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Ten Receive Washington Internships

By Carina Fung

Ten students have been chosen to take part in the MITWashington Internship Program this summer. The program aims to foster students' technical interests in public policy through a two-month summer internship.

The students - Laura L. DePaoli '97, Tara L. Fernando '97, David J.D. Hully '97, Phoebe J. Lam '97, Eugene Lee '98, Angela Y. Liao '98, Rosemary McNaughton '97, Jacob J. Seid '97, Mayukh V. Sukhatme '97, and Benson P. Yang '96 - spent spring break in Washington, D.C. interviewing with potential summer employers.

They were accompanied on their four-day, all expenses-paid trip by Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Stewart III, who is responsible for the overall guidance of the program, and Department of Political Science Administrative Assistant Tobie F. Weiner, the program's administrator.

The students participated in three days of seminars on nuclear waste clean-up, telecommunications policy, communications law, and global warming, Weiner said.

The Institute's Technology and Policy Program hosted a reception for the interns at the Capitol building, to which political science department and TPP alumni and current TPP students were also invited to attend.

Students explore public policy

"The purpose of the program is to encourage technically sophisticated MITstudents to explore the intersection of science/engineering with public policy," Stewart said.

The program also aims to help students understand that many policy makers actually have no background in the fields they regulate, Stewart said.

"In the long run, we would like to be part of the solution that changes this fact, so that more technically sophisticated people go into policy-making in technical areas," Stewart said.

Last year, the program matched students with organizations like the American Electronics Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Climate Institute, and the MIT Washington Office.

Academically, students in the program are required to attend American Public Policy for Washington Interns (17.211), a 12-unit seminar split into six-unit halves in the spring and fall, Weiner said.

Students are now investigating areas of policy their employers are currently working on, Stewart said. Students will be making presentations on this work at the end of this term. When they return in the fall, they will write a paper about a policy issue they encountered during the summer and present and defend their ideas, he said.

Policy concerns sparked interest

"I believe that an engagement in the day-to-day business of Washington will not only supplement the technical backgrounds of many of the interns but also dispel the mystique that surrounds the nature of policy-making," said Yang, who is majoring in electrical engineering and computer science.

Seid, also an EECS major, will be working at the Brookings Institute developing an economic/mathematical model for how spending in the defense industry's communications sector affects the telecommunications industry as a whole.

"I was interested in [the Washington internship program] because I wanted to learn more about how government affects technology and the high-tech industry," Seid said.

Fernando, who is double majoring in chemical engineering and music, said that the internship program gave her the opportunity to "find a position in Washington that would integrate technical knowledge with policy making." She is planning on working at the American Enterprise Institute, a national think tank.

McNaughton, a physics major, wants work in the area of civil liberties on the Internet, which she feels is very important and has been underexamined by policy-makers until this year. She will be working with the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, where she will be in charge of monitoring information policy issues.

DePaoli, an environmental engineering major, hopes to see "a different school of thought" through her summer placement. She is considering an internship with the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management. "MIT has provided me with the analytical thought and now I am seeking to develop the ability to think on a different level," she said.