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 My internship at University of California Berkeley

 My internship at University of California Berkeley

October 7, 2019 at 12:00pm

Name: Patricia Garcia

Hometown: Miami, FL

What is your major? Mechanical engineering

Where did you intern? What did you do there? I interned at the University of California Berkeley, where I worked jointly in the Mechanical Engineering Department and the Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center (BSAC). I was part of the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute (TBSI), a collaborative research and education center of Tsinghua University and UC Berkeley.

Within TBSI, I worked at the Data Science and Information Technology Center, which focuses on advanced materials and device technologies to improve people’s quality of life with sensor networks. For example, in my specific project, these devices sense the smallest anomalies, such as weak signals from the radial artery, which could be an early sign of heart failure. My work was conducted in Lab 2A: Sensors & Microsystems, where I focused on wearable sensing technologies, integrated energy harvesting and storage systems.

How did you get your internship? I 've been involved in various research projects throughout my time in high school and at the undergraduate level. After spending the summer following my freshman year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), I applied online after I learned of the opportunity from a former labmate.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? Be open to change and new experiences! Seek opportunities, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone, leaving the only city you’ve ever known, and maybe going against the wishes of your Latino parents who instilled in you at a young age that it was a “sin” to even think about leaving your hometown (like my parents did)! It may be daunting at first to see yourself in an unknown place with unfamiliar faces, but these are the experiences that will build your character and allow you to receive invaluable experience in your field.  

What projects did you work on? I worked on wearable technologies that have the potential to yield medical assessment applications, such as the capability to identify common heart complications like arrhythmia and the means to determine the degree of hardening of human blood vessels.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework? I used a lot of my knowledge from my courses in mechatronics and circuits to understand and develop a prototype sensing system. It was extremely rewarding to see the real-world applications of content learned in the classroom, especially on a project that has the potential to revolutionize the medical care industry by improving clinical outcomes.

What was the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? Throughout the course of the summer, I had the opportunity of living at the International House (also known as I-House) located on the Berkeley campus, which is focused on promoting intercultural experiences and leadership skills for a world of greater understanding. Not only did I gain a global perspective, but my eyes were opened to the wonderful diversity of the world. From late night talks with my roommates from Taiwan and Hong Kong to Lebanese and South Korean coffee hours, my stay at I-House significantly enhanced my experience at Berkeley as it allowed me to experience foreign cultures by engaging with people from all over the world!

What did you like most about your experience? I really enjoyed the multi-institutional collaboration between Tsinghua University and UC Berkeley to tackle issues affecting the human population on a global scale. Not only did this experience provide a unique, global perspective to the world of research that I had not been exposed to yet, but it also encouraged me to look beyond my engineering curriculum to address global issues.  

What did you learn about yourself? Before beginning this experience, my understanding of the world did not extend beyond a couple of courses I took in high school and at the undergraduate level. I realized I was not globally aware, and my understanding of world cultures was minimal. Throughout my time at the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute, which focuses on establishing an ecosystem for transformational technology research that addresses global challenges, I gained a broad understanding of the world to tackle distinct engineering issues. I left Berkeley not only a more skilled researcher and engineer, but also a global citizen, which will also make me a more competitive engineer in the global market.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? This was one of the first projects I worked on where I was completely independent and had to troubleshoot to figure out why my device was not working on my own. I was able to successfully execute my device from a prototype stage to a fully functioning device and it was extremely rewarding to get to work on that. Seeing that I was more than capable of conducting this work reinforced my belonging in the field despite battling with imposter syndrome on a daily basis. Although I had three research experiences under my belt before completing my sophomore year, I still questioned my belonging in this field, but I now know STEM is where I am meant to be.

How did you expand your professional network? In addition to the traditional networking done in the professional setting such as in the lab, I also had the opportunity to grow my professional network in quite the unusual place - the dining hall! Every evening I engaged in various rewarding discussions with people from around the world and I can now say I have a global network of international friends. From friends studying business in Denmark to others studying film in Singapore, engaging in conversations with others from around the globe was truly life changing.

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?” This program solidified my belonging in this field and has impacted my career and personal growth. Not only do I feel more prepared for my future years as an undergraduate, but for graduate school and the STEM workforce as well. I look forward to expanding on my capacity to lead by inspiring a new generation of students to pursue higher education and become global leaders of their communities.

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 Garcia at the University of California Berkeley campus.

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Garcia with her cohort at the Berkeley campus. (Left to right): Veronica Conteras (UC Davis), Ryan Tsang (UC Berkeley), Alexander De Jesus (Yale University), Garcia and Sonia Martinez (UC Berkeley).

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Garcia working on her internship project,  a low-cost, wrist-based piezoelectric pulse sensor device. 

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Garcia presenting the final results of her work.