August 31, 2016

This summer senior Madeline Traylor started her day by hitting the snooze button a couple of times before getting up for her full-time internship with Cox Graae + Spack Architects in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Once she stepped into the office it was full speed ahead with projects, site visits, and furniture shopping, giving her a taste of what life as an architect will be like.

“I was able to work and learn as an architect, not just as an office intern,” Traylor said. She joked that she was never asked to make a cup of coffee during her internship.

Traylor, an architecture major at The Catholic University of America from Atlanta, gained valuable experience, enhanced her resume, and met professional architects in the nation’s capital.

Students looking for internships can work with the University’s Office of Career Services to find a position. More than 4,817 jobs and internships were posted last year to the office’s website, according to Tony Chiappetta, director of career services. In addition, more than 1,600 representatives from 166 companies were in touch with the career services office about positions for students.

“Internships and experiential education opportunities are extremely important. They allow you to test out possible employment options, complete industry related projects, and can give you tangible examples to highlight when speaking with potential employers,” said Chiappetta.

“Internships allow students to not only match their skills with a specific position, but also their values to the particular culture and/or organization, which is key to both potentially landing a job as well as in being satisfied with the choices you made,” he said.

Traylor’s daily tasks included assisting the firm’s architects with construction and interior drawings, master plans, zoning research, site visits, and elevation details. Traylor decided to intern with the Georgetown firm, in part, because it allowed her to work on local historic preservation projects — an interest of hers since the days of her college search. Traylor noted that working on these “delicate,” high-profile projects is challenging but fulfilling.

The hours that architecture majors spend on their studies at Catholic University is a “direct reflection” of the average workload for an architect, she noted.

“Deadlines are real, and if you aren’t finished with your tasks, you will need to sacrifice your personal time with friends and family to finish,” said Traylor. She learned this summer that architects have to meet deadlines set by their firm as well as “a whole army” of contractors, owners, and engineers.

Her internship also led to professional connections. At the firm, she worked with intern architect Hannah Irby, who earned master’s degrees in architecture and sustainable design through CUArch’s joint degree program.

Traylor’s advice to incoming architecture majors: Develop your portfolio. “Your portfolio is everything,” she said. Of the 42 firms she applied to, 32 responded, most of them offering her an internship in large part because of the personal website she built that displays art and jewelry she created, past and present sketchbooks, and University studio projects. “The website is a great way to show someone who you are and how you think,” Traylor said.

Senior Connor Schultz, a mechanical engineering major from Perkasie, Pa., landed an internship this summer with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As the largest biomedical research facility in the world, NIH offers numerous opportunities for the approximately 1,000 interns who work there every summer.

Schultz was one of nine interns working in the Signal Processing and Instrumentation section. Of the four projects that he worked on this summer, he was particularly excited about one on prostate cancer research. He and his team worked on “automating the process of generating 3D models of molds that are specific to each patient.”

The molds are sent to a 3D printer and then fabricated to be used after surgery. Schultz wrote the code that imports the model of the prostate, calculates where to split the mold, places slots for surgical cuts, and generates the final model that will then be printed and used by researchers. “It is a lot of fun being on such a dynamic project where we are directly affecting people’s lives,” Schultz said.

Schultz said that, because he had prior internships, he was offered five positions in the D.C. metropolitan area alone.

“My first two summers in college, I interned for a Navy defense contractor working on surveillance drones and I loved it so much that I thought that's what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” he said. “But this summer my mom convinced me to take the position at NIH and I am really happy with my decision.”

Using the experience that he has gained through his internships, Schultz said he hopes to go to graduate school for either robotics or aerospace engineering.