Local companies have realized that hiring NIU math graduate students adds up to solutions on both sides.
Like other fellow students, Erik Rodgers, a graduate student in the math department, is required to intern in the “real world.”
So far, students have been successful interning at Abbott, Baxter International, CNA, Caterpillar, UTC Aerospace Systems (formerly Sunstrand), and Woodward.
As a paid intern this summer at UTC, a Rockford aerospace company, Rodgers realized that his math ability made a significant difference.
While working on a computer model of an electric motor that wasn’t performing fast enough, Rodgers discovered that an algebraic loop was causing an artificial delay. Rodgers doubts that he would have figured out the problem if his studies had been confined to computer science like he had originally planned.
Ben Wallis, a Ph.D. candidate in math, completed his internship during the summer at Woodward, a Rockford company involved in technologies related to aerospace and energy markets.
“It was a huge learning experience for me,” Wallis says. “My career is going to take place almost entirely in the ivory tower. And so it was quite a shock to see how a large commercial firm like Woodward operates.”
Many NIU math students anticipate a career in academia, but discover that other doors can open through the internship program.
Hamid Bellout is the math professor responsible for shepherding the internship program so students can apply their education to real-world decisions. Although Bellout is working to expand the program to more industries, it’s been difficult at times to convince companies that math students are the best hiring choice. However, once companies have seen the energetic and bright students at work, the benefits are obvious, he says.