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Intern of the Week: Christian Kalil at Penn State University

Learn more about Christian's summer experience!

Christian Kalil
Research Intern at Applied Research Lab Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA
Major(s)/Minor(s): Computer Engineering

Briefly describe your research position, including your day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.

It was my responsibility to document the working order of particular equipment used in oceanic acoustical analysis. I worked on understanding and troubleshooting CTD sensors which were used to take real time conductivity, temperature, and depth readings from the ocean whilst being dragged behind a vessel. The data acquired would serve to help understand how sound travels through the ocean. My day-to-day tasks included sensor testing in ambient air to determine the responsiveness of the sensors. I collected data from the sensors to determine modulation schemes of data transfer in order to fully understand how sensors operate. With this information, I then tested unresponsive sensors for possible data transfer miscommunications.

What have you enjoyed the most about your position or organization/company and what have you found most challenging?

I greatly enjoyed learning material far beyond my current schooling. This too was the most challenging part as I didn’t quite understand the problem at hand when I first started working. It took some time and even self-issued homework to understand the material necessary to solve the modulation schemes of the sensors. I enjoyed a great deal of trial and error, all the while learning from my mistakes. It was challenging but fun.

What have you gained from your experience that you could not have gained from another summer activity?

It has been my goal to attend graduate school, and earn a Ph.D in electrical engineering. I was always afraid of having trouble picking a research project for the degree. However, this experience has put me in contact with a lot of graduate students whom I have had the pleasure of working alongside. They were very open about their experiences and how they have progressed since receiving their undergraduate degrees. It was amazing to talk to them and hear that they had the same concerns as I have, and that everything turned out well. I would never have gotten such peace of mind doing anything else this summer.

How do you see your summer work as meaningful? Has it given you a chance to work on issues or with communities that matter to you?

My work will help the lab continue researching underwater acoustics, a field with many applications. Most commonly the research is used in SONAR and navigating and mapping underwater environments. It also has personal meaning to me as I was able to work with a lot of other students with goals and interests similar to mine. I was also able to interact with students of other majors working on worthwhile endeavors that I found interesting. It was great to work with the large research community that exists at Penn State.

How has your summer experience shaped the way you think about your power to impact the world?

My mentor is great! He helped me see that I have the power to impact the world. As only an undergrad with a lot more classes to take, I lacked the necessary background to fully understand the project I was working on. He didn’t directly help me understand the material; instead, he helped me to learn the material on my own. Despite the bumpy start, my mentor showed me a trust only granted to an expert. This greatly boosted my confidence from that of a lowly undergrad, to that of an accomplished researcher. I won’t soon forget what I am capable of, and will continue to achieve my goals.

Posted: November 26, 2012, 4:19 PM