EATONTOWN — MITRE Corp., the independent, not-for-profit company on Christopher Way, exists not only to provide technical support to the government, but also to lend support to college students looking to catch a break.
Five years ago, Paul Barr, technical manager for MITRE, began what is now regarded as a top-notch mentoring program by many colleges and universities in the country.
"The goal was to extend a helping hand to students in our community by providing them with opportunities to explore technical careers through internships and seasonal-hire programs," Barr said.
College students with a minimum 3.0 GPA at the end of their freshman year, are eligible and must be nominated by their schools to work at MITRE. All candidates must be strong in the areas of math and science, as well as displaying an ability to work with others.
"These technically astute students represent our future and the future of the world," Barr added, "and so they must display communication and presentation skills, as well as the ability to work together in a collaborative manner."
"The world today and the future must provide for give and take, or yin and yang."
MITRE intern Nirav Shah holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a graduate certificate in telecommunications management — with minors in mathematics, electrical engineering and social science — from the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken. He will be attending Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in computer science, and credits much of his success to the mentor program.
"MITRE is helping me to reach my goals by putting me into challenging projects in the field of software development. And (the program’s) highly qualified staff inspires me to do more and achieve more," he said.
"The program provides a team environment, helping me to build my people and communication skills. Plus, the work at MITRE is not bound to a single product or field, so you get a rich experience of working and doing research in multiple disciplines," Shah added.
Jack Quinn, a junior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, is majoring in physics and computer-oriented mathematics and also credits the program for his success. "Working at MITRE has given me the opportunity to see what engineers really do and how they work together," he said.
While the program primarily targets college freshmen, Barr admits there are some exceptions to the "freshman rule."
Recently, MITRE has expanded its community-outreach program to include seniors at High Tech High School in Lincroft. The two students who qualified were invited to work on "voice over IP" technology, according to Barr. "One of the graduates went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the other to Stanford, Calif., to further their pursuits," he said. "We are very proud."
This summer, the program welcomes 16 new hires from eight regional colleges and universities including Brandeis University, Brookdale Community College, Carnegie Mellon University, Johns Hopkins University, Rutgers University, Stevens Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland.
They will be given the opportunity to expand upon their classroom knowledge by learning a broad base of unique hands-on skills that combine systems engineering and operational knowledge with technical skills and research capabilities, said Barr.
Rory Jennings, a sophomore studying computer science at Stevens Institute of Technology, said he is still uncertain as to what his ultimate career choice will be and hopes that MITRE can help narrow his selection a bit.
"I am looking to become anything from a computer scientist to a programmer to a software engineer, but I’m not even sure what these three occupations are or how closely they’re all linked. This is where MITRE comes in," he said.
"MITRE has not only helped me apply what I’ve learned so far in school, but, more importantly, has given me the opportunity to explore my field, further aiding me in my decision as to which career I will pursue later on," Jennings added.
Students are currently involved in projects that include developing visualization for the "warfighter," such as using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to aid the warfighter in decision making; writing PERL scripts to aid in the reduction of data captured during a previous Army exercise; writing XML for Army Battle Combat Systems Distribution (ABCS); modeling and simulation for performance-measurements testing of the ABCS Maneuver Control System; and developing multimedia and animation techniques.
"I consider us as having one foot in academia and one foot in industry. The skills these students acquire at our facility strengthen the knowledge they acquire at the university," Barr said. "MITRE’s state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, also known as ‘The Innovation Solutions Factory,’ provide these rising stars with high-tech computing, communications and networking systems and tools which are linked to a virtual research environment."
MITRE-NJ primarily supports Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (C3I) systems development for the tactical forces of the United States Army. Technical work is focused on C3I systems, and surveillance and reconnaissance systems. The site’s core competency is system-of-systems engineering and is enabled by expertise in information technologies, systems development and acquisition, modeling and simulation, analysis, architecture, integration, interoperability and prototyping.
For more information on MITRE corporation or the mentor program, visit www.mitre.org.