Senior mechanical engineering major Erika Ebersole tested her skills with an internship at Amtrak, an internship she says readied her to launch her career when she graduates this spring. Pennsylvania forecasts a need for over 4,000 new or replacement mechanical engineers by 2024. Ebersole is ready to go to work!

In this Q& A, the Wood Honors College student and member of the Women’s Track and Field team talks about the experience and how Ship helped her every step of the way.

Where did you intern this summer?

I interned at Amtrak, in the High-Speed Rail (HSR) Engineering department. One of my jobs was to help test the new Acela 21 train sets, which are due to start revenue service in the spring of 2022. I helped with static testing of the systems (like smoke detectors and alarms), physical properties such as the coupler (in case the train needs to be towed), as well as dynamic testing, like getting the train to 160 miles per hour with certain power isolations in the possibility of faults during a run. I also shadowed service engineers and helped with troubleshooting and getting data downloads from the old Acela trains.

How important was the internship as you prepare to launch your career?

Before landing this opportunity, I had no clue what path I wanted to go down with my degree. A degree in mechanical engineering can lead to so many places; I knew I loved design, but I also enjoy working hands-on with equipment. I have learned so much about troubleshooting and creating solutions from problems that have never been seen before. I have loved every minute of working on the trains, being able to test and work with them out on the maintenance floor. Not only did this opportunity give me valuable machinery skills, but it also helped me decide what kind of work I enjoy doing. With everything that I have learned and am still continuing to learn about the railroad, my career is only just starting.

How did you connect with this internship?

Before he passed away in 2016, my dad worked for Amtrak for almost 30 years. During quarantine for COVID, I was going to a local park to work out, and there were a set of train tracks right beside the tennis courts. I have ridden trains all over the East Coast, and I was reminded of how much they interested me. I knew Amtrak has numerous opportunities for engineering, so I decided I would apply for an internship to see if I enjoyed working on trains as much as I enjoy riding on them.

How did Ship help you prepare for this internship?

The career center did an amazing job helping me refine my resume before I applied. I also used their mock-interview for engineering. From the engineering side of things, the labs I have completed in my classes offered me great opportunities to talk about my skill sets during my interview. Some of the machinery I have used during my labs, like a lathe and milling machine, are what they use to cut the wheels at Amtrak. My engineering classes also helped with my ability to write up reports. A large part of this internship required both written and oral communication skills, and my classes have prepared me for both.

What is your favorite thing about Ship?

My favorite thing about Ship is the fact that you can get so involved, even in your first years here. I have been a part of so many clubs and activities on campus in my almost 4 years here, and I have met so many amazing people, both students, faculty, and staff. Anyone can get involved so easily, and once you do, it’s so easy to network and find yourself being offered amazing opportunities.