Review on Downstream Technology Department Intern
|Support & Guidance|
|Environment & Location|
|How Rewarding Was It?|
Due to the fact that I was only interning for 5 weeks, I was not given a full ownership of a project. However, a large amount of my time revolved around a small-scale project of biogas (methane and biohydrogen) production from sago mill effluents.
One of the tasks delegated to me was feedstock preparation, which consisted of preparing wastewater from blended sago palm piths and measuring substrates, pivotal to the nourishment the gas-producing bacterias in the wastewater. I was also routinely tasked to conduct a Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) analysis on these feedstock solution, using a UV-Vis Spectrometer. Occasionally, the Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs) of samples are determined via the means of Gas Chromatography.
Regular assessments were conducted by the research officer, to whom I was not directly answerable when unsatisfactory results were yielded. Nevertheless, I was directly involved in devising solutions to mitigate regular setbacks faced, especially in the COD analysis.
One of the key take-outs of this internship is a greater appreciation of research field. Not only have I understood that failures and inconsistencies are imminent in any research work, but I realised that they are important in making one more innovative and resourceful too. In retrospect, I have also learnt to persevere and manage my time better.
My 5 weeks at CRAUN Research have also equipped me with an incredible hands-on experience of handling laboratory equipments and chemicals - more than I could ever have in the 3 years of my Chemical Engineering Bachelor degree programme. It has also provided an insight of the sago industry, more extensively in the downstream area - from the main uses of sago to its economic benefits and environmental impacts.
My two supervisors, which consisted of a research officer and a research assistant, have been very helpful and supportive during the course of my internship. There were informal check-ins where I was allowed to ask any questions and/or voice out any grievances (e.g. If the internship experience did not correspond to my expectations), with both of them.
Since the research officer oversaw more than one project, I was permitted to observe and participate in other projects too (one of which was the production of biodegradable plastics from sago starch). During these "off-track" sessions, the research officer would usually fill me in with background information as well as conducting a casual Q&A session, with regards to these projects which I felt was really great.
Given the location of the facility and the nature of the work at CRAUN Research, the internship experience can be improved by providing interns with monetary incentives, either on a one-off or monthly basis.
While they are no interviews to go through to secure an internship at CRAUN Research, it is wise to do a considerable amount research on the sago industry beforehand. That way, you would have a glimpse of what to expect once you have started. This might also come in handy in the configuration of your internship project with your supervisor later on- so that it can be best suited to your interests or a particular skill set that you look forward to enhance.
And always, always be inquisitive about things during your internship!