NEON interns have the opportunity to live and work in Boulder for a summer internship at NEON's heaquarters office. In addition to what office life is like at NEON, this page also includes some advice and information from the 2016 interns.
Getting to Work: NEON provides all of its interns with a bus pass. If you’re a local student, they’ll also offer you a parking pass.
Schedule: Different teams have different start times, but you’ll generally start your day sometime between 7 am and 9 am. Your ID badge will let you into the building anytime between 7 am and 9 pm. The schedule is very similar to that of a salaried worker: you’re expected to work approximately 40 hours a week, but there’s some flexibility in your schedule if you need to arrive late or leave early on a particular day. There will also be a few times when you’ll likely work over 40 hours due to the demands of your assignments that week. If need be, you can take a day off -- just remember it will be unpaid. Lunch is generally an hour long and can be taken at any point during the day. Some days, you might have a “working lunch” which means you eat your lunch while also doing something work-related, usually while attending a meeting. There are numerous places to eat within walking distance. Breaks can be taken as needed throughout the day to best ensure your productivity.
Working Environment: NEON’s dress code is Boulder Business Casual, which means you can wear jeans and sandals to work. Things are structured, but feel pretty laid back because you have a lot of control over your schedule. There are activities available for your breaks such as jigsaw puzzles and ping-pong. Everyone is very friendly and eager to help out. Oftentimes, NEON employees will loan you their books on coding or set up a meeting with you to go over something specific. You’ll be assigned your own desk located in either an office or cubicle, which may or may not be shared with another intern or staff member. It’s pretty cool to see your name on a placard by your desk!
The Experience: Most of your day will be spent coding, working with specific software packages, analyzing data or other project-specific tasks. Like many office jobs, meetings are an integral part of the workday. You’ll have meetings with all kinds of people: your mentor(s), other members on your team, other interns, the internship coordinators, people with a specific skill set, etc. You’ll have multiple tasks to work on to help break up the day. These may include: your personal research project, the intern outreach project, the paper/poster/presentation about your research, background research (think lots of scientific papers and/or technical documents) and other assignments from the writing workshop. You’ll definitely be busy! However, it’s not all work all the time. There are field trips, talks, and lunch events planned throughout the summer providing nice breaks from your project. Though it means a smaller paycheck, the summer holidays also provide an opportunity to unwind and de-stress with a day off.
Scientific Communication Workshops
Scientific Communication Workshops are held every Friday from 9:00AM until about 11:00AM. They are held in the EOL Atrium of UCAR (see map for directions from NEON). Workshops are structured as a seminar with a lecture and intern participation. In these workshops, all interns from the NEON and SOARS internship programs come together to learn about technical communication skills including writing, presentations and poster sessions.
The central focus of this class is to teach the interns how to properly write a technical paper (which is due for most, if not all, interns at the end of the internship). The workshops cover the different sections of a technical paper, (Introduction, Methods, Discussion, etc.) explaining the nuances associated with their development. Various sections of the final paper are also assigned as “homework” in order to guide the interns through the process of writing the technical paper. Typically, each section of the paper is “due” the following week, but the due date is flexible and subject to the pace of the project and the preference of the intern’s mentor.
In addition to technical writing, the class focuses on other important aspects of scientific communication such as how to create a poster for a professional poster session and how to prepare a presentation and speech for a larger audience. Other critical topics presented as lectures include plagiarism, scientific misconduct, and citation techniques. Interns also participate in discussions about the topics during the workshop and perform group presentations throughout the course of the summer.
At the beginning of the internship program, teams of interns are created (mixing NEON and SOARS interns together) to present on different topics. The presentations last up to 20 minutes, including both the lecture portion of the presentation as well as an activity prepared by the team to reinforce the information in the presentation. While this does add an extra “homework” assignment to the workload of the internship, presentation preparation typically takes less than two hours.
These Scientific Communication Workshops have a threefold purpose. They allow all of the interns in both programs to interact together and learn from each other. The workshops also provide valuable information to the interns to foster excellent writing practices. Finally, they aid the interns in the writing process by breaking down the final report into manageable portions throughout the summer to mitigate the effects of procrastination. If nothing else, these workshops provide the interns a reason to get out of the office and do something different for a few hours on Friday mornings.
