Works and Days

Sigenics Winter Externship, Farhanul Hasan

On the 11th of January, 2015, I landed in the Los Angeles international airport for a work experience opportunity that I had been looking forward to ever since my application was accepted. I was picked up by Edgar, who was also doing the externship, and Jackie (Edgar’s sister), whose generosity allowed us accommodations for the duration of the program. Jackie drove us to her house in Costa Mesa and Modi, another of the externs, came in later in the evening. We went out to grab dinner and buy groceries for the next few days.

 Day 1: Jan 12

We woke up at around 6:30 and hit the road at 8:15. The traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as we expected and as a result, we reached Sierra Madre by 9:15. At the Halcyon building (which housed the Sigenics Lab), we were greeted by our sponsor, Dr. Douglas Kerns. We went inside the Sigenics lab and met Marcus Snyder, the office manager and senior technician. Douglas gave us a brief overview of the company and its goals. We learned that Sigenics specializes in designing integrated circuits (IC) and silicon wafers among their microelectronic components. Douglas also explained the science behind electronics and electric circuits. After learning these introductory ideas, we looked at a silicon wafer chip through an electron microscope, which was very exciting as we could actually see the arrangement of electrons that serve as the building blocks for all of electronics.

Marcus then showed us his varied circuit designs. We saw how circuit boards are designed using specialized software. We observed the different elements that go into producing these blueprints and how these designs need to be precise so that manufacturers can work on them to compile the finished products.

It was a remarkably warm and sunny day, so Edgar, Modi and I decided to go to the renowned Huntington beach which happened to be a short drive from Jackie's place in Costa Mesa. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, took pictures and watched the golden sun set behind us.

farhanulDay 2: Jan 13

We allowed ourselves a bit more time to wake up today and thus were more energized as we started off for Sierra Madre at around 8:30. Once again, we made it with quite a bit of time to spare. Today, it was Marcus who took charge. He gave us a practical overview of electrical circuits and showed us how to use the universal breadboards and integrate electronic components into them. We used an Arduino, which is an open-source electronic platform, in varying an electronic signal which is used in 

many applications in objects such as LEDs. It was an interesting experience to assemble the various components on a circuit board and then to upload a program into the arduino (using the C++ language).

We decided to try the hike to the Hollywood sign before the sun set, so we drove up to Los Angeles and started our hike at 4. It was an hour and a half before we found ourselves over the iconic Hollywood sign. Since we were in LA, we ventured a drive to downtown Disney and found ourselves having a blast to end the night.

Day 3: Jan 14

We kicked off the last day of our externship with high spirits. We were particularly thrilled at the prospect of receiving our very own arduinos (a promise Douglas made to us the day before) and for the lunch that Douglas was supposed to take us out to. We learned more about microelectronics and also about how the market for electronics works and changes. Marcus demonstrated some more interesting applications of microelectronic devices and showed us this innovative new technology he was working on that would essentially allow the charging of multiple phones in a sort of "bowl".


At noon, Douglas took us out to an elegant Thai restaurant where we each had a very satisfying meal. We talked to Douglas about his interest in Physics and his reasons for founding his own tech company. I was delighted to find that we shared similar interests in terms of physical phenomena we enjoy learning about. We also got to learn a lot about Marcus, whose story inspired me a great deal. He came to California to become a musician and by the generosity of Douglas, found himself outside pizza delivery and working in electronics. What he lacked in a college degree, he more than made up for in a genuine passion for learning and integrity of work.

We were each gifted our own arduinos before we left!

Though short-lived, this externship was a tremendously meaningful experience for me. Apart from learning a fair bit about electronics and how the industry usually works, I better understood my possible career path as I realized I didn't want to work in the more technical sides of the fields of science, but rather more in the fundamental research behind it. 


Tags: winter externship, electronics, engineering, circuits, sigenics, externship