Research partnership fosters international internship program
A decade-long research partnership between Professor of Mechanical Engineering S.B. Park, and his research group and Samsung Techwin has taken another step to expand academic opportunities for Binghamton University students at the international level.
“I connected with Samsung through technical conferences and after that many of their high-profile executives came here several times for research collaborations,” said Park. Samsung became a member of the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center (IEEC), now part of the Center of Excellence in Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging (S3IP). “They wanted to perform some research, mostly mobile device development, especially for surface mount and assembly technology and reliability engineering,” said Park. “We’ve been working closely with them on product-related technology development ever since.”
The collaboration has fostered a growing relationship with the University. Watson School Dean Krishnaswami “Hari” Srihari and Vice President for Research Bahgat Sammakia have made visits to Korea to strengthen research collaborations, but discussions of an academic partnership began in earnest last November.
In March, that discussion blossomed when President Harvey Stenger met C.K. Lim, the president and CEO of Samsung Techwin, and signed an agreement to formalize an internship program for both undergraduate and graduate students, which is unique to Binghamton.
“Initial seeds were planted by Hari and Bahgat,” said Amanda Bailor, international career and alumni connections coordinator for the Watson School. “We want students to have the global competencies necessary in today’s global marketplace.”
The internship is one way to provide those competencies. “The program is in Samsung’s interests to globalize their workforce and have some sort of long-term hiring advantages,” said Bailor. “Their interests match ours, too, to offer students a stronger relationship with a leading company such as Samsung, a global leader in the electronics business.”
The Samsung internship program is exclusive to Binghamton, said Park. “If it’s successful, then they’ll try to expand to some other schools.”
Information sessions for the program were first held in February, Bailor said. “We received about 80 applications and professors Park and Yoon and others helped whittle them down to make sure the applicants met the minimum requirements set by program and we could put forward our best and our brightest.”
The best and the brightest turned into 28 students who went through Skype interviews with Samsung. “Samsung made the final selection from our prescreened students,” Bailor said. “We also gave feedback to our students on how they performed in the interview to help them improve for the next time. Such as that they need to understand the company −Samsung Techwin. They learned to do their homework.”
“It was a smooth interview process and whoever they picked they would have been happy with,” said Park. “They were amazed by the quality of Binghamton students. They have many interns from KAIST and MIT and Stanford, and these opportunities are highly prestigious and even compared to them, Binghamton students are quite impressive.”
Eight students – most from the Watson School, but some also from the School of Management – were selected for the paid internships and left for six weeks in Korea on June 1. They traveled to Seoul, but also spent time at the Samsung factory in Changwon, a southern industrial town in Korea.
“They were challenged beyond what they thought they would be and in ways they didn’t anticipate,” said Bailor. “Now they feel they know the way Samsung runs because they were introduced to various Samsung processes. They were given activities in the life cycle to work in for a short duration and they said they felt the pressure to perform, then they felt they got the hang of it. One student told me that having Korean students on the job with him enabled him to learn the culture better.
“They had an amazing experience and said they would recommend the experience to anyone. It wasn’t just a fabulous industry experience, but also a cultural one.”
The program also goes beyond the internships, said Park, involving faculty. “It’s opening the door to our faculty and the expected outcome is mutually beneficial,” he said. “Our faculty should be there to interact with their engineers and business units. This summer K.D. Kang (associate professor of computer science) went there and Sang Won Yoon (assistant professor of systems science and industrial engineering) had a research project funded by Samsung.
“These activities are more significant than anything else because when faculty are engaged, students will be automatically be engaged at a much bigger scale. In the long run, we wish to have a Samsung lab here at the Binghamton campus. I believe that day will come,” said Park.
The student interns received certificates and had a picture of themselves taken with site executives and the president, Bailor said. “They felt appreciated and engaged by these people and that this was something they did well at. They felt encouraged.”