Finding valuable summer internship experiences in STEM career fields can be difficult for students during their first two years of college.
The challenges are compounded for students with physical disabilities. However, they didn’t stop four Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students from getting paid opportunities this summer with Eli Lilly & Company, Cummins Inc., Eskenazi Health, and BraunAbility through internships provided by the Gregory S. Fehribach Center at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis.
They were among 56 interns from 22 Indiana colleges and universities that learned skills, expanded professional networks and built resumes this summer that can help them earn greater self-confidence, economic independence, and future employment possibilities.
Fehribach Center Director Larry Markle says, “Rose-Hulman students have engineering and science skillsets that are in demand by Indiana employers. Once we identify interested students, there’s usually a wealth of internships available for them.”
Eighteen of the program’s interns this summer were Indiana college students with STEM-related majors, including computer science, engineering, neuroscience, and health sciences.
Markle points to a U.S. Bureau of Labor report highlighting that 25.7 percent of 2021 college graduates with disabilities found employment, compared to 72.1 percent of college graduates without disabilities.
Internships are important in improving employment opportunities for students with disabilities, according to Patty Eaton, Ph.D., Rose-Hulman’s director of student accessibility services in the Office of Student Affairs, says, “These students just need a chance to showcase their extraordinary skills and apply the lessons they’re learning at Rose in real-world work or research environments. This internship program has been a win-win situation for the students and employers.”
Nine Rose-Hulman students have participated in the program since the summer of 2020 and recent graduates have used the experiences to earn full-time jobs and acceptance to doctorate degree programs – realizing their career aspirations.
Electrical engineering student Gabe Neise, who has hearing limitations, took advantage of his first work experience to learn about electronic circuits as an intern with Cummins in Columbus, Ind. He worked with a team of professional engineers to provide software for electric bus chargers. He helped calibrate Controller Area Network (CAN) signals and develop test cases for simulations.
“The best part of the experience was getting the opportunity to work alongside other people and using what I have learned from my education at Rose-Hulman for a greater purpose within a company,” said Neise, from Noblesville, who will begin his junior year on September 1. “It is apparent to me that Cummins cares greatly about their employees and their interns and wants to ensure that they can find the best roles possible for everyone. I learned a lot about working for an engineering company over the summer and now have a much better idea of how what I do at Rose-Hulman is applicable to the world.”
Biomedical engineering student Ashley Parker, who has hearing loss, learned about medical devices this summer with Eskenazi Health after spending last summer with Eli Lilly & Company’s Pain and Migraine team. She has worked on several projects pertaining to clinical trials for headache medication now in development.
Meanwhile, computer science major Elijah Watson learned about how Lilly manages data systems and engineering design major Alec O’Connor was an intern with BraunAbility, a company in Winamac, Ind., that equips vans with the technology necessary to be converted to wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Both students have a variety of physical limitations.
“It’s nice to have the opportunity to explore further opportunities in biomedical engineering, especially in medical device development. That’s an area of my career interest presently. Being able to work in this area at one of the leading hospitals in Indianapolis was a great opportunity,” Parker says.
O’Connor adds, “This internship (with BraunAbility) was ideal with my interest in designing products and being able to relate to the challenges that wheelchair-assisted people encounter. It was interesting to see what all goes into development of products for people like myself who need assistance.”
Other employers who hosted Fehribach Center STEM interns this summer were IndyGo, Diversity and Innovation Institute, Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, and the Marion County Public Health Department.
“Fehribach Center internships provide students with physical disabilities the skills and confidence they need to be strong candidates for post-graduation employment. Additionally, participating employers are able to recognize that college graduates with physical disabilities are excellent candidates for professional employment,” says Markle, who has been leading the program that began as a partnership between Eskenazi Health and Ball State University in 2013.
The program has expanded to include students from 34 Indiana colleges and 20+ employers with the support and involvement of Gregory S. Fehribach, an Indianapolis attorney and national leader in the field of disability rights and the economic empowerment of individuals with disabilities.
Markle adds, “We are big proponents of disability being included in the diversity mix and encourage others to focus on adding accessibility to their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts – moving from DE&I to DEIA with the ‘A’ standing for ability.”
Emily Malueg, a 2021 Rose-Hulman mechanical engineering graduate, earned the Fehribach Center’s inaugural Dustin Gilmer Award for Excellence after working as a biomedical engineering intern with Eskenazi Health in 2020 and 2021. Her work in preventive maintenance and repairing the hospital’s medical equipment helped her gain a postgraduate job as a continuous improvement engineer with BraunAbility, a Fehribach Center partner. She is working as a bridge between design and manufacturing of products to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.
Also, Colin Beach, a 2022 Rose-Hulman biochemistry graduate, spent last summer with Eskenazi Health’s research and development area. This helped determine his postgraduate career in medical research, which he recently started at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.