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Student Intern
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I have always wanted to work in the states after graduating and this opportunity allowed me to see, first-hand, how it will be to stay and work there. I had also recently been considering a year in industry and working outside of the UK gave me an insight into how research takes place in various parts of the world. This opportunity was also great for my CV and I gained knowledge that was directly related to the subject I study at Sheffield University. Also, I love experiencing different cultures and travelling is very important to me. By undertaking this work experience abroad, I was able to see the types of resources that Michigan State University had in their labs. I knew that MSU had a FACTS device in their electronics lab and I wanted to see that as well. Additionally, MSU also has their own cyclotron and I was able to look around and see a running experiment.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Speculative application

Application process

I emailed my CV to an associate professor, of the Electrical Engineering department at MSU, expressing my interest of interning in their lab. I was fortunate to receive a positive response with an offer of a 6-week summer internship. I was then sent the paperwork from the university which I filled out and returned and thereby received my DS-2019 for the J1 intern's visa application.

Main responsibilities

I was mainly based in the Engineering Research Complex ERISE (Energy Reliability & Security) lab. My task was to develop a microgrid testbed and use a real time digital simulator (RTDS) - which was in the lab. I was working on a testbed with a multi-agent control system using micro-controllers like the Raspberry Pi to provide control signals to the RTDS. This gave me experience with communication and embedded devices, in addition to power systems. I spent some time learning how the system works, and then, running the RTDS with different schematics that I produced using the RSCAD simulator software. At the end of the experience I wrote a brief report on my findings.

Typical day

On a typical day I would reach the Engineering Research Complex (ERC) lab by midday and read the thesis' that were sent to me by my supervisor in order to figure out what I would research that day. Then I would go through the tutorial book which, in detail, taught me how to use the simulator software (RSCAD) and run the real time digital simulator (RTDS) effectively. This would take a lot of time as I would have to work through each step in the tutorial and sometimes certain components were harder to find than others. I would then make some notes of things I learned that day - so that I could add it to my report. Then, a PhD student (who had previously worked on this topic) would arrive at the ERC at around 5.15pm to help me understand anything that I wasn't sure of. He would also help me run the RTDS and explain the relevance of the project in a broader context.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

I really liked the Michigan State University campus. There was lots to do even when I wasn't in the lab. The PhD students that worked in the same lab as me were very helpful and also very fun! The city of East Lansing was very vibrant and beautiful. My topic was very challenging which meant I wasn't bored at any point during the internship.

Challenging aspects

The overall topic was quite advanced. I had never worked with a real time digital simulator which meant I had to learn how to use a new software. I had also never used a Raspberry Pi and did not know what a multi-agent system was. I had to learn most of the things that my topic was based on from scratch so it took a lot of time and for most of the time there I was reading about the topic itself rather than having a lot of hands-on things to do.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

The software that I used was very similar to Simulink - something we used in one of our modules this year (Year 2, EEE226). This meant that it took me a little less time to get used to where all the components were within the program. The bus system that I was taught during my internship was also similar in concept to the decision maths I learnt during A Levels.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

During my placement I had the chance to go to MSU's electronics lab as well where there was a FACTS device and they were experimenting on a hybrid car. This was very fascinating to me and I asked the PhD students whether I could help around in their lab as well. Therefore it has influences me to change my module choices for third year - I was going to switch to just Electrical Engineering but I have decided to stick to Electronic and Electrical Engineering. Furthermore, I spoke to a lot of PhD students in the building and have started to think about the possibility of going in to academics and research after graduating - I would like to do a PhD.

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Form completed: 12 Aug 2017

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