Meet Our Interns
This year, RJ Lee Group is hosting two interns through Penn State New Kensington’s G.R.E.A.T.1 Program. What is most exciting is that, as a corporate sponsor, RJ Lee Group has mentored these students throughout a high-school-level program that funneled into a college-level program. James (Jimmy) Serra and Meng Huo Tang were both enrolled at The Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy (SciTech)2 under a program known as Executive Experience when Jimmy and two other SciTech students interned for the 2013-2014 school year at RJ Lee Group. At that time, the interns were under the guidance of Dr. Chris Hefferan working on a failure analysis project. Today, Jimmy and Meng are part of the G.R.E.A.T. program in the field of engineering and are working with Hank Beebe, Instrument Services Manager and Alan Berginc, Technician.
Engineering students at a materials characterization laboratory?
In a company that has one of the largest electron microscopy laboratories in the world, there is a lot to do for someone interested in an engineering career. Instrument Services is responsible for ensuring that each instrument remains in optimum condition and delivers results quickly. Part of the interns’ learning experience is assisting Hank and Alan by not only learning how to operate the instruments, but understanding their components as well as how to maintain, calibrate and service them. Both students admitted that, though they really enjoy tearing down instruments and putting them back together again, they’d also like to experience other aspects of the company such as sample prep and analysis as well.
What’s the most difficult part of the internship?
According to Jimmy, the most difficult thing is being a freshman in college and not having the knowledge that everyone else has. Meng feels that scheduling is the toughest part because the school schedule makes it difficult to come in as much as they need to. However—a light at the end of the tunnel— the end of school year is approaching and summer internships segue into full-time work. There may be more time then to explore other departments where they can fill a need while expanding their know-how.
What’s the best part about this internship?
Meng believes that the definition of engineering is basically solving problems, and that’s what both he and Jimmy are doing. Both interns believe that this opportunity takes what they are learning in class and applies it to what they are doing at RJ Lee Group. And that’s where all that studying pays off.
What’s the take-away from this opportunity?
Both interns hope to learn things like what people actually do on a day-to-day basis and what academics can be applied—knowing what life is like in the real world when they graduate from college
What lies ahead?
Neither student is exactly sure of what lies ahead career-wise but neither would mind doing what their mentors are doing now because, according to Meng, “you get to literally do something different every day.”
How ready are these young men for real-world experiences?
According to Hank and Alan, the interns are both “always on time and getting to the stage where they can work with minimal supervision.” That’s not always easy for a college student! “Both Meng and Jimmy are so well liked,” Hank comments, “that other departments are thinking of how to use their skills and time once the semester at school ends.” So, whether it’s removing diffusion pumps from a TEM or patching walls and painting rooms, both students are getting ready for that real-world experience.
Jimmy and Meng are usually in house on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 1-4 PM. Stop in and say hello. You’ll find them wherever Instrument Services is hard at work.
20+ Years Enabling Science in Education
Throughout its more than 30-year history, RJ Lee Group has always been passionate about education and actively involved in supporting it through elementary, high school and college programs. Beginning in 1994, RJ Lee Group funded a microscopy laboratory at West Greene High School in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The program expanded in 1997 through a grant that allowed the school to purchase a scanning electron microscope (SEM) for which RJ Lee Group provided instruction and assistance with lab operation. In 2002, the company was the recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) SBIR grant, and with the assistance of an independent, nonprofit education reform enterprise, developed an interactive web module that uses microscope simulation in the classroom for students throughout Pennsylvania in grades K-12. These programs, which first brought electron microscopy into the classroom, spearheaded a legacy that in 2011 donated a scanning electron microscope to a college to inspire student interest in STEM fields.
1 The G.R.E.A.T. Program
Growing Regional Excellence Through Experience, Academics and Training
The G.R.E.A.T. Program is an initiative at Penn State New Kensington. It is a partnership that includes Penn State New Kensington, the Penn State Electro- Optics Center and local industries which matches promising Penn State New Kensington engineering students with local opportunities. The goal of the program is to provide local industries with someone who can hit the ground running upon graduating—someone who easily fits the company culture with the skills necessary to become a contributing employee. The engineering internship can continue for up to four years or for as long as the students are enrolled at Penn State New Kensington. During the semester interns work 10 hours/week and in the summer, they work 40 hours/week at the internship site. The program was announced in the summer 2011 and is now a part of Penn State New Kensington’s annual recruitment efforts. New interns begin in January.
2 SciTech Executive Experience
The Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy (SciTech) opened in 2006 with grades 6 through 9. Today the academy hosts students through grade 12 and features a unique academic program called Dream, Discover, Design. This program allows 10th grade students to pursue coursework in advanced areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). One of the highlights of this program that is required for 12th grade students is the Executive Experience, a field-based course of study in which students design and implement a real project for a real client (local company) during an authentic work experience.