Release Date: January 18, 2002
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- When University at Buffalo physics major Stacey Serafin of Hamburg landed a coveted internship at Intel Corp. in Portland, Ore., last summer, that in itself was a substantial achievement.
Intel usually fills its extremely competitive internships with students -- often graduate students -- attending top schools and majoring in computer science, computer engineering and other engineering and applied fields.
But making it through the next 10 weeks was an even greater challenge.
"When I first got there, they were kind of skeptical," recalls Serafin, who noted that physicists have a reputation for being less concerned with applied matters than engineers.
Her task during her internship was to manage the redesign of an area on the printed circuit board, including construction and testing.
"I was working on what could be the motherboard of the future," she said.
"My supervisors had an idea about how to redesign this one component, but they didn't know if it would work and they left it open as to how it should be done. My job was to develop a way to implement the idea, to perfect the design of the experiment and ultimately, to see if the idea would work."
Serafin worked with the board engineers at Intel to obtain the data she needed, hired subcontractors outside Intel to manufacture the new boards and then worked with Intel engineers and technicians to build the new component and put it on the motherboard.
"I had to propose a way to get the project done, I had to get people both inside and outside Intel to cooperate with me, and I had to do it within the budget they gave me," she said.
Tens of thousands of dollars later, but well within her budget, Serafin presented the final product to her supervisors.
On her project performance review, she received an "outstanding," the highest possible rating. In addition, her supervisors praised her tremendous initiative, high motivation, "exceptional" ability to influence others and drive for results, as well as her ability "to drive an aggressive schedule" for designing and building a manufacturing test vehicle.
The experience enabled Serafin to sharpen her (already honed) communication skills.
"I have a greater sense of myself now because of a job well-done and I have a much greater sense of what goes on in the real world," she said.
What prepared her most for the challenges at Intel? According to Serafin, it was her laboratory internships at UB, including those where she performed the duties of a so-called "lab rat," cleaning metal tubing, changing mechanical pump oil and doing other not-very-glamorous, but essential tasks. She also learned how to use an evaporator, a piece of equipment that boils aluminum so that it can be deposited in its liquid form on to different substrates.
That experience helped her land her current lab position working for Cemal Basaran, professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering, where she assists him in his research on non-destructive testing of computer chips.
Her UB laboratory internships also were most relevant to her landing the internship at Intel.
Serafin, a graduate of Frontier High School, is now contemplating attending graduate school in the field of mechanical and aerospace engineering.