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UMSI students try out their dream jobs

A grid of four photos — one from each featured internship — with the UMSI logo and the text "summer internships" in the lower left corner

Wednesday, 09/06/2023

In the heat of a D.C. summer, Jasper Forster (MSI ’24) stood in a high-security, temperature-controlled vault deep in the Library of Congress, surrounded by 1,700 flutes. 

As part of the Junior Fellows Program, a competitive summer internship at the Library of Congress, Forster got an insider’s look at the library’s vast collections — including some national treasures. The Dayton C. Miller Collection, known by staff members simply as “the flute vault,” is the largest collection of flutes in the world. It made national news in 2022 when Lizzo stopped by to play a crystal flute that belonged to James Madison.

For Forster, a flutist, stepping inside the vault was a surreal moment. “Every flute player knows of it,” they said. “I walked in and I was overwhelmed. They had essentially every flute you could imagine.” 

Forster studied music performance in undergrad, before coming to the University of Michigan School of Information to pursue a Master of Science with a focus on archives, library science and preservation. “I would love to combine my two degrees into one job,” they said. “That’s why this internship was important. It allowed me to do essentially what I want to do in my future.” 

A selfie of Jasper Forster taken on top of the Jefferson building dome of the Library of Congress with the Capitol building in the background.

As a junior fellow, Forster worked in the music division, locating 20th century music manuscripts and reporting them to an online database called RISM (Répertoire International des Sources Musicales). He chose to focus on manuscripts by African American composers active from the 1920s to 1950s. By creating digital records, he enhanced the visibility of these manuscripts for users around the globe.

Forster first heard about the Junior Fellows Program from Jesse Johnston, clinical assistant professor of information, while taking SI 666 Organization of Information Resources

They hadn’t planned on pursuing an internship, but after reading the internship description that requested “a background in music history” and “the ability to organize data,” the opportunity seemed too perfect to pass up. They received funding from UMSI’s Barbara Yaney Palmer Experience Internship Award to defray living expenses, placing the internship in reach. 

Forster’s internship gave him access not just to passcode-protected vaults, but to the actual experience of working as a music librarian — a career that he now has more confidence in pursuing.

“I feel very sure about what I’m doing now and what I want,” they said. 

Clear as a bell

Whether UMSI students explore a long-held career interest or step into a new domain, many have revelations like Forster’s. “Internships often help students learn a lot about what kind of work they enjoy and what they value in a work environment,” said Jordan Hansen, assistant director of undergraduate career education. 

Jasmine You (left) stands with a fellow summer intern to the right of the Biogen sign outside the Biogen building.

Jasmine You (MHI ’24) spent the summer interning at Biogen in Boston. She worked as a knowledge capture/transfer intern on the global regulatory strategic operations team, which is responsible for optimizing drug development strategies, processes and communications. “I’ve gained a lot of problem solving skills,” she said. 

You’s role drew upon her interests in healthcare, data analytics and business strategy. One of her projects was to assist in building an analytics dashboard using Microsoft Power BI. “There are multiple systems that the regulatory space uses, but all the data are kind of in silos,” she explained. The dashboard she worked on brings this data together in one place, making it possible to generate strategic decisions and, in the long run, “be more predictive.”

Drug development can be a decade-long process, so You was surprised that she got to witness the FDA approval of two Biogen drugs during the course of her internship — one for Alzheimer’s and one for postpartum depression. Each approval comes with a celebratory bell-ringing. “I never realized how that might impact me as an intern,” she said. “Internally, you’re seeing all these milestones being achieved.” 

She left her internship with new clarity about how to combine her career interests. “I can see myself working in this space in the long term,” she said.  

According to data collected by the Career Development Office, 99% of Master of Science in Information graduates in the class of 2022 reported internships as valuable to their job success, along with 96% of Master of Health Informatics graduates and 90% of Bachelor of Science in Information graduates. Across programs, respondents ranked networking as one of the most effective job search strategies, demonstrating the value of the connections students make during internships.

