Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

Summer is Here (Make Room for the Interns)

Summer begins, officially, around June 21. Here at Wolfram Research it actually begins when the interns start to arrive. As we released Version 6 of our flagship Mathematica software less than two months ago, we’re still collectively exhaling, yet at the same time breathing in hard to keep up with these youthful, faster folk. No easy feat, unless you happen to be a trumpet player.

A summer here at our headquarters in Champaign, Illinois, can find anywhere from 5 to 25 or so interns. They range in level from late high school to graduate school, as young as 15 and as old as 40-something. And we’re always on the hunt for new ones (apply on our website if interested).

Where do they come from? I believe our interns have hailed from all six naturally inhabited continents, as well as several major island groups. Most are now residing in North America for their studies, though some have traveled from farther away.

What do we do with these interns? Well, by law, we cannot eat them (even if we could manage to catch one). Instead we find it useful to put them to work on a variety of tasks, based on individual educational background and experience.

For example: this summer we have some interns writing interactive Demonstrations for our new Wolfram Demonstrations Project (a powerful and popular way to illustrate, with dynamic controls, concepts from physics, math, engineering and elsewhere).

Another intern works on graphics and computational geometry.

Still another is coding possible improvements to Mathematica’s built-in capabilities for indefinite integration. We have some working on projects related to A New Kind of Science, some in business development, some assisting in the library and other parts of the Communications group.

One works in Quality Assurance—helping find our mistakes before they escape the lab.

Past years have seen interns’ work go out the door, so to speak, in important aspects of Mathematica functionality such as optimization, statistics and computational geometry. Other projects have improved our in-house systems from editing and formatting The Mathematica Journal articles to design work to administration of the hardware we all rely upon for our collective professional existence.

What becomes of these fine, mostly young, energetic people?

Well, one went on to become Sergey Brin, Co-Founder & President of Technology at Google. Okay, that’s a fib; actually, he already was Sergey Brin. But back in 1990 nobody (except maybe he himself) had an inkling of his meteoric rise to come. Others we cannot seem to let go so easily: three permanent members of our Kernel Development group began their careers here as summer interns.

So that’s the run-down on summer interns at Wolfram Research. The pace is brisk, but they seem to handle it without whining audibly. That, or my ears are going soft.