1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Engineering internship selection advice wanted.

  1. Sep 16, 2014 #1


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Hi all,

    I am a mechanical engineering student (Bachelor of engineering, 4yrs) , I will finish my degree around august 2015. I will not be doing any postgrad, I want to work in industry, specifically in product development/R&D.

    This Christmas holidays I'll do my second and final internship.

    At this point I've applied for a lot of positions and am starting to hear back/do interviews. I need advice on what would look best to potential employers.

    These are my top three options, I don't know exactly what I'll be doing at each;

    1) I have been offered an internship with my universities titanium research group. This research is very well regarded academically and receives a lot of funding. I like the professor and will meet him in the next few days to discuss/get further info.

    2) A local heavy engineering firm- I've made it to the final round of interviews. They design, build, install and maintain things like condensers for large power plants. Would involve contributing to designing a propriety roll cage for 'bush' converted excavators (for forestry sector).

    3) A local plastics company- No interview yet. They do injection molding, blow molding, tool making, product development, they have successfully taken to market a few 'shed' inventions. Would involve contributing to the design of a water bottle that contains a sachet in a foil packet in the lid that gets broken so the contents dispense into the water.

    My main question is; which would look best on my CV when I graduate and try to get into a company that does product development?

    1) is probably the most 'prestigious' but in an unrelated field, also it may be hard to impress the prof. for a good reference as he's probably used to high achieving Phd students.
    3) is the most related to my preferred career direction but I haven't even interviewed for it. I will find out acceptance/interview time frames soon, so will know whether i can wait for 3) or not.
    2) is in industry and is a fast growing company but not the area I want to be in.

    All will be paid (my last internship was $18/hr) so money isn't a consideration.

    Any advice/comments/questions are much appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Most companies don't "do product development" as an abstract idea. They develop some specific types of product - often very specific.

    What will "look best" depends very much on what sector you want to work in. There is a lot of research on properties of titanium related to aerospace. It should be fairly obvious what sectors of engineering are relevant for the other two on your list.
  4. Sep 16, 2014 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Think also whether you want to spend your career "hands on" problem solving, or switch to a management/supervisory track; 1) & 3) have all the glamour and topical "cutting edge" earmarks of engineering team "dead ends" with survivors moving to management, and 2) is a solitary trouble-shooting, dirty hands, bruised knuckles life for as long as you want to stay with it.
  5. Sep 16, 2014 #4
    Prestigious to WHOM?

    Gosh that titanium research sounds interesting; however, unless you're aiming to focus your career on engineering research, it could be a dead end.

    Building condensers can be interesting too. Plastics is getting rather interesting now that 3D printing is getting popular. Either of these two could be fun. The latter two could be a good stepping stone toward new opportunities. The first option isn't exactly a dead end, but you'd need to sell your skill set with a bit more vigor than you might expect. It could be an excellent entry in to gas turbine development. But you'll need to get past the hiring bureaucracy first....
  6. Sep 17, 2014 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Thanks, some great food for thought.

    I know most don't, and I'm told by lecturers those jobs that do are hard to get. This is why 3) is attractive to me, they've developed some very different products; small watercraft stability device, a trailer braking device, a cattle drug delivery device, a water recycling toilet, nappy pins, All plastic off course, but very different applications. Some of which were from conception to manufacture, or product concepts brought in by 'inventors'.

    I'm not sure, everyone? I assumed working with field leading research engineers on titanium(albeit in a very limited capacity) sounds more prestigious to most than working at a local company that builds heat exchangers or water bottles. Though I'm sure I could spin any of them in a good light and would learn a lot in any. But I don't know which employers would value most; industry experience or academic pursuits. I have industry experience from jobs before studying and my first internship, maybe something more academic would round it out well.

    I *think* I'd like to move to management but will wait and see how it looks from inside.
    Could you expand a little on what makes 1 & 3 dead ends? And in what sense? I mean, what wouldn't be a dead end?

    Overall I guess I'm confused over what employers actually want, and how I can get those things. There are many buzz words thrown about but specifics are harder to come by.

    From what I understand your first job as a graduate can often dictate your whole career trajectory so I want to get it right. The problem is it's hard to know what you want until you get there! I have a vague idea based on what course work I enjoy but that's so disconnected from what a working ME does I'm not sure what I'll enjoy most day to day.

    Any pearls of wisdom from working engineers?
  7. Sep 17, 2014 #6
    Other engineers will be impressed. However, there is a layer of bureaucracy in medium to large sized companies designed to filter out any applicants that haven't included the right keywords in their resume. They don't know and they don't care what sort of research you've done. They don't care what you might be able to bring to the project. They only know what they were tasked with finding. You can call this behavior many things: Ridiculous, Ignorant, Stupid... --but it is a reality that we all have to deal with.

    Actually, your first job as a graduate doesn't have to dictate your whole career. I know one guy who started off as a process engineer in a fish processing factory and is now an energy contracts manager (he buys futures on the electric grid).

    I know another guy whose degree was in electrical engineering and is now the CIO of a local water utility.

    The key thing to understand is that if you play within the rules of the bureaucracy, you will forever remain pigeon-holed in that sort of job. This isn't always a bad thing, but it may not be what you want. It helps to cultivate contacts, not just in your own company, but in other companies as well. Eventually, those contacts could develop in to something.

    So I highly recommend membership in professional societies, especially in those areas where you are curious and might like to try working.

    From the age of 20-something to your early 30s, you're still very much a sponge for information. At the age of 30 something, you'll start applying this information and experience in a big way. So feel free to bounce around and learn things from various places.

    The research job is not a bad place to start; but know that the other offers are also quite interesting and the contacts from there are more likely to lead to a more lucrative career (if that's what you want).
  8. Sep 17, 2014 #7


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    I'm curious about that, because whether or not titanium research is a dead end would depend on whether there might be private firms (say, a start-up or spin-off company) carrying out product development based on such research. I used to work for an engineering firm specializing in robotics & automation, which was a spin-off of research conducted by a professor in the mechanical engineering department of my alma mater.

    To the OP, when you discuss with the prof involved in the research, among the questions you may want to ask him is whether there has been any private sector interest in the titanium research involved, and whether he has any plans on commercializing his research in a start-up or spin-off firm.
  9. Sep 17, 2014 #8
    ...and assuming that a spin-off happens, what is the success rate of these spin-off companies?
  10. Sep 17, 2014 #9
    By "postgrad," do you mean beyond your Bachelors? Then I dont really see the attraction in Number 1.
  11. Sep 18, 2014 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    In the sense that, as described, I would suspect (don't know nuttin') that both place you as a "gopher" on a "team." The end result of the teamwork being the usual "camel" (horse designed by committee), and narrowly enough specialized that the experience gained is of little or no utility for whatever engineering problems might interest you in the future. Team players then evolve, with a high mortality rate, into managers. My bias is obviously in favor of "dirty hands" and getting things done rather than management, and the observations offered are worth exactly what you're paying me for them. As has been stated elsewhere in the thread, just out of school, you don't have to marry any lifelong plan first thing.
  12. Sep 20, 2014 #11
    I've looked through hundreds of internship positions and have only ever found 1 R&D internship. It was a well-known company within the automotive industry.

    If you have a chance at one of these and that's what you would do when you graduate, I recommend taking any that you find since they're hard to come by.

    Out of your choices I'd do whatever is most related to R&D since that's what you want to do. (So most likely the titanium research group)
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook