How can I get a U.S. internship with a foreign degree?

Q: I studied fiberoptics in Europe and would like to intern in the United States.

Q:I studied fiberoptics in Europe and would like to intern in the United States. Please tell me how it works; my resume is attached.

A: I will take this opportunity to vent a bit. Companies and universities here could learn from their European counterparts to provide more student internship opportunities to our community’s benefit. This is also an opportunity for our technical societies to take more of an active role promoting and providing “matchmaking.”

From your standpoint, you want to gain practical experience and also get a feel for how things work in the real world to help you to make career choices. Established companies are more likely to have a formal training program to provide more of a learning experience, whereas learning in a small company is likely to be informal, but could expose you to a broader range of functions.

In either case, what’s important is to identify someone in the company who is willing to be your mentor. Not only can that person point the way, but you also get practice in ­relationship-building, which is likely to be the most useful experience you’ll gain from the exercise.

In the U.S., companies look at internships as an ­opportunity to evaluate a potential candidate for future hire, so you can expect to be treated well, including getting a fair salary instead of working for free as “internship” would imply.

Specific to your resume, you gave no clue about the ­direction of your career interest. You probably ­wanted to keep your options open to avoid being precluded from any potential openings. Keeping in mind that the purpose in having internships is for recruiting, I believe you are more likely to get hired when there is a match between your interest and the needs of the company. ­Besides, all you need is one job.

Q:I have a technology that can potentially improve the beam quality of high-power UV lasers for industrial and military applications. Where can I get $100K to prove ­feasibility?

A: You can either start a company with a technology innovation or license the technology. Your technology is more likely to be able to improve the performance of an existing product to make it more competitive in the marketplace, than it is to justify all the investment needed to start a new company when there are entrenched laser suppliers. If that is true, then you have to go the equivalent of the SBIR route, like many of our colleagues do. My recommendation is to incur minimal expenses to prove the theory by, for example, teaming up with professors who are already doing similar research to make use of their research infrastructure. And when you try to license the technology, remember the “We are number two; we try harder,” Avis ad.

Q:I have found a biomedical application with a material that I developed for telecom applications. How do I go about getting VC funding to pursue what is potentially a multibillion-dollar market?

A:This is the kind of invention we photonics folks dream about, and like most visionaries, you may be overly optimistic. Having a vision is a good start, because that’s how all businesses get started; then you must execute. You need to get marketing data, customer input, and generate a thorough business plan to sell your vision. Unless you dig in and support your vision with solid data, you are not likely to have any buy-in from investors or people you try to recruit. For example, you may want to challenge your "multibillion-dollar market" assertion. Very few materials inventions have ever successfully leveraged into a system company. I also think getting a biomedical industry insider on your team can help you avoid many unforseen pitfalls.

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