Internship: Engineering and Washington, D.C.

Whitney Davis is a junior electrical engineering major in the College of Engineering. This summer she worked for the Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE) and now she shares a bit of her experience with us.

“Better get started now. This summer is going to go by quicker than you think.” Sandy, our faculty-member-in-residence, tried to warn us. The WISE program is the epitome of the saying “Time flies when you’re having fun.” All work and no play would certainly make a dull summer. The WISE program, founded in 1980, merges two different career paths, engineering and public policy, into a perfectly proportioned program of work and fun. Sponsored by [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.] IEEE and six other engineering societies, twelve engineering students from around the country and I spent nine weeks in Washington, D.C. Unlike other internships in the area, we were not restricted to a 9 to 5 job. We were free to conduct our own research, schedule our own meetings, and when we were inspired, work on our own proposals. At the end of the nine weeks, we were required to turn in a policy proposal on a topic of our choice and present it to the public. Tossed into the unfamiliar policy realm, we were set free to sink or swim on our own.

Here Whitney (top of steps, left) stands with fellow interns on the steps of the Jefferson Library of Congress.

My proposal was entitled “”The Direct Market Option: Improving the Quality, Quickness, and Quantity of Access to Alz-heimer’s Disease Treatments”. It deals with the FDA approval process and the time lag in market approval for AD treatments. I proposed open-ing up the approval process to the market for Alzheimer’s Disease treatments. This way the process may be better specialized around the risk versus benefit analysis for AD patients, which will result in quicker access to better drugs.

As a part of the program, we were able to visit and meet staff of NASA, Nuclear Regulatory Committee, Library of Congress, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Science Foundation, US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, US Green Building Committee, US Patent and Trademark Office, the Naval Observatory, Pentagon, House Science Committee, and the National Academy of Engineers to learn about the role of engineers in public policy. We even had the opportunity to meet engineering and law students from Spain, which was not only a great exposure to another culture but also the goals and society surrounding our Spanish engineering counterparts. In my free time, I was even able to meet Republican presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul, not once but twice!

Our director had also tried to warn us that we would meet lifelong friends. In disregarding their warnings again, I thought it was just a cheesy promotion. But I was terribly wrong in the best way possible. My fellow interns were some of the most genuine people I will ever have the pleasure of knowing. From shooting balloons out of our windows to passer-bys and climbing around on “modern art” to engaging in civil political debates and holding dorm pot lucks, without my fellow interns this irreplaceable summer would not have had the tremendous impact it has had on me. Being surrounded by other goal-driven, responsible engineering students and through preparing our topic, managing our time, gathering needed information, and meeting with professionals in both government and industry, this experience was the ultimate character-builder. The WISE program has allowed us all to grow more self- sufficient, responsible, and confident in our own abilities.

Whitney (bottom right, kneeling) and new friends visit the World War II Memorial at night.

For papers, presentations, and more information, please visit

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