Welcome to a behind the scenes look at what it's like to be an intern at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
Every year the Berkman Klein Center hosts dozens of students who come to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to work closely with faculty, researchers, staff, and the broader academic community throughout the summer. Over an intensive 10-week placement, the Berkterns (Berkman Klein Interns) work to identify and engage with challenges, issues, solutions, and opportunities on a variety of topics and projects that involve using technology for social good.
This Summer Snapshot gives you a quick look into what it’s like to be a Berktern. We hope that it excites you and inspires you to apply to the program. When passionate researchers come together from a diverse range of academic disciplines, geographic areas, backgrounds, and perspectives, the conversations are incredible, the research is meaningful, and the summer is unforgettable!
Learn more about the internship and apply here.
The Berkman Klein Center’s research scope is as broad as it is fascinating. There are research teams studying the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence, accessibility to medicines in global health networks, Internet censorship, cybersecurity, cyberlaw, youth media cultures, and much, much more. There are also interns working in staff departments such as communications, project management, and web development. The number and type of intern roles varies from year to year, however a typical placement could involve working on the following focus areas. Rollover each project theme for more detail:
In addition to everyday tasks, there are lots of group activities, collaborative projects, and learning opportunities to participate in. Interns are encouraged to be as proactive as possible, as early on as possible, to make sure they get the most out of their placement. Past intern groups have collaborated to produce Oxford style debates, podcasts, explainer videos, short films, lunch talks, skill shares, and teaching resources.
Work at the Center is often self-directed, giving you the freedom to experiment and explore ideas that are important to your research. To support you, you’ll also be assigned a supervisor and be given the opportunity to connect with additional mentors from among the many fellows and visiting scholars who regularly work from the Center. Typical outputs at the end of the summer could include:
Written work (blog posts, reports, book chapters, papers, notes)
Events (coordinating, presenting, reviewing, attending)
Websites (designing, coding, building, copywriting, conceptualizing)
Art (workshops, objects, concepts)
Multimedia (videos, animation, photography, podcasts)
See examples at the bottom of this page
You’ll get to meet some incredibly inspiring people during the internship. Interns are at all different stages of life and come from academic and professional backgrounds including law, media studies, computer science, policy, history, economics, philosophy, creative writing, engineering, and more. On top of BKC’s own research community, the Berkterns can reach out to interns at MIT, join summer sports teams, and connect with other social groups. Many of the interns are international, having previously joined the Center from countries including Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Nigeria, Argentina, Italy, India, Australia, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Colombia, and Spain.
Here’s what some of our past Berkterns have had to say about their experience:
"I spent the last two years down the road at the Harvard Kennedy School researching the intersection between policy and emerging technologies, like AI or autonomous vehicles. I am a passionate bridge-builder between technologists and policymakers or lawyers. What I have really enjoyed this summer is the openness of the other Berkterns to share their knowledge and experiences. Many people here have a technical background, while my background is in journalism and policy. So we see the world very differently. But everyone here is so open and eager to learn from each other, and that is truly a huge win for everyone. My two big projects this summer have been to put together a comprehensive, more than 100-page report on algorithmic risk assessment tools that are used in judiciary processes. My second big project was to build a course for the Harvard Law School together with John DeLong on “Computation and Compliance.” My biggest takeaway is that communicating clearly about artificial intelligence and its opportunities and perhaps risks is essential for its future." - Kirsten Rulf, 2017 Berktern
"I applied for the internship thinking that it would be a good combination of my two interests in technology and law. I wanted to spend summer at a place where I could see these two forces in action, together. At BKC I work with the Internet Monitor team, where we more or less routinely take surveys of the Internet to evaluate government censorship and freedom of expression in different regions. As a part of this team, I help with research reports, write up our findings as blog posts for the public, interview people, and also help maintain our web assets. I think that many of the people here have the most complex and versatile minds that I’ve ever seen. While that definitely makes for interesting conversations, it also creates novel ideas. Add that to the “anything is possible” attitude of the Center itself, and you get a whole bunch of innovative collaborative projects. And I mean, what more could you ask for? You have a team of diversely-talented people all in one place, the resources to get things done, and most importantly the permission (and encouragement) of your superiors." - Jeanette Si, 2017 Berktern
