“A teacher suggested that I apply for [a position in the] Public Health Informatics research lab...at the time they had several projects that included the Juvenile Content Management System and STATPack Systems,” Collett said. “It was the first time I was creating applications that made an impact and were being used by a good-sized userbase.”
Experience in IS&T’s labs deliver work experience that go beyond just coding, but a chance for current students to attend strategy meetings and work side-by-side withfaculty. Greg Hoff, previously the lab manager in the Public Health Informatics lab and a current instructor at IS&T, explained that students often get stuck in a “chicken-and-egg" situation: applying for positions, but need work experience to be attractive to employers. In Collett’s case, his work with the Juvenile Content Management System (JCMS) in the Public Health Informatics research lab gave him the experience he needed to eventually land a position as an Associate Programmer Analyst at Valmont.
The biggest thing that these projects do is give students relevant work experience. Many students come in thinking there’s only one ‘right answer,’ and you learn that there’s multiple answers. It’s not what you want, it’s what works for the user.
- Greg Hoff
On any given day, students are working in IS&T’s research labs and creating solutions for partners, all while building upon the lessons they’re learning in the classroom.
“The biggest thing that these projects do is give students relevant work experience,” Hoff said. “Many students come in thinking there’s only one ‘right answer,’ and you learn that there’s multiple answers. It’s not what you want, it’s what works for the user.”
Hoff says a lot of students find their way to IS&T’s research labs through their class work. Developing a relationship with their professor helps connect them to opportunities throughout the college.
“The lab environment allowed for learning the process that goes into application development with a team,” Collett said. “Working with other students and sharing what we learned on one project that could apply to another... the lab encouraged taking your time and learning them, to it right, ask for help.”
Collett emphasized that the lab environment encouraged asking questions and valued understanding the challenge, rather than just solving it. Working directly with Hoff meant he could ask as many questions as needed, and said that Dr. Ann Fruhling, director of the School of Interdisciplinary Informatics and the director of the Public Health Informatics research lab, “put an emphasis on learning and doing well in classes so the lab was very flexible with scheduling and studying for tests."
"Students are exposed to the importance of research and how research and industry work hand in hand," Fruhling said. She also added that the Public Health Informatics lab hired over 80 students throughout the years, and nearly all of them have gained employment as soon as they moved on from the lab or graduated.
“I was involved in the process outside of programming, such as meetings with stakeholders, discussing design decisions, and prototyping,” Collett said. “When entering a corporate environment for the first time during my internship....it wasn’t surprising when I spent my mornings in meetings rather than programming from 8 to 5. Valmont saw that I had experience already in a Microsoft technology stack from back-end to front end.”