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Interns get a taste of the real world

Almost every morning for 10 weeks, college student Emma Waugh has risen out of bed and logged onto her computer in her Cloquet bedroom to start work on a project for NASA. With specialized computer programs open, she spends her time coding and analyzing data from satellite imagery of several lakes in central Texas, monitoring for potential algae blooms. Waugh's four colleagues meet with her on Zoom at least once a day to discuss the project, and hours are spent learning in front of the computer.

"The data shows information from across the electromagnetic spectrum, so we can see things that are not visible to the naked eye, and those things can give us more information than a photo," Waugh said. "We can get temperature or estimates of chlorophyll concentration or turbidity because the light reflects differently than if it were perfectly clear water."

For Waugh, the internship is a valuable experience that will help her prepare for the workforce. She is one of many Cloquet students and graduates who have found summer internships.

Waugh was hired through Science Systems and Applications Inc., a company that employs scientists who then work on projects for NASA. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, employees are set up to work from home while tracking the Highland Lakes region outside of Austin. When the concentration of algae gets too high, it can produce toxins that are dangerous to humans and animals. This group uses their information to help the city of Austin and the Lower Colorado River Authority with monitoring reservoirs.

Waugh will finish her summer internship soon, and will then return to Middlebury College in Vermont, where she is majoring in geology, with a minor in food systems.

"This was a really cool way to apply something like remote sensing to water systems in a way that I've never had the opportunity to do before," Waugh said.

Angie Soderberg, Labovitz School of Business and Economics internship program director at University of Minnesota Duluth, said internships provide a chance to meet academic requirements, engage with professionals who have experience in the field, and relate the experience to pursuits and career interests.

The work experience is an "opportunity to explore their interests, identify their skill sets ... or determine a viable career path," Soderberg said.

Waugh isn't the only student from Cloquet High School who has found an internship related to their future career. CHS senior Harmony Tracy and graduates Isaac Stone and Christain Loeb all worked at internships this summer.

Tracy spent two months of her summer using a software mapping program and fieldwork to create a map of the different habitat types around the St. Louis River estuary. The internship was through Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and was made possible by a grant through Lake Superior Research Reserve.

Tracy was nominated for the internship, along with CHS sophomore Grace Lavan, by their science fair mentor, Cynthia Welsh, after both girls worked on mapping-related science fair projects this year. Tracy plans to major in environmental science or a similar field.

"I was super-excited about this internship because it's related to what I'd like to do in the future," Tracy said.

Stone, who is the brother of this reporter, found his 15-month internship when applying to online postings on Google and LinkedIn. He works as a supply chain purchaser at Parker Hannifin, a motion and control technologies company. He handles supplier accounts, determining when to purchase part components, negotiating pricing, quoting new part bundles, and expediting parts and material with suppliers.

"This internship has been entirely in-person since I started in February," Stone said. "Many of the employees are working one week on, one week off, but it's not really the type of internship that would translate well to an online format due to the steep learning curve."

Stone works 40 hours a week in the summer but will scale back to 20 hours during the school year when he works on his supply chain and operations management major at the University of Minnesota in


Christain Loeb is another Cloquet graduate who has found an internship related to his college major. His 10-week long, 40-hour-a-week internship is through Florida insurance giant GEICO. The internship is set up on a hybrid system, online and including trips to Florida for in-person learning.

"I specifically chose an out-of-state position to gain some perspective and take some time out of Minnesota," Loeb said. Like Stone, Loeb found his internship by researching on LinkedIn and Indeed.

At GEICO, he works as a business leader intern and research analyst. He and his fellow interns work on solving region-specific issues, such as new hire turnover, passing rates for the licensing of associates, and call times to increase worker efficiency. They present the newly found information and recommendations to management.

"We have access to any and all data we would ever need, and associates, managers, and directors are always willing to give their insight," Loeb said.

Loeb is majoring in economics with a minor in data analytics and entrepreneurship at St. John's University, near St. Cloud.

UMD's Soderberg said internships are also a way for employers to give back to the community and find new workers.

"There are a lot of industry areas that are looking to engage students through experiential learning," she said. "So many more and more employers are looking to leverage internship programs in order to recruit talent."

So the benefits go both ways, she said.

"I definitely have either improved or just gained some really solid technical skills in a way that I haven't been able to get just through the classes that I've taken," Waugh said.

Writer Lydia Stone is a summer intern at the Pine Knot News.