"As a researcher and advocate on Internet and human rights, working with the Berkman Klein Center has always been a dream. This summer I had the amazing opportunity to join the Harmful Speech Online Project where I researched ways to address and combat dangerous speech and harassment on the Internet. I assisted in the development of papers on white supremacist discourse online, offensive speech in Tunisia, and the new dynamics regarding harmful speech online. I collaborated with the organization of a workshop that assembled representatives from the tech sector, academia, civil society, and industry to explore the challenges in dealing with harmful speech introduced by algorithms. During my time at BKC, I also worked collaboratively with fellow interns and other researchers at the Center on cybersecurity issues. Being a Berktern gave me the chance to learn about topics ranging from data and access to medicines to digital labor, and youth and media issues. The interdisciplinary work with amazing colleagues from all over the world, and the talks with researchers, fellows and staff inside and outside the yellow house are definitely my main takeaways. So happy to be part of this inspiring and diverse community." - Verónica Ferrari, 2017 Berktern
"I do policy research for the Berklett Cybersecurity Project, investigating topics such as surveillance, IoT security, and software vulnerability disclosure. I actually read one of the Berklett reports on encryption and law enforcement while researching a paper in college. That's how I stumbled upon Berkman's website, where I saw they were accepting applications for summer interns. It seemed like a great way for a person like me, who has a technical background, to learn more about the social and legal sides of cybersecurity and technology broadly. In July our group had a day-long conference with government officials, technologists, and civil libertarians to talk about cybersecurity issues. I had the opportunity to present some of my research and talk one-on-one with most of the participants, which was a really cool experience. People that work at Berkman have such an eclectic mix of backgrounds and interests, and it leads to amazing research."
- Mike Hoot, 2017 Berktern
"I applied to be a Berktern because my previous summer internship was at an art/internet startup, and someone I worked with was an affiliate of the Center. He brought the opportunity to my attention, and after looking into the research and projects being put out by the BKC, I knew immediately that I wanted to spend my next summer here. My highlight has been the fact that I get to work with some of the most interesting, intelligent, and driven people from all across the world. My main focus this summer has been working independently on a project that investigates the role of guerrilla libraries in civic society. I'm also working with other interns and researchers on projects that deal with AI and ethics, media manipulation, and net neutrality. I've really, really enjoyed the interdisciplinary work." - Zach Tan, 2017 Berktern
"If truly loving Internet research is wrong, I don’t want to be right. It seems like the rest of the team at Berkman Klein feels the same way — and that’s just one of the reasons why I wanted to be a Berktern in 2017. At Berkman Klein, I had the chance to work on many different projects. I was honored to be part of the AI & the Law team, despite not being an educated lawyer but a having a background in Media Studies. I was involved in experimental and artistic projects as well and I got challenged newly everyday. But the most fruitful parts of my stay in Cambridge were the inspiring people. I felt like I finally met all my lost Internet-freak siblings that came gathered for 10 weeks in that yellow beautiful house from all over the world. I have never experienced an environment as open, diverse, and propulsive as Berkman Klein." - Shirley Ogolla, 2017 Berktern
"I applied to the Harvard Open Access Project at BKC because I wanted to learn about the construction and implementation of open access policies, particularly in regard to my own work in archaeological science, particularly digital archaeology and 3D technology. This internship has been an amazing learning experience. People here are incredibly supportive, and I really appreciated the free rein I was given in working on my own research projects here at BKC. Also, BKC is such a great community. One of my favorite things about this internship was just getting to know all the other interns, who were collectively an amazingly diverse and interesting group. When I'm not working on the Harvard Open Access Project, I'm working on my personal project, which is to research the relationship between copyright, access, and 3D technology." - Helen Wong, 2017 Berktern
"I work with the Lumen Database on issues of digital copyright under the DMCA, the right of publicity, and chilling effects with regard to online speech. I applied to work at the Berkman Klein Center because the future of IP Law is being fundamentally reshaped by the Internet and I wanted the conceptual tools necessary to be a part of the reshaping process. I have particularly enjoyed the flat hierarchy. It does not seem to be terribly difficult to get ahold of higher-ups and the work environment is such that I feel valued and included. Berkman Klein reignited my passion for learning new things in fields I've never had any experience with (AI, crypto-currencies, web development, global health and data flows, political philosophy, all sorts of stuff). I'll definitely be taking that with me."
