Name: Shaniah Reece
Internship, Co-op, or Research Site: NCAR | UCAR
Position Title: SIParCS Intern
Major or Program: Information Systems
Current Class Level: Senior
Work Term: Summer 2022
Tell us about your internship, co-op, or research opportunity, including your day-to-day responsibilities.
This summer I interned at UCAR | NCAR (University Center for Atmospheric Research | National Center for Atmospheric) as a SIParCS intern. In this role, I worked on a project with two mentors titled “Forecasting the COVID-19 pandemic”, where our goal was to demonstrate how Data Assimilation can enhance model forecasts by guiding them to more reliable predictions.
My responsibilities varied from project-based requirements to required weekly meetings, Professional Development Workshops (PDWS) and “Software Standups”.
For weekly meetings, I met with my cohort to catch-up and talk with my internship coordinator and our CODE intern (CODE stands for Community Outreach and Diversity Education) about how we were doing, upcoming opportunities or events (for example touring different NCAR facilities) and any action items we may need to attend to.
Each Tuesday and Thursday morning, I attended “Software Standups” with the team - this is an agile meeting format, where all team members would stand at their desks and give an update on where they were on a project and offer assistance to each other if needed.
Each Thursday, for about two hours I attended PDWSs which covered a range of topics, from diversity, to writing project grant proposals, to building and creating and delivering a poster presentation or talk. These were really helpful to our learning, professional development and were valuable in connecting us with various opportunities.
When I was not attending meetings I was spending time working on my project and meeting with my mentors as needed. For the first few weeks I focused on familiarizing myself with the content. This mostly consisted of learning about the SEIR epidemiological model and NCAR’s Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART). I also utilized LinkedIn learning or NCAR’s libraries to sharpen any technical skills I needed to.
I worked with my mentors to identify reliable COVID-19 data sources and imported and cleaned them for assimilation. I kept them mentors updated on my progress daily and reached out whenever I needed help.
Once my dataset was ready, I spent the mid to end period of my internship doing work in Matlab to parameterize, tune and run sensitivity tests on my model. Oftentimes I would reach a stonewall due to missing COVID data or varying reporting practices across countries, however we were able to adjust the focus of the project to accommodate these limitations, and demonstrate how effective data assimilation can be even in such cases.
In the final days of my internship, I accumulated my findings and spent time preparing an abstract, content, layout and story for my final poster and presentations.
Describe the process of obtaining your position. When did you hear of the position and submit your application?
Last Fall, I was fortunate to obtain a scholarship from the Center of Women in Technology (CWIT) to attend the Tapia Conference, where I met my internship coordinator, Virginia Do. I introduced myself and gave my elevator pitch in the manner I practiced beforehand at the Career Center’s workshops, then shared my post-graduation interest to pursue a PhD in Data Science.
Our conversation went very well and I was excited to learn about NCAR and its research. Though I was a bit intimidated by the project titles and was hesitant to apply, she encouraged me to give it a shot. I promised to follow up and made sure to do so. We kept in touch via email to make sure I got my application materials in. I worked on several drafts and asked her to review my materials before submitting to make sure I was all set.
This February, I received an offer to interview. I prepared as necessary, and received confirmation a few days or weeks after my acceptance to the project.
What have you enjoyed the most about your position or organization?
I enjoyed how balanced my experience was. NCAR|UCAR prioritized our well being and made sure it was well-rounded. For example, we had a CODE intern whose role was focused on building connections among our cohort. We toured the city, biked, rock climbed, volunteered, attended movie night; I even got to go skydiving with a few interns because of the connections they made possible!
How do you believe you have made an impact through your work?
I believe I was successfully able to demonstrate that models are helpful and very necessary especially in the epidemiological field. However, they are not perfect and data assimilation can help to compensate for some of their limitations.
What advice would you give to another student who is seeking an internship or similar experience?
Do not disqualify yourself. If you see an experience you find interesting, go for it!
Please provide a short reflection or quote about what you liked most about your position / earning internship credit / working with the Career Center.
I deeply enjoyed the community, environment, people and experience I've had during my time in Boulder. From Day 1, I felt part of the team right up until the end of my experience. I was stunned that interns from such different backgrounds could come together in the way we did: bond, laugh, and support each other once strangers in a new place.
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