Semester internship leads to postgrad job offer

Jackson Smith

In January 2021, Jackson Smith moved across the country for the first time to spend a semester interning at Nikon Research Corporation of America in Belmont, Calif. Her internship was so successful that she was offered a job after she graduates and a consultant position during the school year.

When Smith first arrived in California, more than half her time was spent working remotely. “It was definitely hard to stay focused sitting at a computer for hours everyday at the beginning when I had to primarily work from home. It was also hard to understand everything going on when I couldn’t spend time seeing it in person.” Once COVID-19 vaccinations became more widespread, Smith spent the majority of her time at the lab. “I felt a lot more involved in everything by being in the lab during different testing and assembly.”

Smith, who is from Grove City, Ohio, worked in a lab that does product design and proof of concept research for Nikon. Working on two projects related to additive manufacturing, Smith provided input on improving design decisions and part quality and coordinated testing of parts by suggesting the best testing methods and outsourcing to metallurgy labs to do the analyses, as well as materials science background on what happens to materials during additive manufacturing. She also gave technical presentations to improve other engineers’ understanding of materials science topics. For each project, she attended both local meetings and web meetings with members of Nikon’s headquarters in Japan.

A significant amount of Smith’s time was spent doing research for her presentations. “I spent a long time on preparing presentations as they had to be technical enough to be relevant to what Nikon needed to know but also explained at a basic level so engineers without a materials background could understand.” Whenever Smith prepared a presentation, she had to work with translators so that they could correctly translate everything into Japanese.

Another major portion of her work was communicating with metallurgy labs to have samples tested. For each set of samples, Smith organized shipment of samples, what tests needed done, and a presentation of the resulting data.

Smith’s colleagues at Nikon included mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and optical engineers. She also worked with multiple external labs, machine shops, manufacturers and suppliers.

Looking back at her time at Nikon, Smith is most proud of her contributions to a prototype design by choosing materials to be used and contributing to thermal, mechanical, and optical design with one of her materials science presentations. One of the products she worked on improving is now linked on the Nikon website.

As she prepares to start her senior year, Smith is looking forward to seeing the newly renovated White Building, using the new undergraduate laboratory and seeing professors and friends for the first time “in almost two years.”