My internship at MIT Lincoln Lab

Kyle Denney, graduate student who interned at MIT Lincoln Lab over the summer.

Kyle Denney, graduate student who interned at MIT Lincoln Lab over the summer.

Name: Kyle Denney

Hometown: Dryden, Michigan

What is your major? I am pursuing my master’s degree in computer engineering as a member of the Cyber-Physical Systems Security Lab at FIU.

Where did you intern? What did you do there? I interned at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Lab where I worked as a summer research intern in the Cyber Security Division.

How did you get your internship? The CyberCorps Scholarship for Service I received at FIU provides me with opportunities to meet government agencies through events and job fairs. I came in contact with Lincoln Lab at a job fair hosted in Washington, D.C., in January of this year. I was asked to officially apply for the internship, and I was given an offer prior to leaving D.C. I began the internship in the summer of 2018.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? First, make sure your resume has been vetted by someone who knows you and can add details you may have forgotten. For this, my advisor —Selcuk Uluagac, an assistant professor for FIU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who also happens to be the director of FIU’s Cyber-Physical Systems Security Lab— was very helpful. From there, you just have to put your name out there. I never would have imagined I’d be working at the world-famous MIT, yet here I am.

What projects did you work on? I worked under Mike Vai, a senior staff member in the Secure Resilient Systems and Technology group at Lincoln Lab. Under Vai’s supervision, I worked on a cybersecurity project that involved UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) drones. Vai was a great mentor, and I learned a lot under him. Obviously my technical skills were required for the project, but Vai spent a lot of time guiding me in actually managing a project from start to finish. I can learn the technical skills anywhere, but it’s the soft-skills I learned that were the most valuable.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework? The most surprising part of my internship was how much the additional electives I’ve taken have helped. It’s been a recurring aspect of my work that the lesser known material (in my case, obscure math courses and digital forensics) have helped immensely in brainstorming for my work.

What was the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? The first day. Walking into the building that housed so many of the world’s smartest engineers for years and knowing I belonged was an incredible feeling.

What did you like most about your experience? Every engineer I know views MIT as this mythical construct that might as well be another planet. Sitting with the daily lunch group really helped deconstruct the myth and turn them into people just like me.

What did you learn about yourself? It’s okay to pat yourself on the back sometimes. I’ve spent so many years at school telling myself, “Just a little more and then I’ll make it.” I never stopped to realize that I’ve already come so far.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? I feel more than confident that I can effectively define my career path from here on out. In August 2019, I’ll be coming back to Boston as I was extended an offer of employment at Lincoln Lab just last week. The experience itself did wonders to my confidence, but now I can always rely on MIT being listed on my resume to give it that extra little padding.

How did you expand your professional network? My mentors here at MIT were wonderful with building my professional network. They’d constantly invite me to sit in on meetings and just listen, allowing me to meet the brightest minds in all matter of subjects.

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?” Every day was a new learning experience. There were countless opportunities to improve my speaking skills, management skills and, of course, a vast improvement in cyber-related skills. In the immediate future, this internship has me more than ready to prepare for my continued master’s work and thesis back at FIU. We’ll see where I’m taken after graduation, but my time at MIT has me ready for the challenge.