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Students from All Walks of Life on Board as Interns

May 2, 2001

An internship program in desktop support offered by the Computer Infrastructure Support Department is literally drawing students from all walks of life.

George Eaton’s career path led him to a long stint in restaurant management before he made it to the Lab. Brendan Kelly had earned his degree at Cal and was out in the working world when he decided to go back to school. Bill Ou’s main experiences with electronics had been as a salesman. Nguyen Hua had previously been a summer intern at the Lab and this is his first computer job.

Despite their different backgrounds, all are looking at a future in the field of networking and computing. And the 20 hours a week they spend as members of the desktop support staff at the Lab is giving them valuable hands-on experience.

“Hopefully, this is a way into a career at the Lab – there are a lot of good opportunities here and a lot of good people,” said Eaton, who bought his first computer four years ago. “There’s a lot to learn about hardware and software.”

Eaton works about eight hours a week on the central Help Desk, taking calls, answering those he can and forwarding the more challenging to the appropriate people. He also goes out into the field with engineers from the Mac/PC Support Group to install and troubleshoot systems. He’s also taking two classes in computers at the College of Alameda.

Hua studies at Laney College and first heard about the Lab from his brother-in-law. When he learned about the internship program partnership between the Lab and the Peralta Community College District, he applied.

In addition to working the Help Desk and doing desktop work in the field, he also spends some of his time working with the LBLnet group, doing inventories and upgrading switches on networking equipment around the Lab. Like his fellow students, Hua can be identified by the “Student Intern” badge he wears when working in the field.

“I’m learning new stuff here every day, and I’m able to apply at the Lab what I’ve learned in the classroom,” said Hua, who’d like a career as a network engineer at the Lab.

Another project he’s working on with the other interns is categorizing the types of call the Help Desk receives. The goal is to get a better handle on the major problem areas and then improve training and support in those areas.

Brendan Kelly is also helping to classify the “trouble tickets” from last year, which are being sorted into 10 different categories, such as hardware, software or email. He also spends some time on the Help Desk, answering calls. While he can help resolve some problems, the main goal is to make sure as many calls are picked up as possible, so callers don’t hang up in frustration of not being able to connect to a person.

“This internship is great,” he said. “You get good exposure to different operating systems and platforms – a lot more diversity than you see elsewhere.”

Kelly had earned a degree in biology, focusing on human physiology, from UC Berkeley and was working in the health care field when he got interested in computers. “I started taking a few courses and decided this is the way I want to go,” he said.

He splits his coursework between Alameda and Laney colleges and learned about the Lab internship program from a flier on a bulletin board. In addition to getting course credit, the interns are also paid for the 20 hours they work each week here.

For Bill Ou, fixing computers and solving networking problems is a lot more interesting than selling electronics at Sears. “This internship is a good learning experience – and it’s not too stressful,” Ou said.

He’s currently in his second year at Laney and Alameda colleges, studying English, art history and data structure. He learned about the internship in networking class and, like his fellow interns, has been at the Lab since January.

Ou works with the Mac/PC Support Group, loading software on new computers as they arrive and going out in the field to set up computers and printers.

The internship includes an assessment of each student’s skill at the beginning, middle and end of their stint at the Lab. They also attend weekly sessions with technical staff to get additional hands-on instruction. They also meet with their professors on campus to discuss their work here and progress in meeting their goals.

“I really enjoy working with these interns and helping them channel their interest and enthusiasm in a way that’s beneficial,” said Gayle Peuser, head of the Mac/PC Support Group. “And while they’re learning, they’re also helping our technical staff and the Lab in general to be more productive.”

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

The Computing Sciences Area at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provides the computing and networking resources and expertise critical to advancing Department of Energy Office of Science research missions: developing new energy sources, improving energy efficiency, developing new materials, and increasing our understanding of ourselves, our world, and our universe.

Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest scientific challenges are best addressed by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable energy and environmental solutions, create useful new materials, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from around the world rely on the Lab’s facilities for their own discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.