests. Lastly, this helped me better realize that I fully intend to work with different advocacy groups during my time as a physician. I am so thankful to Ayana Woods and all of the great people at the National Hemophilia Foundation for their care and conversation during my Princeternship!

Thomas Zdyrski ’15, MITRE

Tom-ZdyriskiWhile attempting to pursue a career in military research and development, I found it somewhat difficult to find straightforward, candid answers to many of my questions. Harder still was finding a way to gain first-hand experience in such a classified field. Therefore, when I found this Princeternship at MITRE Corp., I realized that it could not only answer many of my inquiries, but it would also accord me a very rare glimpse into this fascinating sector. However, I had not anticipated the multitude of other benefits I would experience or the interesting people I would meet.

Monday morning, I met up with the Kristin—the other Princetern—and our host, Sandeep Mulgund *94. After returning to Sandeep’s office, he described the basic operating principles of the company as well as the various projects being pursued. Following this, we toured some of the numerous labs scattered throughout the MITRE complex. In the computer lab, some of the employees were generous enough to give Kristin and I a brief demo of their work. While the technology was fascinating, the most interesting aspect was meeting all of the incredible people, including another alumni from Princeton. Next, Sandeep treated us to lunch where we discussed more casual topics such as Princeton life and how things have changed since he was a graduate student. Finally, upon returning to MITRE, we were able to meet with the chief engineer. After receiving invaluable advice from such a knowledgeable source, Kristin and I were each honored with two commemorative coins. After some parting words, we concluded our Princeternship equipped with invaluable information, new networks, and amazing friends. It was an amazing experience that I’m sure will prove beneficial in the future; therefore, I’d like to thank Sandeep and all the other MITRE employees who took time out of their busy schedules to give us a brief glimpse into life outside the Orange Bubble.

Kristin Goehl ’16, MITRE

On March 18, I had the pleasure of shadowing Dr. Sandeep Mulgund *94 at the MITRE Corporation with fellow Princetern Thomas Zdyrski.  Dr. Mulgund works as a combat scientist for MITRE, a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) that supports federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Once we had arrived at the facility and passed through security, Dr. Mulgund met with us in his office.  While there we discussed career paths in science/engineering, as well as how to prepare for a job in a company like MITRE.  We also learned about how MITRE and FFRDCs are different from typical defense contractors.

For me, this conversation was one of the most important parts of the day.  Dr. Mulgund stressed how an engineering education prepares you for the workforce by teaching you how to think – how to solve problems and to present solutions.   While he valued his Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering degree, Dr. Mulgund told us how after receiving his PhD he soon found himself in a very different area of work, eventually ending up at MITRE working on military command and control systems.  He also emphasized the importance of networking and its role in finding (and getting) the right job after school.

One topic that really struck me was how FFRDCs like MITRE are run.  FFRDCs do not competitively bid like typical defense contractors and try to sell their products to the government.  Rather, they are sponsored by the government to do planning, research and development.  MITRE’s motto, “Working in the Public Interest “ is remarkably similar to Princeton’s own unofficial motto, “In the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.”  The corporation is not-for-profit, and is able to work for the long-term benefit of the United States.

After our lengthy discussion, Dr. Mulgund gave us a general tour of the MITRE campus.  One area we were shown was the ACME lab, which brings together sponsors and MITRE experts to brainstorm, work through problems, and discuss solutions using a variety of simple visual aids.  The lab encourages the many participants in a project to collaborate openly and on the same level.

Also during the tour, Thomas and I were brought to one of the R&D labs of the MITRE facility to see some demonstrations of current projects MITRE is working on.  The first demonstration used a computer program to simulate decision-making and to guide someone through a series of decisions by giving them the options they have as well as relevant information/data to the decision they have to make.  Next, we saw how MITRE is working to improve communication between different emergency services using technology in computers, phones and tablets.  Lastly, we were shown how an Xbox Kinect is being used to put a presenter on the screen of their presentation (similar to a weatherman) and how they can interact with their presentation.  This project was also expanded to allow a second person in a completely different location to also simultaneously interact with the presentation.  During our time in the lab, Thomas and I had the pleasure of meeting James Rayson ’81, who spoke briefly to us about his time at Princeton in the electrical engineering/computer science department, handing us copies of an ancient Princeton computer punch card he kept from his days as an undergraduate.

After discussing more about the field of engineering and MITRE over lunch, we were introduced to Dr. George Providakes, chief engineer of MITRE’s Command and Control Center (C2C).  Dr. Providakes was very interested in how Thomas and I became involved in science and engineering, and encouraged us to continue to pursue our interest in technology, perhaps even to the point of working at a FFRDC in the future.  In the tradition of military challenge coins and also in commemoration of our experience, Dr. Providakes gave each of us a C2C coin.  In addition we received MITRE coins from Dr. Mulgund, providing a solid start to our own military coin collection, a collection I very much hope to expand in the future.

This Princeternship was a fantastic experience.   I believe that it was very valuable to me as I consider my career options for the future as an engineer.  It has helped me reexamine the various courses I want to take while at Princeton, as well as what I am looking for in a career.  I would like to thank Mr. Rayson and Dr. Providakes for being willing to take time out of their schedules to speak with Thomas and me.  I would especially like to thank Dr. Mulgund for being such a great mentor and for hosting me.  At the end of the day, I was very encouraged and was given much to think about.