Sandia LabNews

National Intern Day celebrates Sandia’s robust program

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BUILDING BLOCKS — Radman Zarback played giant Jenga with fellow interns at National Intern Day. Zarback, who was a research and development undergrad intern from Purdue University, said, “Research and development gives you a lot of autonomy and freedom, but also a lot of responsibility. The only person this wouldn’t be good for is someone who doesn’t want to be challenged. This is what you want engineering to be.” Photo by Spencer Toy

Sandia California’s Student Intern Program held a celebration to mark National Intern Day on July 27 as many closed out their summer stints with the Labs.

“We want interns to leave knowing Sandia is a great place to work, and we truly care about their professional growth and success,” said Talent Acquisition Specialist Mariaelena Marcano, who leads California’s Student Intern Program. “Many came up to our team to thank us for their experience this summer, so that is a testament they had a great time and felt our programming helped them find community while here at the lab.”

About 70 interns joined the event, where they shared lunch, played games and took pictures in a photo booth. Attendees also learned about the Critical Skills Recruiting Program, which offers top graduates from technical bachelor’s programs an opportunity to obtain a master’s degree in a technical area relevant to Sandia.

Experiencing Sandia California

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TAKING SHAPE — Technical undergrad Avalon Keene started a year-round internship in July. A Diablo Valley College student interested in environmental science, Avalon is supporting the Environmental Safety & Health department. “I get to try out all these different things in the field I want to go into,” Avalon said. “It’s really cool. I would definitely tell someone to apply.”
Photo by Spencer Toy

Sandia California hired about 100 interns during fiscal year 2023, in addition to students already in place with year-round internships. Mariaelena said California’s team aligns programming with New Mexico to provide a consistent intern experience.

“Our events are generally more intimate due to attendance, so it allows us to have time to connect with interns on a personal level and connect them with colleagues and fellow interns,” Mariaelena said. “Many of our interns come from out of state, so it is great to share resources and tips about living in California and in particular the Bay Area. We encourage interns to connect early and find community while here in California.”

Elanor Tang, who was an R&D graduate intern, marked the last day as an intern in late July. Tang learned about Sandia through a career fair where a recruiter knew other graduate students who interned with Sandia.

“This is the kind of internship that I looked for,” said Tang, who is working on a master’s in computer science. “This is research that’s different than what I’ve done at the University of Michigan, so it was cool to explore that.”

Working with interns

Sam Pollard worked with five interns over the summer and served as Tang’s mentor. He was a Sandia intern for three years before becoming a full-time employee.

“I have a limited amount of time to pursue the topics I want to work on, but an intern can get really focused and make a lot of progress on those things,” Sam said. “Having someone to talk with about an idea really forces you to clarify and understand it better, and I enjoy that process.”

Trying new things

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SPEAKING TO STUDENTS — Mariaelena Marcano, Sandia California’s Student Intern Program lead, said the team coordinates with their New Mexico counterparts for a consistent intern experience. Photo by Spencer Toy

Many Sandia interns work in R&D and technical positions, though interns take on business and clerical roles as well. Daniela Rodriguez started as an intern working with Human Resources on the Student Intern Program and transitioned to full-time staff coordinator for the program in June 2022.

“It was fairly easy because of my mentors,” Daniela said. “They made a successful track for me to move over to my current role.”

Daniela works with team lead Mariaelena as well as New Mexico to make Sandia’s intern program as robust as possible. Mariaelena said the team encourages managers to submit job postings early during the big recruitment season from August to November to keep up with Fortune 500 companies who are also recruiting for the following summer.

The team is constantly planning for the next year, and that includes making sure interns have a positive experience. Celebrations such as National Intern Day and other social gatherings help interns connect with one another and get involved with a variety of opportunities during their time with Sandia. Whether for a summer or a year-round internship, these experiences allow interns to work on real projects with top professionals in their field.

“My hope is that they get to walk away and say, ‘Wow, I really learned so much and made the right decision by coming to Sandia,’” Mariaelena said. “If we can accomplish that, then we’ve won.”

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