Nicholas Williams ’13 understood the importance of having an internship very early in his undergraduate career as a chemistry major. Now, as a student at the University of Chicago, Williams is thankful for his internship opportunities, as they help him succeed in the sciences.
“Nick is a dedicated and well-rounded student,” says Karen Wendling, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry. “I first met him in an interdisciplinary honors course, during which Nick expressed an interest in chemistry and then decided to become a chemistry major. He excelled in his coursework and even took several chemistry classes early to be better qualified for summer internships.”
As an undergraduate student, Williams earned two prestigious summer internships through the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) program. He completed one internship at North Carolina State University and the other at l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI) in Paris, France. Williams also is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRFP).
“The internships were much more than good academic experiences,” says Williams. “They were great life experiences too. They gave me opportunities to be in new places with new people, new technology and new opportunities for research.”
According to Wendling, having an internship is key to student success in the sciences.
“Undergraduate internship experiences have been shown to improve retention and are an important ‘bridge’ into graduate school and industry jobs,” says Wendling. “For the undergraduate student, internships can serve as an important tool in deciding on a future career. If the internship is a positive experience (which it usually is), the student will then focus on a specific career goal and begin working in that direction.”
Currently, Williams is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Chicago. He is part of the Engel Group. Their research involves using ultrafast spectroscopic techniques to learn about the fundamental energy transfer and charge carrier dynamics at the femtosecond timescale. He studies these dynamics in semiconductor nanomaterials to learn how the materials respond to illumination by visible light.
The aim of the research is to understand at the quantum level why, for example, a material is a very efficient light emitter (such as those used in next-generation televisions), and inform the synthesis of new materials by collaborators to improve or bring out useful, exotic properties for eventual incorporation into devices by industry.
“Dr. Wendling helped me immensely throughout my time at CHC,” says Williams. “I wouldn’t have known about these internship opportunities if she hadn’t first done them herself. She helped me throughout all of my application processes, making sure I was well prepared.”
For Williams, his courses and his internships solidified what his goals are post-graduation. He is very grateful for the opportunities given to him as a Chestnut Hill College student.
“If you are a motivated student, then professors will work with you to make sure that you succeed,” says Williams. “That’s not something you can get everywhere.”
Cristina Diaz '15