Each year, our Workforce Development team offers summer internships for students interested in developing their gateway development skills. Eligible participants are placed at one of several SGCI partner sites. We will be sharing some of the experiences of our 2018 student interns in a series of blog posts entitled SGCI Summer Internship Reports.
Featured below is SGCI summer intern Thomas Hilton Johnson III, a junior at Elizabeth City State University.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, including what you are studying.
I am a junior majoring in computer science and mathematics at Elizabeth City State University. I was originally a computer science major with some interest in mathematics, but my increasing attraction to mathematics caused me to decide on taking mathematics as a second major my sophomore year. By then, I was already in the Center for Excellence in Remote Sensing Education and Research (CERSER) at Elizabeth City State University. Going through the CERSER program exposed me to various research opportunities and allowed me to attend conferences that I previously barely considered would be a part of my academic career. The most important aspect of myself CERSER helped me with was to teach me the importance of concentrating on what makes me a better learner, person, researcher, coder, mathematician, and presenter rather than merely focusing on learning then regurgitating material. If I did not develop maintainable skills in those areas, there would be no foundation for my development by which I could continually build upon. I am grateful that Dr. Linda B. Hayden, Jeff Wood, and Joal Hathaway, who are also SGCI staff, assisted me in my growth in the CERSER program since my freshman year.
I am also a member of the ECSU Honors Program and have been since I first enrolled into ECSU. The ECSU Honors Program looks to take the top students of the university and transform them into the future leaders, scholars, researchers, business owners and game changers of the future.
My hobbies are meditation, reading, drawing, gaming, watching movies and tv shows, and contemplating philosophical questions.
Where did your internship take place, and who did you work with?
The internship I undertook through SGCI for the summer of 2018 was at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas, Austin. The resources that were available there and the projects that the TACC personnel were working on were all magnificent. The TACC personnel themselves were welcoming. There was definitely a sense of openness when it came to discussion of issues, solutions, and developments in various areas of technology or the current events of the world.
I was working under Dr. Ritu Arora for my internship. It was impressive working with her considering that she imposed standards for working that both accelerated my growth faster than I had ever previously experienced, and was willing to sit down with me during the internship to see what my goals were. After a discussion about what my goals were and what Dr. Ritu Arora expected me to get out of the internship, there was an understanding of what was necessary to satisfy both the TACC internship as well as what I wanted to get out of the internship experience. Another lesson Ritu taught me was to set better timelines for my work so that I could better evaluate if there were serious issues to be addressed or if I may require advice on how to further continue.
My coworkers were Carlos Redondo, Gerald Joshua, and Anubhaw Nand. An awesome team to work with all summer-round!
What are some things that you learned as a result of this internship?
The first thing I learned on this internship that I will not forget is the significance of having reliable coworkers that can both stand on their own and can offer assistance when needed. I was working in the front-end/user interface which made communication with the back-end developers of the team crucial to my work. There were times my coworker and I on the front-end and user interface had to sit down with back-end developers to make sure what was being designed was not putting the infrastructure of the project under complete redesign or undue strain.
The second thing I learned on this internship is the importance of developing knowledge of where you are working and who you may potentially be working with. Being knowledgeable of who is my immediate proximity and of areas necessary for my work was a given. I am not referring to those who are in my workspace and I would interact with regularly or the areas of TACC that I would go to on a regular basis. I am referring to the personnel who I would go to for advice or technical support when issues arise, the areas where I would find the personnel who were knowledgeable in, say, user interfaces or front-end web design. It was one thing to be able to communicate with my coworker to bounce ideas as to how to accomplish a task, but being able to ask an expert with years of experience under their belt was another experience altogether.
Do you see yourself engaging with SGCI again in the future? Perhaps when you begin your career?
It would be great to be able to continue to work with SGCI whether it be an internship, during my professional career, or both. Considering the contributions that the SGCI has made to the STEM fields, to be able to continue working with SGCI would be awesome. SGCI has been a part of groundbreaking work so being able to contribute would be an excellent way to leave my personal mark on the universe. I feel there are more opportunities for me to grow through what SGCI offers to students and professionals in the STEM fields.
Anything else to add about your internship experience?
Being in Austin, Texas was an exciting time. The food was excellent and admittedly one of the hardest things to forget. There were so many restaurants I visited, and yet so many I had yet to try before I left. I remember the importance of breakfast tacos and arriving on certain Wednesdays of the month to get my egg and potato tacos for the rest of the day. Whataburger was a convenient restaurant as Whataburger was literally down the street from my friend’s apartment making for easy access to food. In-N-Out Burger was a couple of blocks up from my friend’s apartment as well. The best part was that both served milkshakes which came in handy in Austin. If I felt the day was too hot, I would often try to get a milkshake at some point throughout the day. The milkshake alone would be a solution for ensuring that I did not get too hot and enjoyed the process of cooling down.
Austin’s public transportation was excellent. I say this having used it with friends to traverse a good portion of Austin, Texas. The buses were on posted schedules so the trick was getting at the right stop so my friends and I didn’t have to wait a few minutes to get on the next bus. It was equally impressive to see that a large number of electric scooters and rentable bikes that were available. I personally enjoyed walking so I either take the bus, traverse on foot, or both to get to a destination. Due to the ease of walking and taking public transportation, no place in Austin seemed to be completely out of reach. Instead, the city seemed more easily traversable than most other cities that I have visited.