An internship in a NOAA laboratory during Summer 2016 provided a lesson in the value of collaboration.
Eric Burton, geography major in Appalachian State University’s Honors College, was awarded the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship that included a summer internship between his junior and senior years at NOAA’s Princeton, New Jersey, facility.
Burton’s 10-week paid internship at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory focused on checking weather models for accuracy and mapping predictions for the southern hemisphere. Specifically, Burton was monitoring tropical ozone concentrations in the lower atmosphere —“an air quality issue, and I examined it specifically in relation to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation and fire emissions.”
The NOAA facility, he explained, “is all about climate modeling, comparing the models to actual observations and seeing how well the model represents what is actually going on. Once you’ve established that it does a pretty good job, you can use that model to look at cause and effect.” The research collected at the Princeton facility ultimately “will contribute to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report – the word on climate change and specifically air quality,” Burton said.
Burton, who is on track to graduate this May, said the main career benefit of the internship was to provide experience that made him more competitive for graduate programs. “I do not plan to work in the specific field I interned in, but it was a good learning experience and broadened my knowledge of the environment, which is important.”
The value of collaboration was the big take-away from the experience, he said. ”The work we did was difficult, and the other interns and I often drew off of each other to complete our tasks.”
Burton said internships “are the best way to learn what you do, or perhaps don’t, like about specific career paths. It is a great way to try out a potential career without having to commit to it long term.”
He suggested those applying “look for a place where you won’t be the only intern. I spoke to other interns who worked alone the entire summer, and they said the process was difficult without having anyone else in the same boat as them.”