Matthew Edwards was involved in diverse electrical and computer engineering internships throughout his undergraduate and graduate student years at the University of Maine. Internships offer innumerable opportunities, he says. And perspective.
“Academics are very different than the industrial working world,” says Edwards, a recent graduate working as a software engineer with Kepware Technologies in Portland, Maine. “Internships give you the opportunity to understand the value of what you’re learning, and the chance to interact day-to-day with colleagues and bosses. You also get a lot of good feedback, and the results have tangible, real effects.
“The experience is what you end up remembering, and what you learn is more valuable than the money given.”
Edwards, from Glenburn, Maine, majored in electrical engineering and was a teaching assistant in seven engineering classes. He also helped in the microelectronics lab and, in his first semester of graduate school, led the robotics laboratory.
Edwards was a member of the University Volunteer Ambulance Corps and UMaine’s Senior Skulls honor society. And he sang bass in a number of campus groups, including University Singers.
After his first year at UMaine, Edwards spent the summer as a project engineering intern with Sappi Fine Paper in Skowhegan, Maine. He worked with more than a dozen project engineers responsible for installing machines and process oversight.
“It was overwhelming in a good way,” he says. “I was handed way more responsibility than I expected, including responsibilities for projects that cost $10,000 and helping with million-dollar projects. It was great. I loved it. It gave me an idea of what’s expected of me on graduation — the responsibilities of engineering in the future.”
In his next project, funded as part of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program, Edwards worked with UMaine climate scientist Sean Birkel in the Climate Change Institute. Edwards assisted with coding the Climate Reanalyzer, an online software program used for visualizing climate and weather forecast models. His key contributions included porting MATLAB scripts to C, and developing an HTML/PHP interface template.
In 2011, Edwards received his undergraduate degree and launched his graduate research focused on a power industry-related project involving intense computation and streamed data of synchrophasors.
In summer 2012, Edwards was in Dayton, Ohio, for an internship with LexisNexis Special Services Inc. As a software design intern for the 10-week stint, Edwards focused on big data and visualization of identity resolution designed to understand the relationships between people.
“This built on my prior skills, but there also were specific subsets I used,” Edwards says of his third internship. “You leave understanding much more about a specific process. Then, in another internship, you drill down in another direction,” learning even more.