Confessions of a researchaholic

July 9, 2012

My take on internships as a professor

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:08 pm
Tags: ,

As someone spending the first decade of career in the industry and the second in the academia, I am naturally very positive towards students taking internships. I can see several main benefits:

. Learning; especially for practical stuff that is very hard or impossible to obtain in school. One of the key lessons I got from NVIDIA is that “ideas that work in the academia usually do not work in practice”.

. Networking; you can know more people, many of who may turn out to be good mentors, friends, or referrals/references for your future career development.

. Experience; I particularly encourage internships in another country, culture, or continent. People with broader life experiences tend to be smarter, happier, more tolerant, and more creative. Or simply put, better.

However, not every internship is beneficial. I usually only recommend opportunities that (1) are with top companies/groups/individuals in our disciplines, such as MSR, NVIDIA, Adobe, Autodesk, and Disney for graphics or HCI, (2) provide projects that fit your research direction, and (3) allow my participation and (better) can be continued after the end of the internship (these will benefit everyone involved). So, I will not recommend internships with non-top hosts, coding/implementation projects involving little research, or secret topics that cannot lead to publications.

The main point of internship is for your learning, not for making money, which is the purpose of work, which you will have plenty opportunities to practice after you graduate. The distinction between work and internship is very important, and I will not allow part time jobs during your study.

About qualification: because I only work with top people, I can recommend only students whom I consider qualified; otherwise the student will either not get the internship, or (worse) not perform up to the expectation, which benefits nobody. So, just like my general principle of being the best, make sure you perform well with me, and having some SIGGRAPH/CHI papers definitely cannot hurt.

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