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The importance of internships: my experience at CERN

November 7, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m in my final year of an MSci in Computer Science here at King’s and this summer I completed an internship at CERN. CERN is the European Organisation for Nuclear Research – founded in 1954 near Geneva, it’s one of the world’s largest centres for scientific research in fundamental physics. In a nutshell, they’re trying to find out what the Universe is made of and how it works. On the 4 July this year, they announced the discovery of a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson.

I was at CERN for a Technical Internship – which can vary between 4 and 13 months – but there are several different programmes of varying durations that you can apply for (you can find information about them here). I worked on an application to monitor one of their systems related with conferencing facilities. The system had a back-end, consisting of the monitoring open source core and various plugins, and a front-end custom GUI to display the monitoring data. It made use of various applications, programming languages and libraries – from Nagios to Python, PHP, JavaScript, jQuery libraries, Google Maps and Google Charts. It was a very useful hands-on experience that allowed me to put into practice some of the topics learnt during my degree, and also to further my knowledge of various tools and environments.

I would warmheartedly recommend every student to try an internship related to their field of interest, as it can provide a wealth of invaluable experience and equip you with both soft and hard skills – as well as being a good addition to one’s CV and making you stand out among other candidates in future job applications. If you aren’t yet sure of what field is of particular interest to you, internships are a great way to try different options and find out what fields or roles you enjoy most.

It is important to plan ahead, as the application process may take time and there may also be a range of options to choose from – some employer programmes open as early as November of the previous year and may accept suitable candidates ahead of the official deadline!

Advice on how to go about finding an internship can be found on the careers section of the college website: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/campuslife/services/careers/workexp.aspx. It’s also good to do your own search for suitable fields or employing organisations, not forgetting opportunities abroad.

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