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Julia Smith

Julia Smith
"Just do it, don’t let your dreams just be dreams."

 

 

Employer

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Position

Co-op Technical Student

Type

Internship

Duration

14 months

Program

Nuclear Engineering

Would you return to this employer?

Yes

Would you recommend your employer?

Yes

Would you return to a similar position?

Yes

 

Did you always know you wanted to do a co-op/ internship?

Yes, when I switched into nuclear engineering the theme was “everyone does co-op”, it was never really a question of if.

Did you have any concerns or hesitations before you started?

Yes, I was worried that I wouldn’t like it and about being in a city that is far away. I also thought that maybe I’m not what they’re looking for and that I would do poorly and get fired. There was a lot of anxiety leading up to it.

What were your expectations?

I expected that the environment would be very professional, and that if I made one mistake it was all over. I expected that I wouldn’t be doing anything important, just kind of sitting in the back and listening. I expected I would be doing a lot of maths considering that’s all we’ve ever really done in school.

How did your experience compare with your expectations?

What I had expected was not at all what I received. I expected a super professional work environment and I was met with a very lax atmosphere, it was a lot more communal than I had expected. I did hardly any maths, and I felt the work I did was important, that I did make a meaningful contribution.

Did you enjoy your experience?

Yes, I really enjoyed my time at the CNSC, it was a fantastic experience.

What were your tasks and responsibilities?

I was rotated three times, so my responsibilities changed often. I was first with a group that handles research reactors, mines and mills, processing facilities, basically big nuclear things that are not power plants. I did a lot of summarizing documents and events, helping the team prepare for proceedings, and some inspection work. My next group was more technical and a much smaller set of people, and my work was very focused on document writing, as well as light data analysis. My final group was basically the environmental people, I did a lot of field sampling, and a lot of programming.

What was the work atmosphere like?

For the most part it was very supportive and flexible. There were times where the atmosphere was very serious but they were only limited to the times I had to interact with the public. Often rank did not matter, the majority of meetings were open and all opinions were taken into account. I remember making a suggestion during a hearing and the head of a large department agreed and they went forward with my suggestion.

Did you receive any additional training and/or opportunities?

I always had multiple people I could go to for support, the training I received was very beneficial. I was almost always joining someone on their project.

What previous skills and/or competencies helped you in your role?

Communication skills, writing skills, and programming skills.

What previous skills and/or competencies did you develop during your placement?

I became very proficient at explaining science to the public, I was also told “I had inspector eyes”. The only area I felt school had not prepared me for was facilities that are not power plants, such as a uranium mine.

What advice would you offer to students that want to pursue a co-op/internship?

Just do it, don’t let your dreams just be dreams. There’s always the typical advice of “just be yourself, have fun”. More specifically though, it would be a good idea to look at things that are not just nuclear power plants. Also, learning French is a good move.