Practical Internships for Senior Chemical Engineering Students: PISCES
Coordinator: Professor Michael Domach
The Chemical Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon University offers to facilitate extended industrial internships for undergraduates of chemical engineering. Called PISCES, the program provides one-year of professional experience in a company. The model experience is that students finish their junior year and go to a company for up to 14 months of employment as a professional. The students do not pay tuition to CMU, but their student status is protected by registering for a zero-credit course designed to keep their file active. They are full time employees of the company. The students return to their senior year in the autumn a year later. PISCES is an option, not a requirement.
Industrial members of the Chemical Engineering Advisory Board have been uniformly and strongly positive about the program; some members said that their company only hired co-ops. They see a real advantage in having a fairly advanced student for such a long continuous time. Perhaps the most frequently asked question is about what kind of experience the students should have. There are two key words for that, variety and teamwork. A minimum of two different experiences, each involving both individual effort and teamwork is desirable in a PISCES position. Some companies with well-developed co-op programs put their PISCES students through a normal three or four position rotation (e.g. Safety, operations, design). Other companies have indicated that they will assign the students to projects and make sure that they participate in more than one.