Rising Star is a unique internship program offered by USC’s Information Sciences Institute for highly motivated, academically exceptional individuals who are seeking admission to Viterbi School of Engineering’s Master of Science program.
On top of pursuing the standard classroom curriculum, students will join an ISI research group and gain first-hand experience of what it’s like to work in the world of research.
Upon entering the internship program, each student is assigned to a mentor, with whom they will work together on a research project. Every detail that goes into shaping a student’s internship experience — whether that be attending meetings, learning from mentors, or tackling various technical challenges — enhances their ability to succeed in their academic and professional careers.
“Interns are allowed to tackle real-world problems and work on projects that they have interest in, and it’s exciting and impactful work,” says intern Erin Szeto.
Perhaps what’s most unique about the Rising Start program is the personalized aspect of it all. The program offers various tracks of study that are tailored to a diverse array of research directions, so that each student’s experience is of utmost benefit to their personal interest and future career.
Current Interns Share Valuable Insight
Szeto is a current Rising Star intern who’s pursuing the Research Data Scientist track. Each week, Erin attends meetings on Zoom to discuss GAWSEED (Global Analysis of Weak Signals for Enterprise Event Detection), the research project she participates in under the guidance of her advisor, Wes Hardaker.
Current intern Nicholas Klein, who’s interested in researching artificial intelligence, is also pursuing the Research Data Scientist track under the guidance of his advisor Filip Ilievski. Together, they’re working on a project about knowledge graph profiling, which looks at outstanding entities in large-scale datasets such as Wikidata. For someone who knew they wanted to get involved in hands-on research, the structure of the Rising Star program greatly simplified the searching process for Klein.
“While it’s possible to join labs by contacting them directly about open positions, this program pairs you with a lab even before the beginning of your first semester and is intended to continue throughout the entire course of your MS,” he said.
Both students regularly check in with their advisors to discuss progress and tackle challenges together. In addition, the students participate in other meetings that pertain to their specific research projects or other projects that are being conducted at ISI.
Evidently, there’s endless room for learning and building experience when you’re surrounded by exciting research projects left and right. The addition of a committed mentor-mentee program further structures the student’s experience into one that’s personally rewarding.
Personalized Guidance and Mentoring
The collaboration between an intern and his/her mentor is mutually beneficial — the student receives direct supervision and feedback, while the projects are of benefit to researchers at ISI and beyond.
“My advisor has shown me different ways to approach data and has taught me techniques that I’ll be able to utilize in any future work,” said Szeto.
Klein shares the same sentiment. “My advisor routinely takes time to check in on how my project work is coming and offers insight into what would be best to work on next or how I could try to address some problem that has come up.”
For mentors, watching the students learn and grow is rewarding in itself. When asked about the most rewarding part of working with his student Szeto, Hardaker expressed that he enjoys “seeing the determination and enthusiasm for applying newly learned techniques to problems and looking for solutions beyond the original goals of the work.”
“Since the beginning of the internship, Nic has consistently been driven and curious, proactively pursuing this research,” said Ilievski. “He’s an independent thinker, able to largely plan a path between a challenge and its solution, which is a very valuable trait in the research world.”
Next Year’s Rising Stars
Though the pandemic has forced students and advisors to convene online, the internship experience is nonetheless exciting. For students who are just starting their MS experience, being a part of the Rising Star program gives them a head start in research. The completion of such a competitive and hands-on program will greatly enrich any student’s academic experience by offering them an opportunity to apply their classroom skills in a real-world setting.
Prospective students with strong academic credentials are encouraged to apply for next year’s Rising Star program. At the heart of the application process is an online interview, where students have a chance to describe their interests personally and answer key questions about their goals for an internship. According to Szeto, it was an easy and flexible process because it allowed for applicants to record videos on their own time
For anyone who’s still on the fence about applying, take Erin’s word for it: “To anyone looking to apply, you’ll never be bored!”
For more information about the Rising Star Internships, click here.
Published on February 17th, 2021
Last updated on March 11th, 2022