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Student Experience: Internship year at CFMS

As they reached the end of their internship year with us, our three interns, Jake, Nuala and Charles, reflect on their experience at CFMS and the skills they’ll take with them now that they returned to university. 

Could their experience inspire you to be our future intern?

An internship is a brilliant opportunity to gain practical experience outside of a university environment and at CFMS we support the new generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians to put theory into practice and expand their skills for real-life challenges. 

Being part of CFMS our interns have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with the latest digital engineering technologies and are exposed to a collaborative and engaging work environment, giving the interns new perspectives on the world of engineering.

Now that their year long internship has ended Nuala, Charles and Jake have returned to university to continue their degree, however we are delighted that this is not a final goodbye for all of them, as two of them will join us again next year to further develop their skills in the field. 

What course are you currently studying?

Nuala: I am currently studying Maths at the University of Bath. After my internship, I am continuing the final year of my master’s degree.

Jake: I’m studying Engineering Mathematics at the University of Bristol, and I have two years left of my master’s. 

Charles: I’m studying Engineering Design at the University of Bristol, specialising in Aerospace Engineering. Next year, I hope to begin a master’s in Computer Science.

What were your roles as interns at CFMS?

Charles: I worked in the Engineering Computing Service team (ECS), as an ECS intern. My role involved working on proof of concepts which the team use to work out the feasibility of the projects the team were undertaking or already working on. 

Jake: I worked for the Model Based Engineering team as an MBE intern, and my role and Nuala’s are quite similar to Charles, working on proof of concepts for existing projects that will also be beneficial in the future.  

What made you apply for an internship at CFMS?

Charles: ECS is the IT brain of the CFMS and understanding that this internship would give me exposure to IT and enable me to develop my skills further whilst having access to High Performance Computers, this was a big draw for me and too good an opportunity to miss.  Whilst there is no direct link between my engineering degree and the ECS internship, I knew this opportunity would be a great learning curve for me and help me decide on my career choices. 

Jake: I chose CFMS because the internship emphasised maths compared to some of the other placements. I prefer maths to the practical side of engineering as I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of it.

Nuala: Most advertised placements were mainly within finance and statistics, which I didn’t find interesting. I thought working in a digital engineering consultancy could be an exciting opportunity. I was happy to see this role at CFMS, where I could apply my maths skills. 

How did you find getting involved in real life projects?

Jake: The whole transition from University lectures to working on projects was very interesting. As soon as we started we were each given a project to work on which was a great way to find out how much of my knowledge is actually useful in practice. This also allowed my supervisors at CFMS to understand my interests and capabilities and it all stemmed from there. Further projects I was involved in were based on the areas that best suited my interests and skills. 

Nuala: I would agree with that. The idea has always been to give us projects catered to our skill sets which made the whole experience very enjoyable and so much more interesting. 

Charles: My perspective differs slightly from Jake and Nuala’s. As I said, I chose my internship because I wanted to develop my IT skills further and this is not directly related to my degree. But being able to express my interest and working with my supervisor to find out how my interests work in practice was a great opportunity to learn. 

What’s been your favourite part of interning at CFMS?

Nuala: It’s very hard to pick one favourite part however I would say being part of the CFMS team stands out above all. With my maths course, I am usually mainly on my own doing my work and do not do a lot of group projects. It’s been great to have people around me who I could share ideas with and who were there to support me with any questions I had. 

Charles: Yes, I would agree with that. Working in a team that supports and challenges you has made the internship experience very rewarding.  

Jake: I would also say the team at CFMS in addition to the support and knowledge-sharing aspect, are also very social and I’ve also enjoyed that aspect very much. The weekly running club and Tuesday treats in particular were a good way to speak to different people from different teams.

What’s been your favourite project?

Jake: The main project I did was the mathematical model of the data centre. The project was quite different to anything I’ve ever done before. The maths itself wasn’t difficult but there was a lot of complexity and so many parts to it, which made it a challenge for me – trying to work out how all these parts worked together has pushed me to think outside the box. 

Nuala: One project that I enjoyed a lot involved looking into the possibility of automating geometric optimisation. The general idea was that certain properties could be optimised for designing a component, e.g. minimise the material used whilst maintaining a connection between two points and strength properties. Even though the findings of my project were a mixed success, I really enjoyed the investigative part of it and the discussions I had with the team where I had to present my findings and support the decision making.

Charles: I really enjoyed being part of monitoring and maintaining the data centre. But there was more to it than just observing. One example was when Jake needed some data for the project he was working on I supported him by writing a script that would collect data to monitor the power consumption and temperature in the data centre. 

What's the most important skill you have learnt during your internship?

Nuala: I think the computer coding skills that I’ve learned at CFMS are the main thing I’ll be taking with me as I’ve spent a lot of my internship learning it.  

Charles: Similar to Nuala, I would probably also say programming. Being a self-taught IT explorer as I like to call myself, CFMS has enabled me to develop my programming skills beyond my expectations.

Jake: I think my primary skill will be learning how you manage and plan a project. I usually like to get on and get things done, which works well for short-term projects. However, for longer-term projects where there are clear customer deliverables needed and you’re also working with other colleagues, a lack of planning can lead to a lack of direction. 

What are you going to miss about being an intern?

Nuala: I’ve really enjoyed working with many people where I could get help and support on a regular basis. So that’s something I’m going to miss; being able to share ideas and solve problems is one key element to team success and at CFMS collaboration is the main ingredient to the day to day work environment.  

Jake: My internship has given me a different perspective on applying what I’ve learned in my course to a practical setting, which I’ve enjoyed and will miss. On the other hand, I’m also looking forward to returning to university, where I will cover a broad range of disciplines.

Charles: Being able to put into practice or challenge myself and the acquired knowledge is the part I will miss most. Being part of the team allowed me to expand my horizon in IT in ways I didn’t expect. Being able to check in with the team made the whole experience so much easier and intellectually richer. 

What’s next in your plan?

Charles: I’ll finish my undergrad next year and in a few months I will apply for a master’s in Computer Science at the University of Bristol. 

Jake: My next term at the University of Bristol is starting and I’ll have two years left of my integrated master’s. I look forward to applying my internship skills to my future coursework. 

Nuala: I am returning to the University of Bath for the final year of my master’s. I have a final year project which is a fifth of the academic year, and then modules and exams as usual. What the future holds afterwards remains to be seen, but further learning is what I am aiming for.

What advice would you give to future interns?

Nuala: I think my advice would be to ask questions. That goes from the moment when you are being interviewed for internships and as well as when you’re doing the actual internship. I would encourage asking questions, and many of them, even if they seem like silly questions. 

Charles: My advice would be not to be afraid to speak up and voice your opinion on what work you like to do. Only that way you will be challenged and learn what actually is of long term benefit.  

Jake: If you get a question during your internship and are unsure how to answer, it’s better to say you don’t know rather than pretend to know the answer. No one expects you to know everything when you first begin your internship because in fact this is why you’re here to learn and build on your existing knowledge. 

It’s been a pleasure having Nuala, Jake and Charles in our team. We wish them all the best in their future endeavours and certainly look forward to seeing them again next year. 

Interested in working with us?

Look at our Careers page for more information or contact us directly info@cfms.org.uk

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