Students weigh in on their ‘green’ internships with Milwaukee’s water and energy businesses

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Sharvari Prabhakanth Ashwini (from left), Greta Boehm, and Pranav Roy interned with companies in the water and energy sectors this semester. See two videos below.

Experiencing an internship at some of Milwaukee’s largest water- and energy-related businesses has given some UWM students a chance to use their education to make a positive difference. For others, the internship has helped to better define their career options.

For all of them, the Clean Energy and Clean Water Internship Program, funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), has meant learning skills they would not have gotten in the classroom.

Three students from the College spoke about their involvement in the extremely competitive program that recently came to an end. A total of 415 students applied for the internships, with only 44 (39 from the College) hired by a pool of 16 companies in the water and energy sectors.

The DWD provided funding for the paid internships through its Fast Forward program that was expanded in 2023 to include engineering opportunities in water and energy.

“It’s been a healthy mix of student backgrounds,” said Sean Lybeck-Smoak, Clean Energy and Clean Water Internship Coordinator. “For some this was their first experience. Others had co-op, internship, or research experience before.”

Below some of the interns discuss their internship experiences.

Employer: Arch Solar

Sharvari Prabhakanth Ashwini, master’s student, computer science

Her role:

Helping the company automate an intake process used to prepare sales proposals.

Why were you interested in this particular internship program?

The internship attracted me because it allows you to give back, whether that’s to serve people or to serve the environment. I wanted to contribute to society with my degree. That’s my major goal and it has been my major goal from my undergraduate program.

Why UWM?

I wanted to study in the U.S. for my master’s degree. I did get accepted into other universities but UWM grabbed my attention because it was an R1 research university so I knew there would be opportunities here. And the place here is just too good! I’m already in love with Milwaukee!

Laura Schneider, solar coordinator for the residential sector at Arch Solar:

I know nothing about computer science, so [my colleague and I] were brainstorming a wish list of stuff that we could do with a person who has that skill set. And we came up with this idea, although during her interview we believed the task would be impossible.  She has made it possible!

Employer: A.O. Smith

Greta Boehm, junior, biomedical engineering

Her role:

She is on a team that is prototyping a variety of water-related sensors.

Why UWM?

I’m from Verona, but I chose Milwaukee, rather than Madison, because it I knew it would push me out of my comfort zone. UWM has so many resources. But the successful people that I see are the ones that really use those resources.

Pranav Roy

Pranav Roy, senior, materials science & engineering

His role:

Just after Roy completed a co-op at the company, working on research in metallurgy, he was offered the internship. His projects are related to water filtration systems, product validation and PFAS.

What are you getting from the experience?

Having the two different experiences makes me holistically a bit better [employee] candidate in terms of understanding what a product is and what a company is working toward.

Why UWM?

Before beginning as a freshman, I applied for the Support for Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) program to be in a research team with Dr. Pradeep Rohatgi. So I got involved in his research team way before I actually stepped into the U.S.

Rebecca Tallon, engineering director, water treatment technology, at A.O. Smith:

There’s a lot you can learn in an internship, like just how businesses operate and what professional behavior looks like. But they [interns] also learn the technical skills. We work on big projects with a lot of people involved. So, it’s learning to navigate that space before you actually hit the workforce as a full-time employee.