- Chris Crum, 2017 Berktern
"I worked with the Youth and Media/Artificial Intelligence team on AI and Youth, Inclusion, and Africa mapping projects. I also collaborated with others to write an AI Children’s book, and co-prototyped an Empathy Cube, a creative training tool for digital citizens to bring creativity and empathy to problem-solving ideation and public policy. At the Center, awesome ideas and creativity are birthed at the intersection of awesome people from across diverse industries, cultures, expertise, and ideologies – this, to me, is phenomenal and super-commendable. I grew to learn about domains with which I had little or no previous expertise. Not only does everyone have a story; each person is an unconventional story worth celebrating. I left the Center more optimistic about the future of society and governance and the roles humans can play in shaping this future."
- Damola Morenikeji, 2017 Berktern
9 - 9
The Berkman Klein Center is at 23 Everett Street on the edge of the Harvard Law School campus. Taking up the entire second floor of the building, there are meeting rooms, creative work areas, conference facilities, offices, and communal working spaces. You’ll also get to work in many amazing rooms on the Harvard Law School campus including Wasserstein Hall, the Caspersen Student Center, and the Harvard Law School Library. Rollover the image for some glimpses from around BKC.
The Conference Room: this is where you'll hear lots of guest lectures, lunch talks, and partake in interesting group discussions. The conference room can also be used for creative workshops on topics like 3D printing, vinyl cutting, and art.
Follow the signs: the Center is located on Level 2 of 23 Everett St. There are plenty of signs to help you find the right rooms, people, and resources.
The Porch: there's nothing like working from the porch on a beautiful summer afternoon. It's also a great spot for an impromptu meeting, a quick catch up or lunch!
Close by: the Cyberlaw Clinic is just a few minutes walk from the Berkman Klein Center front door. Although there's no doubt that the house is the beating heart of the research center, work can be conducted from a number of great locations on campus.
The Kitchen: there's plenty of free coffee, tea, snacks, and leftovers in the BKC kitchen. Sit around here for just a few moments and you'll be sure to start up an interesting conversation with other interns, fellows, staff members, or visiting scholars.
Harvard Law School Library: interns are issued a temporary Harvard access card grants you entry into amazing work spaces such as the Langdell Law Library. You can work in the reading room on Level 4, or visit the Library Innovation Lab downstairs.
Meeting rooms: there are a number of small meeting room spaces inside the the Berkman Klein Center. These are available to interns for group projects, conference calls, and private meetings.
Commuting by bike: lots of interns and staff choose to ride bicycles to work. There's ample space to lock up your bike around the side of the BKC.
Berkterns hanging out after a VR party
Down at Fenway Park for a Red Sox game
Playing softball in Harvard Stadium with 'The Justice League'
Bouldering at Rock Spot in downtown Boston
Art installation at MASS MoCA, a beautiful three hour road trip from Cambridge
Swimming at nearby Mystic Lakes on a Monday after work
Claiming a spot by the Charles River for 4th of July fireworks
Hitching a ride on MIT sail boats for midnight summer sailing on the Charles
Gathered around a firepit on a weekend trip to Cape Cod
Renting kayaks in a national park
8 - 10
Time flies when you're having fun! Luckily, the friendships, connections, and network that you make during a Berkternship will last for many years. In addition to working together on official projects, many hang out outside of work, collaborate on personal projects, and explore the New England area together. Berkterns often remark that the most valuable part of the internship is getting the opportunity to meet other amazing Berkterns!
Check out some of the fun and interesting stuff that Berkterns have done over the years
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Design and content produced by the 2017 class of Berkterns, with additional work from Daniel Dennis Jones