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My internship at John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

My internship at John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

February 5, 2020 at 2:30pm

Name: Luis Carlos Puche Rondon

Hometown: I was born in Cartagena, Colombia. My family left Colombia in 2003 to move to Florida. I now call Weston, Florida my hometown.

What is your major? I am currently working on my Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a focus on the security of high-end smart systems such as smart homes, offices, classrooms and more under the supervision of Selcuk Uluagac, director of FIU’s Cyber-Physical Systems Security Lab (CSL).

Where did you intern? What did you do there? I interned at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) where I worked in a supporting role for two projects in the Asymmetric Operations Sector QAC group (AOS/QAC). JHUAPL was founded in 1942, during World War II. Its researchers, then and now, provide solutions to national security and scientific challenges with systems engineering and integration, research and development, and analysis. The four main areas of work for JHUAPL include air and missile defense, asymmetric operations, force projection and space science. 

How did you get your internship? Currently, I am in the FIU CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and co-sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security. This program prepares students for government jobs of cybersecurity. Through this prestigious scholarship that I was awarded in 2018, I have met multiple government agencies and have attended job events and career fairs. It was during one of these events that I connected with JHUAPL.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? First, know your audience, make sure you highlight your skills depending on the position you are applying to. One resume does not fit all applications. Second, have someone vet your resume. In my case, my advisor Uluagac, associate professor in the College of Engineering & Computing, helped immensely. Third, highlight your relevant projects and know them by heart. Interviewers will ask about what you have done and every detail about projects you’ve taken on in your own time.

What projects did you work on? I worked on projects specializing in data analytics. The projects I was involved with include traffic analysis and visualization of Internet of Things data. All the work was highly technical and required knowledge in different computer languages such as Java, JavaFX, API hosting, Web API and data analytics. There was also some learning involved in these technologies. It was an amazing experience to learn and work with such a skilled team at JHUAPL.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework?

Most of my technical skills, which I learned during my coursework, were an excellent help during this internship. Java was a big part of the coursework at FIU. In this internship, it was one of the primary programming languages used. As there were final presentations and demonstrations of the projects we were working on, the coursework I learned at FIU really helped with public speaking in front of groups. Especially, in our research groups with Professors Uluagac and Kemal Akkaya, director of research for Cybersecurity@FIU, since we have weekly speaking opportunities for all the student researchers in Uluagac's and Akkaya's labs, Cyber-Physical Systems Security and Advanced Wireless Security Labs.

What was the coolest thing about your internship that happened during your internship? During my internship, there was an exposition of all the projects from our sector. It was very interesting to see what other groups were working on and know what questions they were trying to answer through their work.

What did you like most about your experience? I have to say it was both the work and the group. The experience would not have been the same without both together. The team at JHUAL is great and they made the projects extremely enjoyable.

What did you learn about yourself? I learned that if I enjoy the work I am doing, I will perform better. Finding enjoyment in what you’re doing, whatever it is, helps in focusing and getting the job done.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? The team was extremely supportive. Seeing my work being used and not shelved away was a real boost to my professional confidence. Being able to meet deadlines and knowing I was contributing to something helped me have confidence in my work. Another notable thing was receiving positive feedback on my work which encouraged me to keep going.

How did you expand your professional network? There were plenty of events for interns at JHUAPL and I attended most, if not all of them. This was extremely helpful in making connections as well as references which my advisor suggested.

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?” There were many things to learn in this internship. You can’t know everything, no matter what you do, but you can try to be prepared. I tried to learn as quickly as I could so that I could contribute towards my assigned projects. This internship improved all my skillsets, from professional interactions to professional development. Despite having worked in industry and small businesses, working for such a large organization put me in a different environment in which I was happy to be in.