MURRAY, Ky. — Students in the telecommunications system management (TSM) department at Murray State University are using their programming skills to develop not only technology but their future careers.

Brett Hecklinger, a senior from Paducah, completed a 10-week internship with the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. As a student workforce trainee, Hecklinger supported the division by developing technology-based solutions to enhance the FBI’s intelligence, national security and law enforcement operations.

Brett Hecklinger stands in front of a Black Hawk helicopter.
Pictured: Brett Hecklinger.

“The FBI offered a truly unique summer internship experience where I was able to work alongside agents and support staff,” Hecklinger said. “I realized the enormous amount of work that is done by the FBI and other agencies to protect the American people and uphold the U.S. Constitution.”

Collaborating between FBI units was challenging at first, but Hecklinger said he quickly built connections and learned how to interact with people from various backgrounds.

“The whole summer was absolutely incredible, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience all that I have,” Hecklinger said.

Those experiences included rappelling down a building, meeting FBI Director Christopher Wray and flying in a Black Hawk helicopter over Washington, D.C.

“I love being involved in the field of technology because I am able to be at the forefront of innovation and utilize technology advancements to improve the lives of others,” Hecklinger said. “I came to realize a career in the FBI might just be what I have always desired.”

Hecklinger will continue his internship with the FBI throughout the academic year. He credits his professors at Murray State for not only supporting him in this internship but in his career endeavors.

“Transferring from a larger school, I have come to appreciate the value of having smaller class sizes at Murray State,” Hecklinger said. “The interaction that occurs between professors and students truly increases classroom engagement and should not be understated.”

Another TSM student, Tyler Williams, completed a 12-week internship with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The senior from Hopkinsville primarily worked on two projects: revising policy issues in cybersecurity risk assessments and enhancing automation in the Communication Standards and Technology Lab. After presenting his work to the center’s director, multiple departments began to implement Williams’ research.

Tyler Williams stands in front of two road signs: one says, "International Space Station," while the other says, "Moon ahead."
Pictured: Tyler Williams

“NASA as an organization is on the cutting edge of space exploration and part of that comes from their willingness to bring in young people like me to collaborate on projects,” Williams said.

In addition to his projects, Williams enjoyed touring facilities and working with people from various disciplines.

“The connections and experience are irreplaceable,” Williams said. “This internship gave me a test drive of my future career and opened the door for me to return in the future.”

After graduation, Williams plans to pursue his passion of satellite communication by working in the aerospace industry in Washington, D.C. Because of the hands-on experience he has gained from his TSM professors, he said he feels confident in whatever career he will pursue.

“Dr. Marcia Combs Ford has a huge impact in my life, going back as far as the Cyber Cave camp the TSM program ran when I was in high school all the way until my senior classes,” Williams said. “Also, Dr. Abdul Yarali has been my advisor and opened the door for a variety of research projects that helped me further develop my interest and skills.”

Williams’ positive internship experience has caused him to advocate for students from all disciplines to apply for internships.

“Do not limit yourself to local opportunities or disqualify yourself,” Williams said. “Apply and let the employers decide if you are what they are looking for.”

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