Curious about the intersection of technology and policy? UVA’s Policy Internship Program (PIP) connects Engineering students with a 10-week summer internship in Washington, D.C.

Our team asked Engineering students Raeann Giannattasio and Soumya Chappidi, co-recruiting leads for PIP, to tell us more about this unique program!

What is the Policy Internship Program (PIP)?

PIP is open to engineers at the University of Virginia. We partner with MIT and place engineering students in Washington, D.C. for a 10 week summer internship. Housing and a stipend is provided through PIP alumni and other donors. UVA and MIT students live together in the dorms of George Washington University, only half a mile from the Lincoln Memorial.

The goal is to bridge the gap between policy and technology by giving students the opportunity to do both technical and policy work for the federal government. Through this program, students will be exposed to the intersection between science and policy through via the speaker series. PIP students visit many agencies and meet with top STEM experts also working policy. Past visits include the Supreme Court, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense (Pentagon), White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and more. Additionally, during free time, PIPs are given funds to help them explore all of what D.C. has to offer. 

Raeann Giannattasio at NASA Take Your Child to Work Day
Raeann Giannattasio at NASA Take Your Child to Work Day

What does the spring semester academic component entail?

In the spring semester before summer internships, all the PIP students take STS 3020, ‘Policy For Interns’. The course is designed to prepare students for internships in science, engineering and technology policy in Washington, D.C. However, the course material is relevant to work in other locations where government, industry, academia and civil society work together.

A core objective is to cultivate future leaders who can assess their impacts on the practice of STEM public policy. While the course is required for PIPs, interested students from Batten School, the College and other schools are also most welcome and encouraged to enroll and thus increase the diversity and richness of the seminar.

Tell us about the process of selecting/being matched with a summer internship? Describe ongoing PIP support/programs throughout the summer.

After being selected for PIP, you will share your interests with Jim Turner, our UVA/MIT D.C. liaison. Jim will use his network in order to find contacts in D.C. at agencies/companies that align with your interests. From there, you’ll be linked up with potential mentors in the workplace, and they will filter you into their candidate pool as a summer 2020 intern. Being part of PIP is very appealing to our mentors, as most of them know the program has a great reputation for producing capable and confident interns. 

Jim will guide you through the hiring process alongside your potential workplace mentors. Additionally, each PIP is paired with a PIP alum that has graduated from UVA. Your mentor is an excellent resource for questions and advice. Ultimately, deciding what is a good fit for you it is your decision. PIP is here to help provide insight and make the process go more smoothly.

How can students learn more about PIP?

Students can learn more about PIP through the website as well as contacting us with questions at pip.uva@outlook.com. We have an info session with a Q&A style panel of Class of 2019 alumni on Wednesday, Oct 9th, from 7p-9p in Wilsdorf 200. If you can’t make it, we will also be tabling in Thornton A wing on Wednesday, Oct 16th, from 11a-2p.

What recommendations do you have for creating a strong application?

Make sure that your passion and interest for the interaction between engineers and policy shines through! We’re looking for engineers who have the motivation to use their unique skills to make a change in the policy arena. 

How do students apply and when is the deadline?

Details about the application are posted in Handshake. You will be submitting all your application materials (answers to questions, resume and transcript) to Professor Michael Gorman's office. We also require one letter of recommendation. It is up to you to reach out to your recommender and have them email their letter to  pip.uva@outlook.com. You will put their information on your application so we can follow up if necessary. 

The application is due Monday, October 21st. We will accept recommendations up to a week after the application due date.

Want to know more? Check out the experiences of recent PIP participants:

 

Sabrina Stenberg, 4th Year, Chemical Engineering 

Interned with the U.S. Department of Energy, Solar Energy Technologies Office

Why did you apply to PIP?
I wanted to have an interdisciplinary internship experience. I also wanted to learn how I, as an engineer, could contribute to federal policy. 

What did you love about participating in PIP?
The STS prerequisite class was a good comprehensive overview of science policy, but what I gained most out of it was the chance to get to know my peers before beginning the internship itself. In addition, living at the apartments with MIT students and going to various events around the DMV area was lots of fun; also, group dinners with the UVA meal budget. At DOE, I had the opportunity to grow as an individual and preview the work environment. The folks there within my office and in another office at DOE were friendly and supportive. Lastly, this experience made me passionate about solar energy and renewables in general. 

What are your top tips for new applicants?
Think about all the news or policy topics that you are passionate about. Just apply - put yourself out there. 

Lily Stiles, 3rd Year, Systems Engineering and Mathematics

Interned with the American Society for Engineering Education and ran a social media campaign to promote diversity in engineering.

