By Alethea Schepperly
When Matt and I were asked to write something about our internship experience with IBM in Beijing, China this past summer, we were asked to talk about our disagreements regarding the entirety of the program. This was difficult task, however, as we both share a very positive outlook regarding our lifestyles while in China.
Because this was my second trip to China, I was already familiar with the Chinese culture, yet still learned a great deal about the Chinese way of life. Just having exposure to and experience in a foreign work environment allowed me to mature in several ways. I was able to compare the Chinese work environment to that of the American, and, while things were done differently, it was interesting to see how both systems worked and were able to produce such positive results.
During my time at Beijing-CRL (China Research Lab), my team was kind and made me feel very welcome. They not only included me in all of their outside-of-work activities, but also allowed me to join them every day for lunch.
My project focused on social networking and how cultural influences impact online user behavior. We have made some wonderful discoveries. In fact, I have even been offered the opportunity to continue my current research project with IBM throughout this school year! This is of course a very exciting opportunity.
When I look back upon this internship I can only smile. The friends I’ve made, the knowledge I’ve gained and the experience as a whole are forever valuable.
My summer internship with IBM China Research Lab was eye-opening and invaluable. I arrived in Beijing with very basic knowledge of Chinese culture, and left with a new appreciation and outlook on the Beijing way of life.
From barely knowing how to use chopsticks to not knowing any Chinese, I was initially quite dependent upon my peers, who introduced me to new foods, taught me about the social norms and helped me overcome the language barrier. As time progressed, I learned some basic “survival” Chinese, acquired a love for the cuisine and developed several lifelong friendships.
At IBM, I was introduced to new areas of research and worked with some of the brightest and friendliest employees. I gained insight as to how research is conducted at
IBM and saw how each individual contributed to the lab’s success.
My primary research task was to calibrate a computer model of a water distribution network using a genetic algorithm. The water distribution network was modeled in EPANET and the genetic algorithm chosen to perform the calibration was the differential evolution algorithm.
The goal of calibration is to update the modeled network so that it more accurately represents the physical conditions, such as flow and pressure measurements, found within the real network. I used Python programming language to write the algorithm, calibrate the network and assess its success.
Throughout my internship, my mentor, manager and several other IBM co-workers consistently went out of their way just to make sure I felt comfortable being their international employee. I worked in close quarters with my research team and was invited to eat lunch with them nearly every day. Sometimes, lunch was followed by a quick game of ping-pong—can’t say I won too many of those games.
Ultimately, my internship with IBM provided me with two of the most memorable months of my life, and one of the most life-changing experiences.