Interns Recognized at 2018 Summer Picnic and Intern Awards

August 02, 2018

Interns from around the Research Park gathered on Thursday, July 26, 2018 for the Summer Picnic and Intern Awards--an evening of food, games, and awards for the most outstanding interns of the year. It was only fitting that the event fell on National Intern Day to celebrate the hard work and success had by Research Park interns.

Throughout the academic year and summer, interns gained valuable work experience and worked on projects that positively impact their companies. Of the 700+ interns working within the Research Park, less than 30 became finalists for the awards, and only 5 individuals and 1 group were awarded the winning prizes. The winners and finalists were determined from a pool of nominees by a team of Research Park professionals. Here are the honorees:


Most Outstanding Undergraduate Intern

Fernanda Contreras, Data Science-Sustainability Intern, Agrible, Inc.

"Fernanda has worked well within our team-based structure, adapting with agility to the sustainability, data science, and code developer teams with which she has worked. Her positive attitude and drive have been an incredible asset. But ultimately, the amount that she has accomplished in her short time at this fast-paced and frenetic company is a true testament to the sort of woman she is."

Finalists: Manuel Hernandez-Estrada, Mobile Developer, Country Financial; Nathaniel Murphy, Natural Language Processing Intern, AbbVie


Most Outstanding Graduate Intern

Priscilla Ferronato, UX Design Intern, Gartner

"Priscilla came into the team during a time of uncertainty and chaos. Within a short span of time, she was not only able to strategize the plan for the product but was also able to guide the entire team on the concepts of User-Centered Design, Design Thinking and Methods, user experience, and more. During times when teams were confused, Priscilla would quickly assume a leadership role and provide direction to the team."

Finalists: Dipali Ranjan, Machine Learning Intern, AARP; Karandeep Singh, Programmer Intern, AGCO/GSI


Best Technological Innovation

Shanglong Zhang, Senior Associate Engineer, Caterpillar

"Shanglong took leadership in developing and deploying software. He actively discussed with Caterpillar engineers, visited the Decatur facility, and tested the software with end users. The two projects Shanglong was involved in have big impacts to Caterpillar's business."

Finalists: Rittika Adhikari, Technology Intern, Capital One; Deniz Karaca, Data Science Intern, Gartner


Most Advanced Marketing and Business Development

Tonisha Thacker, Communication/Marketing Intern, AARP

"Tonisha has been able to increase awareness about who we are and what we do at The Tech Nest through her work and social media posts (both internally and externally). She has also helped establish a strong view of AARP in our local community with the volunteer events that she is organizing."

Finalists: Muhammad Ali, Nautic-On Project Manager, Brunswick; Neelan Veloo, Market Research--Analyst/Consultant, AbbVie


Best Entrepreneurial Leadership in a Startup

Kanyon Edvall, Hardware Engineer, LifeFoundry

"Kanyon is in charge of building a universal robot for automating sections of bio labs from the ground up. This kind of project usually requires a large group of experienced engineers in well-established companies. The fact that Kanyon single-handedly built more than 80% of the control system is very impressive."

Finalists: Perry Lim, Research Intern, Serionix


Most Competent and Collaborative Team

Ameren Innovation Intern Team

"The truly impressive aspect of this team is the student element. 6 students of varying academic backgrounds came together, participated in a one-week agile workshop and spring planning session and came out the other end a fully committed and functioning team that you would think had been working together for years. The team trusted the process, followed the steps, and once the work was moving, did not look back."

Finalists: State Farm Econometrics Modeling Team; AbbVie Market Research Team


Congratulations to all of the winners, and to all Research Park interns on some fantastic work done this year.