AN INTERN’S GUIDE TO BOULDER (2016 EDITION):
While an internship with NEON provides a student with the tremendous opportunity of learning from and working with expert scientists, it also provides a chance to discover a new city. Boulder is a charming place with much to offer and it is highly recommended that interns take the time to explore it. While integrating oneself into new surroundings can sometimes be challenging, having a guide is useful in showing where to get started. This list provides a short compendium of places to go and things to do to make an intern’s time in Boulder as full and rewarding as possible.
Boulder is home to over three hundred miles of bikeways! Though you’re only here for a short time, there are plenty of options for finding a cheap bike:
- Craigslist: Because everyone and their dog has bike here, there are plenty of people getting rid them! One idea is to buy a used bike at the beginning of the summer and sell it back on craigslist before you leave.
- NEON: There are a few folks at NEON who either have a bike to lend or know someone who does. Put the word out and see what you can find!
- Thrift stores: Every once in a while you’ll find a vintage gem at the many thrift stores in Boulder. But act quickly, they go fast!
- B-Cycle: Just need a bike for a quick trip? Boulder has a great community bike-share program! Just looks for the kiosks with the red cruisers.
- Rental: Full Cycle and Boulder Bikesmith are both companies that offer multi-hour to multi-day bike rentals.
Don’t forget safety! The only way you’re going to succeed at NEON is if you keep that noggin intact! Goodwill has plenty of used helmets and Play It Again Sports sells new and used locks and lights. Stay safe!
Join the bike party! Literally! Every Thursday at 7:30pm, hundreds of Boulder residents meet up for the Boulder Thursday Cruiser Ride. The ride begins at Scott Carpenter Park and goes until there’s no one left.
FOOD RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE 2016 INTERNS
Now that you’ve gotten your exercise in on the bike, it’s time to reward yourself by trying a new dish from one of the MANY eclectic restaurants in Boulder! There are simply too many to list here, so I’ll just highlight a few of the 2016 intern favorites:
- Heifer & the Hen – Sharon’s ice-cream heaven
- Smelly Deli – Kyle’s prime falafel-stop (actually called ‘U-Hill Market & Deli’)
- Dp Dough Pizza – Justin’s go-to for great pizza
- Royal Clay Oven – Fabulous Indian buffet where the 2016 NEON interns continued their “team-building exercises” after every Friday’s Scientific Communication Workshop
- Coffee & tea (necessities for a life of satisfaction)
The town of Boulder is located in a beautiful area with plenty to do. Besides exploring on a bike, here a just a few more options for getting outside and soaking up the summer sun!
- Float the Boulder River
- Whitewater Tube Co offers both tube rentals and a shuttle service! You can also buy tubes from many local stores or try your luck at a tire store.
- Stay safe! Be sure to check the water levels and talk to locals to make sure the river is at a safe level for floating.
- Don’t have a car to get to a trailhead? Not to worry! There are plenty of trailheads in and around Boulder that don’t require a vehicle to reach:
- Have the means to go a bit further? There are no shortage of breath-taking day-trips (or multi-day trips!) like Rocky Mountain National Park and the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
- Explore the parks
- Boulder is full of well-maintained parks where loads of people play a variety of games. Want to join in? Just ask! People here tend to be pretty friendly will rarely turn town an extra Frisbee player or sports-ball teammate.
Want to really immerse yourself in the town while you’re here? There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in Boulder! Consider Boulder Food Rescue for a unique and fun way to volunteer that only requires one night a week!
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE!
- Boulder County Farmer’s Market: Great place for local produce and more. Saturdays from 8am – 2pm and Wednesdays from 4pm – 8pm
- Pearl Street Mall: Outdoor walking mall with plenty of great shops and street performers. Check it out on a Saturday afternoon to be there during peak street performance time.
- Fiske Planetarium: Plenty of shows to choose from and within walking distance from the Bear Creek Apartments.
- Denver: Your EcoPass will get you to Denver, where the opportunities for fun and exploration are virtually endless!
There you have it: the list that gives you no excuse to sit home on the weekends! As you can see, Boulder offers no shortage of exciting things to do, but don’t just take my word for it- pick up a Boulder Weekly newspaper for all the most current affairs happening in and around town. Similarly, the Westword paper will tell you everything you need to know to have a blast in Denver.