RISD Students Find Real-World Inspiration Via Summer Internships

Claire Kim explores a copy of the Orion capsule used by NASA to train astronauts

Rising junior Claire Kim 25 ID wasn’t planning to do an internship this summer, but when she saw NASA included on the list of opportunities offered through the Career Center, she just had to apply. “I was a member of the RISD Rover team last year and am definitely interested in working for NASA after I graduate,” she says. “I taught myself how to use [3D animation software] Blender last summer and took a T-shirt design class during Wintersession, and I think those are the skills that helped me land this internship.”

Kim is part of a three-person art and design team within NASA’s summer internship program and is enjoying the supportive, collegiate vibe of the space exploration organization’s Houston campus. She is taking advantage of every opportunity offered, including the chance to inspect a “medium-fidelity” version of the Orion capsule astronauts will fly to the moon in 2024 (see photo, above). 

“Claire is one of 351 students who have registered for internships this summer, which is comparable to our pre-pandemic numbers,” says Career Center Associate Director Susan Andersen. “It’s really nice to see the program come back strong.”

Brown|RISD dual degree student Ivery Chen BRDD 24 FAV is also taking advantage of the program this summer as an intern in the Pixar Undergraduate Program (PUP) in Emeryville, CA. Chen says she is unsure about what she wants to do after college. “One career path possibility is animation and the other is working in tech, which is what I study at Brown, so I’m hoping that this summer’s experience will answer that question,” she says. 

Ivery Chen poses with the Pixar lamp in Emeryville, CA
Cissy Huang prepares paper models of David Weeks' lighting design ideas
Above, Pixar intern Ivery Chen poses with the iconic lamp; below, Cissy Huang is learning to work in paper at David Weeks’ lighting design studio in Brooklyn.

Chen is working with students from across the country in a classroom setting at Pixar, where the group is learning about a different technical aspect of the animation process each week. At the end of the summer, they will collaborate on a short, animated film. 

“At RISD we tend to work solo on animated films or collaborate with one other person,” she says. “So, it’s great to get a peek at how production and collaboration work at Pixar. For the first week we focused on character rigging, making animation tests of a character’s face in motion. This week we’re learning camera layouts and set dressing and playing with real sets of movies that are coming out, which is really cool.”

Chen is looking forward to creating her senior degree film at RISD next year. “People keep telling me that you’re not the same person pre-PUP and post-PUP,” she says, “so I’m excited to see what post-PUP Ivery will come up with!”

Across the country on the East Coast, fellow dual degree student Nura Dhar BRDD 25 AP is getting a taste of the fashion world at Oscar de la Renta in NYC. “I am definitely interested in working in fashion when I graduate,” she says, “not only because I love fashion design but also because of how collaborative fashion is as an industry. For a collection to be successfully executed, artists and designers have to come together.”

Nura Dhar holds a spool of blue fabric in a room filled with fabric samples
Summer intern Nura Dhar sources fabrics for Oscar de la Renta in NYC.

“My technical skills in sewing, patternmaking and machine knitting serve as useful tools for understanding the context of collection development.”

Oscar de la Renta intern Nura Dhar

Dhar is part of the fabrics design team this summer, working on sourcing and cataloguing textiles for the new collection, designing prints, creating color palettes for upcoming collections and more. “My technical skills in sewing, patternmaking and machine knitting serve as useful tools for understanding the context of collection development,” she says, “and seeing glamorous gowns being crafted is so inspiring. I’d love to explore eveningwear in my studio when I get back to Providence.”

Finally, grad student Cissy Huang MFA 24 FD is working one-on-one with lighting designer and RISD alum David Weeks 90 PT in his Brooklyn studio. “I’m doing 3D modeling and helping David develop a new limited-edition product line,” she says. “I’m exploring my own design language at RISD—something between industrialized objects and fine art—which is similar to the line David is straddling.”

Huang says that the mindset at Weeks’ studio is almost the opposite of what she has experienced at RISD in that he is designing objects for mass production. “His creative process is also almost the reverse of mine,” she adds. “He starts his forms in paper and then brings the designs into the digital world via Rhino, whereas I typically start with digital and then translate my designs into the physical world.”

Huang—like many of the RISD students currently working as summer interns—expects her process and mindset to shift when she returns to RISD based on her summer experience. “I’m tapping into curvy, organic forms from the real world that just cannot be achieved via 3D modeling,” she says. “It is so inspiring!”

Simone Solondz / top image: Claire Kim checks out the Orion capsule at NASA.
July 25, 2023

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