Interns find opportunity at The Research Park


Adam Helton, (sitting) junior in LAS, and Brian Schaefer, senior in LAS, look over a computer monitor at the ADM Sustainable BioEnergy Modeling Center on Tuesday March 17, 2009. Helton and Schaefer are a few of the several University of Illinois interns researching Bio-Fuels.

By Colleen Vest

As work becomes increasingly harder to find, some students are having luck using their local internship as a springboard for a real world job.

The Research Park, located near First Street between St. Mary’s Road and Windsor Road, provides office space and guidance so companies can apply scientific research to commercial use.

It has created thousands of new jobs and hundreds of internships for students.

Laura Frerichs, vice president of business development and marketing for Fox Development Corp., said companies are interested in hiring students for part-time employment or as interns. Some of those interns may be offered a position after graduation.

“The companies out at Research Park offer the opportunity for different types of experiences,” said Avijit Ghosh, vice president for technology and economic development. “There are over 200 students involved in some way with start-up companies, development and participating as research scientists.”

Christy Berka, senior in LAS, worked with Research Park company State Farm for three semesters as a strategic resources intern. She was offered full-time employment after she graduates this spring.

“I look at State Farm and interactions with social media,” Berka said about her internship at State Farm. “I’ve gone to corporate and sat in on meetings and did presentations. It’s just a really great experience.”

State Farm interns work 10 to 15 hours per week and are able to schedule work around classes, she added.

“It’s open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the hours are awesome,” Berka said. “The pay is competitive, and we are doing real work that’s affecting the company.”

Berka, one of 336 University interns at The Research Park, became involved at the park through her communications major.

“Communications works with State Farm and directs students who are interested to Research Park,” she said. “I would absolutely suggest other students look into interning at Research Park for a good experience.”

Engineering career services, business career services and other career centers throughout campus host a career fair at The Research Park every spring, said Sarah Zehr, assistant dean and director of engineering career services.

“The career fair is specifically for companies at Research Park for no charge,” she said. “Students are able to meet with the companies and ask any questions.”

The Research Park will host the third annual career fair on April 7. In 2007, 180 students attended the fair and 300 attended in 2008, Zehr said.

“I’ve talked to a lot of students and they typically have a good experience interning,” she said.

“Especially working for the smaller companies, students are able to get hands-on experience before graduation.”