Lilian Stiles ran a social media campaign for the American Society of Engineering Education to promote diversity in engineering.

Why did you apply to PIP?
I chose to apply to PIP due to my interest in public policy and wanting to learn more about what I could with my degree in engineering. I knew I wanted to do a less technical internship, in part to further develop my communication skills I've neglected in my engineering classes.

What did you love about participating in PIP?
This summer was incredible, I was surrounded by amazing people both at work and at home that really inspired me. I was able to work on some amazing projects that I have complete ownership of and could not be more grateful for the experience. My internship flew me to Tampa for a conference where I got to network with engineering deans to pinpoint areas universities struggle with in the diversity area. I also got to work a visioning summit that laid the groundwork for the engineering community to develop their research interests instead of the government. I grew so much and I could not have asked for a better experience. Moving forward, I plan on using the project management and leadership skills I developed this past summer in a career in consulting, and maybe attending law school later on.

What are your top tips for new applicants?
Highlighting your interests and what you want to take away from the super is a great way to get your application noticed. If accepted, I would highly recommend hanging out with your PIP cohort before the summer begins to get to know each other better, and to help you pick your roommate.

Spencer Barnes, 2nd Year, Aerospace Engineering

Interned with the U.S. Government Accountability Office as a Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics Analyst

Spencer Barnes interned at the Government Accountability Office and is enjoying a day exploring Georgetown.

Why did you apply to PIP?
While I am not seeking a future career in public policy, I am interested in the interplay between technical expertise and legislation. Through the PIP program, I was able to see first hand how technical knowledge is communicated to lawmakers.

What did you love about participating in PIP?
Living and working in DC was a truly unique experience. After work, the PIP program interns had the opportunity to see various speakers at different government agencies. These speakers gave me great insight into how engineers can forge careers in public policy. Additionally, I was able to interview hypersonic weapons experts as part of my internship. This peaked my interest in hypersonic flight and gave me a greater understanding of the subject.

What are your top tips for new applicants?
Make sure to be genuine about your interest in the program. Even if you're not interested in a future career in policy, this program is open to you.

Sydney DeCleene, 3rd Year, Biomedical Engineering

Interned with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Sydney Decleene at the NIH presenting her research findings with NIAID.

Why did you apply to PIP?
The public sector is an area that I wanted to learn more about, and I wanted to see what kinds of civil service jobs there were for a biomedical engineer. I was specifically interested in working for the NIH and wanted to explore my options. 

What did you love about participating in PIP?
I really enjoyed working for NIAID because not only did I gain a wealth of knowledge about infectious diseases and current advancements towards disease prevention, I also improved my science writing skills, communication skills, and gave back to the organization by doing meaningful work for them. Another aspect of the internship I really enjoyed was our visits to various other government institutions. This helped me learn about many different applications of biomedical engineering and engineering in general that I had never considered before. This experience helped me network with people in the NIH as well as from other government institutions, which helped me to clarify what I want my career path to be. 

What are your top tips for new applicants?
Be open minded! This experience is a wonderful way to look at new applications of engineering that are incredibly meaningful, maybe in a different way than more traditional industry jobs are.

Sarah Zhou, 3rd year, Systems Engineering & Economics

Interned with the National Science Foundation, Computer & Information Science & Engineering Directorate

Why did you apply to PIP?
As a second year, I wanted to find an internship that challenged me in a way I have not been challenged before, and allowed me to learn and grow professionally. I have an interest in non-clinical healthcare, and thought that an experience with government/public service would help in that area as well. 

What did you love about participating in PIP?
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of trust my supervisor and mentor had in me and my work. Throughout the summer, I completed 3 high-impact projects with minimal supervision, and gained a greater understanding of both foundational CS research and the importance of such work to various industries. Outside of my internship, the connections I formed with my PIP Class and alumni really helped with my personal growth and goals for the future. 

What are your top tips for new applicants?
Keep an open mind and take full advantage of the opportunities available to you!

Saeed Razavi, 3rd Year, Computer Science

Interned with MPOWER Financing, a Public Benefit Corporation that aims to reduce the financial barriers to international education

Saeed Razavi on the personal balcony of the Speaker of the House during a visit with MIT Alum Congressman Massie (KY).

Why did you apply to PIP?
To me, the prospect of applying my engineering education to a policy-oriented experience was so unique that I couldn't pass up such an opportunity to broaden my horizons and expand the ways by which I can help people.

What are your top tips for new applicants?
My biggest piece of advice is to be, above all else, passionate. When you show your passion for the things that matter to you, people will want to help you pursue them.