No curve balls here

For Ryley Larson (BSI ’24), the summer internship was a return home: to the sport he played for two years of junior college and to his hometown of Olympia, Washington. 

Ryley Larson stands beside his internship supervisor Donnie Marbut in an office.

Larson received a grant from UMSI’s Ehrenberg Internship Fund that enabled him to work as an associate area scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. He traveled to games with area scout Donnie Marbut, acting as a second pair of eyes as they collected data on promising players in the Pacific Northwest.

As “Moneyball” viewers know, data analytics has transformed how baseball is played and how players are scouted. Instead of saying, “‘I heard him hit the ball really loud,’ now we can say that it’s going 110 miles an hour,” Larson explained. 

The son of a high school baseball coach, he is no stranger to baseball speak. But Larson’s internship allowed him to bring his studies in information analysis — including SI 311.030 Sports Analytics — onto the field, where he could interpret the data and then act as a translator.  

He gave the example of exit velocity and launch angle, key data points that are captured by the camera-based analytics system. These terms, while innocuous to the baseball outsider, inspire heated debate among some coaches. “A bunch of my dad’s friends hate it,” Larson joked. “Every time they see me, they get after me about it.” 

But old-school baseball coaches have always told their players to hit the ball on a straight line. “Now we can put a number to that and say, yes, in fact, the head-high line drive does get more hits than a pop-up,” Larson said. “We’re saying the exact same thing. We’re just being a little more precise in doing it with numbers instead of what we feel.” 

His favorite part of his internship was forming relationships with scouts and baseball executives. Larson was intimidated by their decades of experience, but he found that even the most seasoned scouts were eager to talk to him, too, once they heard what he was studying at U-M. 

“One of the biggest things I was able to learn through this whole experience was that I love being around the game in the physical sense,” Larson said. Instead of becoming a “back-office data scientist,” he now gravitates toward “a hybrid role where I’d get to do both: wrangle with data and also be at the field talking to players, coaches and scouts.” 

The future is in sight

Percy Long (MSI ’24) didn’t have to travel far in order to help create the future of travel. In Farmington Hills, Long is working in a satellite office of the software company Cerence, which develops artificial intelligence technology for automobiles. “What I’ve been doing is building a bridge between technology and human beings,” he said. 

Percy Long stands with his internship supervisor in front of a Cerence sign.

As a UX intern, a position that he was invited to extend into the fall, he is testing two technologies that are intended to create a more seamless interaction between driver and car. One technology eliminates the need for wake-up words — like “Hey Google” and “Hey Siri” — when using a voice assistant. The other, called Cerence Look, detects a driver’s gaze to facilitate interaction with points of interest outside the car. 

“Basically, you look at something and you can ask what it is or give a command,” Long said. For example, a driver could glance at a coffee shop down the street and ask the voice assistant, “Does that shop have WiFi?” 

Long said he benefited from courses like SI 622 Needs Assessment and Usability Evaluation and SI 501 Contextual Inquiry and Consulting Foundations, which taught him methods for interviewing users and collecting and analyzing data. But his internship has also represented a new experience. “I used to only have UX design experience — designing websites and apps and making them more user friendly,” he said. “But this was a little bit different, because it’s UX research. So it gives me a diverse background.”

He was excited by the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technologies and have an impact on products that he’ll someday see on the market. Down the road, Long hopes to become an entrepreneur himself. 

As an international student from China, he is aware of the additional challenges he might face in finding a job in the U.S. after graduation, given the need for visa sponsorship. When he was deciding between graduate programs, he heard about the comprehensive resources offered by the Career Development Office, including a designated career advisor. This was the deciding factor for him in choosing UMSI. 

“I don’t regret it at all,” he said. 

 

Abigail McFee, marketing and communications writer 
 

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In 2023, UMSI was able to provide more internship funding than ever before, thanks to the generosity of donors. All students pursuing unpaid and underpaid internships are eligible to apply for a grant from the Career Development Office.