Feedback from former Great Minds participants
Since 2007, the IBM Research Labs in Europe have hosted more than 40 students from seven countries. Before packing their bags and heading home, a few of them left comments and tips for future Great Minds applicants.
Adela-Diana had set the bar very high for the renowned IBM Research – Zurich Lab. She comments, “I am very excited to be here. I came to Zurich with very high expectations and they have all been met. I have the chance to work alongside highly skilled and passionate researchers who study a very large variety of topics. One thing that I particularly appreciate is the fact that here, as interns, we have the freedom to make design decisions on the project that we are part of. Our opinions and input are valued.”
The budding computer scientist was accepted to the Great Minds program after submitting a paper on creating more adaptive distributed systems through machine learning techniques. "I am currently developing a learning algorithm for a neural network on a graphics card. Because it’s quite close to my interests in machine learning and distributed/parallel computing, it has offered me the chance to gain more practical experience in this field. The manager with whom I had my phone interview took a direct interest in finding the most suitable project that matched my experience and interests. This says a lot about the way IBM values its employees."
Asked for her tips for future applicants, Adela-Diana said that confidence is critical. “I've often seen many talented people who are too self-critical and lack confidence in their own abilities. You shouldn't let that get in the way. IBM Research has a strong reputation for finding talented people, so if you are smart and passionate, you have a good chance of being accepted."
For Janos Csorba, the Great Minds internship at IBM Research – Haifa surpassed his most optimistic expectations.
"I can't believe how much I'm enjoying this position," the Györ, Hungary, native explained. "I didn't think it would be this great."
A graduate of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics with a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Computer Science, Janos's advisor at university originally recommended he apply for the IBM internship.
"I just finished my Master's degree a few months ago, so the position here couldn't have come at a better time. It has been a wonderful opportunity to see a great company and experience a different culture."
In Haifa, Janos has been working on truck design configuration as part of the Constraint Satisfaction group. He's thoroughly enjoying the work on the project, which has given him the opportunity to interact directly with IBM clients.
"I joined an active project, with real-time communication with clients and problems that need to be solved on-the-fly," he noted. "It's a really good feeling to see how changes you make to the code of a project create real impact on a client's application."
He's also having a great time traveling in Israel, which he's managed to do somewhat on weekends.
"This is a really interesting country, with so many cultures living so close together. It's totally different seeing things here on your own. Since I've arrived, I've felt extremely relaxed the entire time. I'm really enjoying being here."
The IBM Research Lab in Zurich made an instant impression on Daniela on her very first day. "IBM Research – Zurich is a great place, where you have the chance to work with first-class scientists who involve most of their energy in projects they are passionate about. At the end of the day, what can be better than working at a top company in the field that you enjoy most? At IBM Research – Zurich I feel very lucky to have the chance to gain experience in exactly my field of choice and to work towards innovative results."
Daniela also had the chance to work on her special interest. "I am following a double degree Master's program at Polytechnic Universities from Milan and Bucharest. My courses are focused on security and distributed systems, but I have a hidden passion for Linux and the open-source world. Over the past several months at IBM, I have been analyzing the security metrics for the Linux kernel, which is the topic of my Master's thesis."
Daniela is one of three female students from Romania. However, this is not representative of the current reality in her field. She comments, "There are very few women in computer science and it was nice to come to IBM to see more women involved in research. I think our main assets for working in this field are good intuition, determination and calmness."
Before packing up, Daniela had some parting advice for future Great Minds students. "To stand out when you apply, I think you should find a topic that IBM is interested in and something that you enjoy. If you do it right, it will show in your application."
Jan joined IBM from the Czech Technical University in Prague. Established in 1707, it is one of the oldest institutes of technology in central Europe. Jan comments, “My PhD advisor Dr. Lukas Kencl encouraged me to apply for Great Minds. As he had first-hand experience working at IBM Research for his own PhD, I took it as solid advice.”
“I am currently working in the Storage department on developing new techniques combining encryption and compression. Even though these may seem contradictory, their fusion might provide very interesting results."
Commenting on any tips for future Great Minds applicants, Jan advises, “If you have a good idea to pursue and it is connected to IBM, which has research in almost everything, you have a good chance. Formulate your research intentions concretely, simply and in a convincing way. That’s what worked for me.”
Onder Suvak is a 32-year-old PhD student at Koç University in Turkey. A native of Istanbul, he holds a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Bosphorus University and Koç University, respectively.
Onder interned at IBM Research – Haifa to gain industrial experience in his field. Although he hopes to land a position as an assistant professor at one of Turkey's leading technical universities, he sees the experience offered by the IBM internship as invaluable.
"Most of the work I've done at university has been pretty abstract," he explained. "At IBM I'm getting some hands-on experience in applied aspects of electronic design for industry."
In the IBM Research – Haifa Lab, Onder is assigned to the Analog and Mixed Signals Technologies team, where he's been working on and studying ways to improve terahertz (THz) imaging. He's very impressed with the opportunities available to interns at the Lab.
"The work here has really been great," he notes. "There's certainly no shortage of facilities, from the computing infrastructure down to the food service. It's a welcome change from a university setting. However, it's been pretty hot here in Haifa this summer, so I hope it's going to cool down soon."
Overall, he says Great Minds has been a great fit for him.
"This is a really worthwhile experience, but it's also very competitive and challenging. I would advise anyone interested in this internship to prepare themselves well and be ready and able to work closely with some very smart people."
"IBM Research – Zurich is a unique place where you can meet some of the smartest people from all over the world. I never suspected that I would work in such a multinational team," says Stanisław Woźniak, a PhD candidate from Poznan University of Technology. "The atmosphere is truly great when you have a chance to meet all these experienced researchers and discuss both your assignments and personal views. This is a really creative environment. You can see whiteboards everywhere, even in the corridors, and we draw on them all the time."
He adds that his internship was made even more pleasurable by the availability of gourmet meals in the on-site cafeteria. Stanisław also mentions that Switzerland is a superb tourist destination and after work he always had a great time sightseeing.
As for advice to future applicants he comments, “It is not only important what you write in your position paper, but also how you write it. Express your engagement and present it in an unusually creative way."