Studying in the US had always been a dream of Angie’s, a student from Indonesia eager for a hands-on chemical engineering education. When exploring her university options, Angie was drawn to University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) for all the professional resources it offers to international students.
“When I first heard about the great things UIC Global is doing to help international students, I knew that I wanted to be a part of that community. Ever since coming here, I have had an endless number of research and networking opportunities,” she said.
Angie is one of more than 4,000 current undergraduate students studying in the UIC College of Engineering’s 10-plus degree programs, where students are prepped for successful careers from the start. The coursework is built with the primary goal of providing students with the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to be competitive in the job market.
Students also have access to a dedicated Engineering Career Center to help them connect with professional opportunities year-round. Plus, the College of Engineering even provides first-year engineering students with the unique opportunity to serve as paid interns over the summer after their freshman year through the Guaranteed Paid Internship Program (GPIP).
GPIP, founded and supported by faculty and the Dean of the College of Engineering, encourages students to start building their networks and improve their professional and leadership skills early in their university career. The program is unique to UIC, which occupies the distinct advantage of being a top research university located in one of the largest and most economically diverse cities in the country. While other universities may offer similar programs that guarantee internships for students, it is rare to find a program where those internships are also guaranteed to be paid.
First-year students are eligible to participate in the program if they meet certain qualifications, including a minimum 3.2 GPA requirement and completion of prerequisite courses, including Calculus I and II with a B or higher by the end of freshman year. Students are then placed in paid positions in one of UIC’s 42 research labs, as well as in other university departments. The type of research students are involved in varies, depending on the labs they are assigned to within their major.
Ameesha, a computer science student from India, was assigned to a research lab with Professor Isabel Cruz, who specializes in data analysis. “We were a part of a project [that] used data from social media to figure out which areas were in need of supplies during a natural disaster, by analyzing tweets and the urgency of social media posts,” she explained. “This information was then conveyed to the people who deal with supplies.
“I would say [my internship] was an amazing experience,” Ameesha continued. “I got to work with such a renowned professor, who did everything to support us, including providing resources such as two Ph.D. students to help us understand database management tools like SQL. The project also introduced us to different ways of working in teams and different tools for the same.”
Other research topics from summer 2019 included using social media for wildlife conservation, collecting data for human brain imaging and neural networks, and exploring biologically derived dye-sensitized solar cells and layered nanomaterials.
Working on projects through GPIP, under experienced professors and research assistants, is a great way to make connections and gain valuable experience that will eventually help me with my career.”—Aryan, computer science major, India
Aryan is not wrong — a 2018 First Destination survey of 400+ recent college graduates showed that of those who reported being employed full-time, 85.7% said they had completed at least one internship while at UIC. Employers included Amazon, Boeing, Google, IBM, Motorola Solutions, and Tesla, among other leading companies.
This year, the College of Engineering is piloting a new part of the internship application process, where students will be able to view a description of each opportunity within their major and rank their top five preferences. The department coordinators will do their best to honor the preferences of qualifying students.
“UIC has given me a unique opportunity to take part in the Guaranteed Paid Internship Program where I got to spend eight weeks working in a research lab,” said Angie. “I knew I made the right choice of coming to UIC because of how much support and opportunities I’ve been given to network not just in UIC, but across Chicago.”
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