Internship experience helps UNL software engineering student “connect the puzzle pieces” between coursework and industry 

As a child, McKellan Clarke spent his days learning the ins and outs of computers. He prided himself on his ability to remove computer viruses from his mother’s computer without any help from antivirus software. In middle school, he began building PCs, which only furthered his interest in computer programming and hardware. His courses in high school taught him the basics of computer science and furthered his love for computer programming.    

Now a sophomore in college, Clarke is studying software engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.    

“One of the main reasons I chose software engineering as my major was because I was really interested in learning more than computer science theory…I really wanted to get hands-on experience with something that I could create.” Clarke said, “I wanted to think like an engineer and get engineering fundamentals so that I would be more apt, more able, more capable to develop and engineer things and other software-related artifacts.”   

To grow his professional skills and find an internship, Clarke worked closely with Theresa Luensmann, assistant director career services for the College of Engineering. Theresa helped him to polish his resume, practice his elevator pitch, offer advice, and assist with his search.    

Theresa Luensman and McKellan Clarke stand next to each other in front of stairs of the University Career Fair
Theresa Luensmann and McKellan Clarke connect at the Fall 2022 University Career + Internship Fair

“McKellan is so motivated, and he does everything in earnest, which I love. He really cares about it and wants to do such a good job.” Luensmann said, “He was making sure summer was going to be a productive time for him in-between freshmen and sophomore year.”   

A lot of time and effort was put into the internship search. Luensmann was able to make tailored recommendations based on Clarke’s interests. This soon led to Clarke becoming an intern at LI-COR Biosciences, a company that specializes in systems for plant research, gas analysis, drug discovery, protein research, and small animal imaging.   


McKellan Clark, sophomore in software engineering, sits on stairs

“My internship really helped me synthesize and connect all the puzzle pieces and various pieces of knowledge that I learned from my software engineering courses.” Clarke said, “it showed me that the stuff I learned not only was useful, but it also could be applied together and synthesized.”    

Jon Hawthorne, principle engineer at LI-COR, explained that through his internship, Clarke was able to gain a good perspective of what a day-to-day developer’s job looks like.    

“McKellan is a great young man. He’s enthusiastic, very intelligent, very capable, really nice guy to work with.” Hawthorne said, “having worked in this career for many years, it’s important to have someone very talented and very sharp, but it’s also important to have someone who is a team player.”   

Clarke emphasized that along with the multiple opportunities he had to work on various application software programs, he really enjoyed working with his team members.    

“One of the things that helped me excel at this internship over the summer was that I was a part of a team of people that took pride and cared about what they were doing, but also had general concern for other people.” Clarke said, “they weren’t just focused on the product itself, but they were focused on each other as people, and I think that inclusion, humanization, and understanding of other people was something that made a big impact on me. It made me more driven to work as part of that team, and it also made me a better person.”   

Because of Clarke’s hard work & Luensmann’s help, he was able to get a great internship, gain experience and develop as a professional. Luensmann prides herself on her ability to help students with their career development in a multitude of ways, whether that be looking over a resume, assisting with an internship search, helping students reframe their experiences, or simply being a cheerleader for them.   

“I just want students to know they don’t have to do it by themselves.” Luensmann said, “it can feel really challenging and tricky to go through even an internship search process, and they don’t have to do it alone, even the small stuff.”  

Career development doesn’t need to wait. Start doing the small stuff today. Visit the Career Services website to find your career coach, career resources, and more.    

By Annelise Christen
Annelise Christen Engagement and Connections Coordinator