Dec. 18, 2020

Graduate students love solving real-world problems and internships offer that opportunity

2020 graduate student interns apply classroom knowledge to industry
(From left to right) Nouran Habib, Atefeh Tarokh, Lyndon Rey and Vijul Shah
(From left to right) Nouran Habib, Atefeh Tarokh, Lyndon Rey and Vijul Shah

Every year, the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) encourages graduate students to pursue work-integrated learning, connect with industry, and gain new skills through the Transformative Talent Internships (TTI) program. Students may be eligible for additional funding and a completion bonus from FGS while having the internship formalized on their transcript.

To date, more than 200 graduate students have completed a TTI, with many crediting the experience for giving them more confidence in the workforce, confirming their career aspirations and leaving them better equipped to enter the job market after graduation.

  • Photo above: Grad student interns, from left: Nouran Habib, Atefeh Tarokh, Lyndon Rey and Vijul Shah.

Against the backdrop of a pandemic, graduate students from various programs, faculties, degree types and industries showed resiliency, innovation, and wit to find professional and personal growth opportunities through work-integrated learning.

"It is great to see so many graduate students from diverse faculties and backgrounds interested in our internship program and we are happy to offer this opportunity to UCalgary graduate students,” says Natalie Wilkinson-Houghton, My GradSkills’ business development specialist. “From my conversations, graduate students love taking on new challenges and I firmly believe that there is an internship out there for everyone."

Doing a TTI allows graduate students to practise their job-search skills, gain experience outside of academia, and test-drive careers and employment. Some of these test-drives may appear unconnected to some students’ programs of study, but there are many ways graduate students can translate their skills to careers outside of academia.

Lyndon Rey, a master's student in linguistics, interned as a data science and predictive analytics intern with Enverus, a company providing business solutions for the energy industry. Rey worked on building models to identify oil well pads from satellite imagery, and built and validated software that forecasts well permit-to-production time.

"Although my linguistics degree seems to have little in common with the energy industry, a lot of the machine learning concepts I used for my thesis were applicable and transferrable to the role,” says Rey. "I enjoyed being able to apply existing and newly learned perspectives and methods to real-world problems."

Although this was not the career Rey envisioned when he began his degree, like many other graduate students, he appreciated applying skills developed through his research to industry in unique ways. He says:

The biggest outcome for me was the confidence I gained. I proved to myself and future employers that I was able to succeed in a highly technical field, despite not having the expected degree.

Like Rey, many graduate students used their TTI to contribute positively to industry while developing personally and professionally. Here is what a few more students have to say about their 2020 Transformative Talent Internships:

Vijul Shah
Master's student, Architecture, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

Shah, an international graduate student, interned part-time with Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative Inc. from May to December as a designer. His internship gave him in-depth knowledge of technical drawing standards and advanced software like Rhino, Grasshopper and Revit. These experiences renewed his passion for his degree, and he looks forward to taking his learnings into the field of architecture after graduation.

"The thing that I enjoy the most is the opportunity to interact with practising architectural professionals and clients and experiencing pragmatic approaches to real-life projects," he says.

Nouran Habib
Masters' Student, Civil Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering

Habib completed a part-time internship with Alberta Transportation as a transportation modelling intern. Being an international student, Habib appreciated the ability to gain Canadian work experience while helping to make Alberta’s future roadways safer and more efficient.

"It was fascinating to engage with real-world transportation modelling projects and see them come to life, and now I am more confident about my transition from a graduate student to a professional in the industry after graduation," says Habib.

Atefeh Tarokh
Doctoral student, Chemical Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering

Tarokh assisted Ballard Power's research and development group with their modelling as a molecular dynamics simulation intern. She worked on molecular models to improve the efficiency of polymer electrolyte fuel cells.

"I gained a lot by completing this internship but my biggest takeaway was the realization that I really love research! It opened my eyes to the different ways that I can do research; not just in academia but that I can use my skills to make an impact in many different industries," Tarokh says.

With many remote internships available, the Faculty of Graduate Studies encourages graduate students from all faculties, programs, and backgrounds to start thinking about completing a TTI in 2021. Learn more about the Transformative Talent Internship program.

Read more Transformative Talent Internship Success Stories.