Student gains edge through internship, sustainability program

Industrial engineering major Kareem Ali recently participated in Penn State's Immersive Summer Experience in Energy and Sustainable Business program, giving him practical experience vital to career development and skill building.

The program included applied coursework coupled with a corresponding internship experience, partly taking place at Penn State's GridSTAR Smart Grid Experience Center at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The center serves as an education and research facility featuring an array of high-tech tools, including a modular smart home, electric vehicle charging stations and solar energy systems, that give students hands-on experience with sustainable energy, water and living systems.

As part of the program, Ali worked throughout the summer as a paid intern at CertainTeed, where he completed research focused on constructing homes that are more energy efficient and sustainable. According to its website, CertainTeed is a leading North American manufacturer of building materials, such as siding, roofing, fencing, decking and insulating products.

Based at the company's headquarters in Valley Forge, he visited the GridSTAR's modular smart home several times each week to run tests, collect information and analyze data dealing with the relative humidity, temperature, heat flux and lighting of homes.

Ali also earned six credits during the summer by taking two courses (Sustainability Leadership Projects and Cornerstones of Sustainability) through the program. He explained that the courses, paired with his internship, provided a well-rounded educational experience. 

"There's a huge difference between reading about something and then actually getting to experience it," Ali said. "That's why I loved this program. You really got to experience what you learned about."

Associate Professor of Engineering Ivan Esparragoza, who taught Ali in several of his classes, was thrilled to see his student excel in the summer program and explained that internships are a vital part of Penn State Brandywine's academic programs.

"Internships provide an opportunity for students to close the gap between ?the classroom and the professional work," Esparragoza said. "A successful internship opens future job opportunities for the students."

Enrolled in Penn State's 2+2 Plan, Ali recently transitioned to University Park to finish his degree program after completing his freshman and sophomore years at Penn State Brandywine.