STEM-focused internship program brings Mercer students to Germany


Shailey Shah and a friend explore Copenhagen during Shah’s RISE Germany internship. Photo provided by Shailey Shah.

The Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) Germany program is sponsored by the German government to promote international exchange in science and engineering research.

The program allows students from North American universities to intern at a German research institution for a summer, said David Davis, director of fellowships and scholarships.

Students in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences, engineering and computer science are eligible to participate, according to the German sponsor’s website

“It allows students to spend the summer developing their research skills, but it also allows students to have an international learning experience,” Davis said. Additionally, RISE Germany covers the student’s expenses and offers a stipend.

Interns do not need to have experience with German language to participate, and the primary research language is English, Davis said. 

“Any student interested in science and engineering research should seriously consider the program,” Davis said.

Ben Lehe is a fifth-year student in the Integrated Master of Science four-plus-one” program, and he is studying electrical engineering. He completed a RISE internship last summer for graduate students on microelectronics with a small company called Fitbase in Hamburg, Germany.  

“I worked on a prototype design for a device built into a chair,” Lehe said. “It records sitting posture and sends the data to an app designed by another member of Fitbase.”

Shailey Shah, a junior majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, also completed a RISE Germany internship. She worked at the Jülich Forschungzentrum, or research center, at the Institute for Bioorganic Chemistry in Jülich, Germany, doing biochemical research on a protein isolated from Oryza sativa, a rice plant.

I think it multiplied my self confidence many times over as I learned to communicate in a culture that does not speak English as their first language and how to survive when things do not go according to plan.”

— Ben Lehe, Master's student in electrical engineering

Lehe and Shah said their experiences impacted them beyond just their studies and research.

“I would call it the highlight of my all the experiences I had at Mercer,” Lehe said.

Both Shah and Lehe had the opportunity to travel to several other countries during their internships. One of Lehe’s favorite experiences from RISE occurred in Spain.

“I was mountain biking the mountains in Mallorca and it got dark, my phone died and I was completely lost on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere,” Lehe said. “I ended up hitchhiking with a Catalan rancher to return to civilization.”

Shah said she enjoyed the experience of living somewhere new.

“Despite the unfamiliar culture and language, I was able to truly connect with the people I met and made some really good friends along the way,” she said.

Lehe and Shah said they both gained valuable life lessons and skills during their internships. 

“I think it multiplied my self confidence many times over as I learned to communicate in a culture that does not speak English as their first language and how to survive when things do not go according to plan,” Lehe said.

Shah said that while the experience helped her with her studies and research, it also made her “more independent and self-confident.”

“Traveling alone to another country requires trust in yourself that you can and will face whatever obstacle comes your way,” Shah said. “Having these experiences with no one to ask for help in the beginning built trust in myself.”

Six Mercer students have participated in the program in the past four years, and Davis said he hopes that number will increase.

“I would encourage more students to consider applying,” Davis said. 

Student applications for RISE Germany are due Dec. 15. Davis said that the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships is happy to help students with their applications.