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Bad Economy Hurts Search For Student Summer Jobs

By Jeremiah Y. Yu

The uncertainties and stress associated with finding summer jobs may have increased this year for some students because of poor economic conditions.

“I don’t know what I’m doing yet and that is part of the problem,” said Richard-Duane S. Chambers ’05.

But others have not encountered as many problems obtaining summer employment.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program jobs, a bastion of summer employment for MIT students, remain a popular option.

Melissa Martin-Greene, a staff associate in the Academic Resource Center and UROP coordinator said that 501 requests for funding were submitted this year. Although this number is up from 483 proposals submitted last year, 18 additional proposals is not a big increase.

Martin-Greene said that students have told her that finding summer internships is becoming more difficult.

“UROPs are easier to obtain” than outside jobs, said Grace C. Lin ’05. Lin wanted “to research and do hands-on stuff.” She applied to jobs at biotechnology companies, but “didn’t hear anything.”

“I’m only a sophomore. I wasn’t going to get much,” Lin said.

Lin will be working in Associate Professor Peter C. Dedon’s lab where she will be researching a better way to detect DNA damage.

Aekkaratt Thitimon ’04 thinks that UROPs are much more competitive this year especially in electrical engineering and computer science and guesses that the “job market is really hard.”

As a result, Thitimon has applied to ten UROPs. Thitimon joked that he will go “anywhere that will take poor students like me.”

UROP vows to help find funding

The UROP office is currently processing the funding requests and will soon decide who will receive funding this summer.

If students do not receive direct funding from the UROP office, Martin-Greene reiterated the UROP office policy of “trying to secure funding for students through other sources.” Alternate UROP funding usually comes from faculty funding or department funding.

Although no numbers were available regarding how many students would be funded this summer, 362 projects were funded last year, and 63 additional students received other forms of funding.

Students apply to internships

Internships continue to attract interest from MIT students. Students have found internships this year through a variety of sources.

“I just sent my resume online,” said Christopher W. MacMinn ’05, who will be working for General Electric. MacMinn said that the job situation “isn’t really that bad.”

Wey-Jiun Lin ’06 received her internship from a mentor of her high school robotics team. She will work at Xerox Research Park in Palo Alto, California, in the modular robotics lab. She said she wanted to be close to home, because she misses her family. “I especially miss my parents and the food they make for me,” she said.

Africa attracts some for summer

Others are taking advantage of less traditional summer employment avenues.

Eston M. Kimani ’05 is participating in the MIT African Internet and Technology Initiative. Kimani will travel to Kenya to teach Java programming to Kenyan high school and college students.

As an added perk for Kimani, Kenya is his home. He will still receive a stipend as well as airfare to Kenya.

Kimani describes Kenya as amazing and beautiful. “I miss home, and most of all, I miss the people. I haven’t gone home in two years,” he said.