Hands-On Internship Gives Doctoral Student Global View of AI

Ankita Paul stands in front of a Samsung sign

Students in Drexel’s College of Engineering have limitless opportunities to apply classroom lessons to real-world practice. From co-ops and internships to faculty-mentored research projects, Drexel engineers at every level of study routinely bridge the gap between academic theory and practical application.

Doctoral student Ankita Paul recently completed an internship that exemplifies this experiential approach. Paul, who studies artificial intelligence (AI), spent the summer as an AI Strategy Scientist Intern for Samsung Semiconductor Inc. in San Jose, California.

In this role, Paul explored ways AI and machine learning could enhance efficiency and productivity in Samsung's semiconductor manufacturing operations. She helped to design strategy projects showing how deep learning algorithms could be implemented in each manufacturing sub-process. She assessed the data, resources and challenges involved in integrating AI into areas like abnormality detection, cost optimization and more.

While on the job, Paul learned the importance of cross-functional collaboration for complex solutions, and the value of institutional knowledge that can come with working at a company with a long history.

"Some challenges you're facing now, maybe a team faced two quarters back, so you can learn from them instead of reinventing the wheel," she said.

At the same time, Paul was excited to see Samsung's commitment to long-range research.

“In a lot of ways, the pressure for profit can drive industry to pursue projects that may be marketable in the next couple of years,” she said. “I was impressed that Samsung had an interest also in niche technologies which did not have any chance of generating any revenue for the next 10 years or so.”

A highlight of Paul's internship was visiting Samsung's R&D facilities and headquarters in Seoul, South Korea for 7 days. There she toured semiconductor manufacturing plants, met researchers driving Samsung's AI strategy, and attended the launch event for the Galaxy Z Flip phone. Paul also enjoyed cultural experiences like a Korean cooking class and tour of Seoul.

Now back at Drexel, Paul is focusing her research on bridging theoretical and applied AI. Her newest research project centers on using machine learning for real-time system learning.

Paul hopes to continue pursuing research with real-world relevance. "I love how academia is more flexible in what you want to work on without profit pressure," she said. "But I also loved how useful applied research can be, so I'm focused on projects that can bridge theory and practice."

According to Paul, experiential learning is invaluable for students. "An intersection between academia and business can accelerate innovation on both sides," she said. "My internship gave me that bigger picture view."