Internship experience helps software engineering student “connect the puzzle pieces” between coursework and industry

Dec 13, 2022      By Annelise Christen

Theresa Luensmann and McKellan Clarke
Theresa Luensmann and McKellan Clarke

As a child, McKellan Clarke spent his days learning the ins and outs of computers. He prided himself on his ability to remove computer viruses from his mother’s computer without any help from antivirus software. In middle school, he began building PCs, which only furthered his interest in computer programming and hardware. His courses in high school taught him the basics of computer science and furthered his love for computer programming.   

Now a sophomore in college, Clarke is studying software engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.   

“One of the main reasons I chose software engineering as my major was because I was really interested in learning more than computer science theory…I really wanted to get hands-on experience with something that I could create.” Clarke said, “I wanted to think like an engineer and get engineering fundamentals so that I would be more apt, more able, more capable to develop and engineer things and other software-related artifacts.”   

To grow his professional skills and find an internship, Clarke worked closely with Theresa Luensmann, assistant director career services for the College of Engineering. Theresa helped him to polish his resume, practice his elevator pitch, offer advice, and assist with his search.   

“McKellan is so motivated, and he does everything in earnest, which I love. He really cares about it and wants to do such a good job.” Luensmann said, “He was making sure summer was going to be a productive time for him in-between freshmen and sophomore year.”   

A lot of time and effort was put into the internship search. Luensmann was able to make tailored recommendations based on Clarke’s interests. This soon led to Clarke becoming an intern at LI-COR Biosciences, a company that specializes in systems for plant research, gas analysis, drug discovery, protein research, and small animal imaging. 

Jon Hawthorne, principle engineer at LI-COR, explained that through his internship, Clarke was able to gain a good perspective of what a day-to-day developer’s job looks like.   

“McKellan  is a great young man. He’s enthusiastic, very intelligent, very capable, really nice guy to work with.” Hawthorne said, “having worked in this career for many years, it’s important to have someone very talented and very sharp, but it’s also important to have someone who is a team player.”  

Clarke emphasized that along with the multiple opportunities he had to work on various application software programs, he really enjoyed working with his team members.   

“One of the things that helped me excel at this internship over the summer was that I was a part of a team of people that took pride and cared about what they were doing, but also had general concern for other people.” Clarke said, “they weren’t just focused on the product itself, but they were focused on each other as people, and I think that inclusion, humanization, and understanding of other people was something that made a big impact on me. It made me more driven to work as part of that team, and it also made me a better person.”

Because of Clarke’s hard work and Luensmann’s help, he was able to get a great internship, gain experience and develop as a professional. Luensmann prides herself on her ability to help students with their career development in a multitude of ways, whether that be looking over a resume, assisting with an internship search, helping students reframe their experiences, or simply being a cheerleader for them.  

“I just want students to know they don’t have to do it by themselves.” Luensmann said, “it can feel really challenging and tricky to go through even an internship search process, and they don’t have to do it alone, even the small stuff.” 

Career development doesn’t need to wait. Start doing the small stuff today.  Visit the  Career Services website  to find your career coach, career resources, and more.