MITRE Interns Advance Innovation—and Their Careers

Interns in a lab

McLean, Va., and Bedford, Mass., May 29, 2019—What do a Waymo executive, a Fulbright Scholar and a graduate student at Harvard have in common? They all spent time in MITRE's Emerging Technologies student research and development program, one of several internship programs that attract more than 400 students—high school to post-docs—each summer.

Mike Montemerlo, now a senior staff member and technical engineer at self-driving car maker Waymo, was an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University. He spent the summers of 1994 and 1995 at MITRE in the Emerging Technologies program under Dr. James Ellenbogen and co-authored two highly cited publications in technical journals with other student researchers and MITRE staff.

"The MITRE internship with Dr. Ellenbogen was a great introduction for me to life as a professional scientist, not only the technical aspects of the work we were doing but also the process," he said. “Even though the field I work in is different now, that process I learned from Dr. Ellenbogen is still the same."

MITRE's goal of fostering more forward-looking ideas has driven the Emerging Technologies program to grow substantially, from 14 student investigators at its McLean location in 2017 to 33 in McLean this year, including 22 high school students aged 14 to 16 years. The program has expanded to other MITRE campuses hosting 80 students in Bedford; San Diego, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Huntsville, Ala. MITRE expert senior staff members serve as mentors, offering consistent support and guidance throughout the summer and often throughout the student researcher's career. 

"MITRE's student researchers are really smart people, forget that they are young," said James Ellenbogen, head of the Emerging Technologies Summer Student Research and Development (R&D) Program. "We’re harnessing their ability to contribute to the technical problems we have. Students in the program have made important technical contributions that have led to groundbreaking outcomes at MITRE and in their careers."

Alex Atanasov, who began working at MITRE as a high school intern in 2014 in the Nanosystems Group, has been awarded a prestigious five-year Hertz Fellowship, one of only 11 graduate students in the nation to hold this honor. Atanasov, who remains with MITRE as a student researcher, was also chosen for the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. He is a physics graduate student at Harvard University.

Between 2014 and 2017, Atanasov investigated ultra-tiny, nanometer-scale carbon particles called fullerenes and became the lead author of a paper that was published in the journal Physical Review A

“Dr. Ellenbogen was a great source of help and advice in my graduate and fellowship applications, and I still draw heavily from the presentation and communication skills I learned while working at MITRE,” Atanasov said.

Pooja Chandrashekar spent three summers at MITRE helping to develop a system to diagnose brain injury. During her time as a student researcher, she says, she discovered a passion for biomedical engineering.

"I was really looking for a way to apply computer science to solve real world problems," she said. "The project was pivotal in the decision to study biomedical engineering and later on pursue medical school, it absolutely played a critical role."

Chandrashekar graduated from Harvard in 2018, and recently returned from India, where she was conducting public health research as a Fulbright Scholar. She will attend Harvard Medical School.

MITRE interns contribute to and learn from hundreds of state-of-the-art R&D projects. They also have opportunities to meet their peers, diversify their skills, and display what they have learned to wider audiences by taking part in a hackathon, an embedded security Capture-the-Flag competition, and an end-of-summer showcase of their work, among a number of company-wide activities offered to them.

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Media contact: Jordan Graham, media@mitre.org

 

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