Kristof: I really enjoyed my stay here. My goal was to experience corporate working environment and it was fulfilled. But the experience was unexpectedly positive, working here is relaxed, but productive. I'm glad to see how the European working morale is different from the US as well. It was a bit difficult in the beginning to do so much work in so little time, but realizing that there is a life outside of work is great. I had a very good project here, which I enjoyed to work on. The group was very helpful, and it was good to see, that my results are an important part of the research efforts.
Matthew: My stay in Zurich at the IBM lab truly proved to be a once in a lifetime experience. Not only did I learn many new things and gain valuable skills that I will bring back to my home university, but I did so while being immersed in a completely different culture. I would call this internship a perfect combination of education and adventure.
Jing: The fact that industrial labs explore a research topic similarly, yet differently from in school and other labs.
Vincent: I think the biggest difference is the commercial focus taken by the lab to research. Whether it is for external clients or other IBM divisions, the research undertaken here has to be seen to make a difference commercially. Universities are to a certain extent more removed from this. Certainly, to be competitive for external funding and industry sponsorship, faculty have to convince the funding agencies of the impact their research will have - but the bottom line is that unlike IBM, universities or funding agencies are not listed on the stock exchange…yet.
Jing: Similarities would be to explore an interesting, yet not well understood problem in my general research area. A difference is that in school the main motivation is producing good papers, while in here it is much more real-product-oriented and it's interesting to optimize/explore a real product.
So what was your impression of IBM Research - Zurich?
Vincent: I think the Lab is an ideal size - not too big so it is easy to get to know people and find out what is going on in other groups, but at the same time it is sufficiently big enough to be considered by universities and other companies as a source of deep expertise. I also liked the daily routine around coffee and lunch in that the people here make a conscious effort to go to the cafeteria together to have a coffee in the morning/afternoon or to have lunch and chat - sometimes about work, but mostly it's social conversation.
Nick: I had been to the lab for a two-week visit in December of 2010. This is when I was first introduced to a research project that I would continue working on throughout this summer internship.
Jing: Yes, I knew some of the work in my area from this lab before I came.
Matthew: Adapting to life in Zurich both in and out of the lab was quite painless.
Jing: Cultural wise, the language was a problem in the beginning, but in the lab everything is fine. Technical wise, finishing a project in two months is tough, given a typical curve one would have. As I type this, I am still trying to get the project done nice and elegant.
Vincent: I think that not having much German was a challenge. While the standard of English is very high in the lab and also in Switzerland in general, I would have liked to have better conversational German. When I found out that I was coming here I did buy a German language software package, but didn't make much progress unfortunately. It is a complicated language, but then non-native English speakers say that about English too.
Matthew: The biggest surprise was the rather relaxed working environment here at the Lab. I was expecting a much more corporate atmosphere, but was quite pleased with the campus-like feel.
Jing: The size of the Lab.
Kristof: Yes, and Yes.
Jing: I am aiming to be a researcher for sure. I am considering both industry labs and other national research labs.
Matthew: Currently my focus is much more confined to finishing my Bachelor's degree, however this experience has certainly opened the door to a research career as an option in the future. My experience will play a great role in the decisions I make in furthering my education.
Vincent: Prior to the internship in the lab, I was planning on pursuing an academic career in a research focused university, either in an Engineering or Business school, as my area of study (Operations Research) easily transfers between those two types of schools. But having spent the last two months here in the Lab, I would now consider a corporate research lab. I think in a corporate lab you get to see the impact of your research, as well as still being able to publish papers and present at conferences. The downside of a corporate lab is that you don't get to teach courses to students.
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