Reflecting on my internship experience, I can say that it has definitely been one of the most influential and formative periods of my career thus far. My internship came at a poignant time in my college years, where I was making many high-stakes decisions about what I want to do post-undergrad. This internship helped me to answer those questions.
Things weren’t always easy with my position; it was a lot of hectic scheduling, difficult or unpredictable experiment times, research emergencies, and hundreds of additional hours of requests for help that I just couldn’t say no to. But these experiences really helped me to better understand the research process and navigate through the field that I hope to become apart of in a few years. With every new connection I made and every additional nightmarish hour I committed to working, I felt more sure that this, although grueling, is the path I want to take.
I think I gained many valuable skills during my internship. I learned how to interact professionally with principal investigators and postdoctoral researchers, and the caliber of work I’m expected to produce. I gained a very technical skill set that I hope to apply to future work, and an ability to talk in everyday terms about the highly complicated work that we are doing. Most importantly, I learned how to conceptualize my projects into the greater scheme of scientific advancement.
I’m incredibly happy with the way my internship progressed throughout the summer, and happy to be staying on as a research assistant during the school year!
Now that my internship has ended, I feel almost relieved. This summer has been a busy one for me and the pressure of all of the things I had on my plate was at times difficult to manage. Yet it has all made me better and more hardened for the future. I don’t have any regrets from this summer or the internship but there were times where I believe I could have done better. I won’t elaborate but they were, thankfully, minor and not worth mentioning.
Despite these moments I felt that I did as well as could be expected, if not better, juggling all of my obligations during these last 10-15 weeks. I would not say that I was perfect but I do believe that I am far better off for future ventures and work. It is my hope that I will continue conducting research with this lab for my remaining two years at UofM and that I will be able to publish again before graduating. It is my goal to attend a graduate program exceeding UofM in reknown and performance, therefore I have to take every opportunity to push and make myself stand out.
IAlthough this internship experience is not really over considering I will be returning to work there in fall semester, I feel as though it stands out as a distinct period because of the specific experiences it gave me and the impact it had on my perception of the field and my place within it. I do not yet know what I will do next summer, whether it be research with the same lab or with one at a different institution, but I do know that it will have big shoes to fill. This experience will be a hard act to follow.
While my experience is not quite over, I have been working my hardest for four short months and a lot has happened between May and now.
I remember starting back in May, I felt a little lost. The test stand was close to being fully functional for the first time. I took up the challenge though. Spending some long days — not to mention the nights where lab was all I could think about — I got caught up and became familiar code, testing and positioners. This allowed me to fit into a role that was previously unfilled in the lab. This made the test stand my own research project; I know it, I operate it and I improve it. I began directing myself for the most part, this gave me a huge opportunity to do well — or fail if I had not motivation.
I had no intention of failing.
By June I began creating things of my own: nifty scripts to show the positioners in a different way and stuff like that. I worked on analysis too. I created plots to try to point out problems. I used statistics too, which felt a little weird since I had never before used statistics so instinctively to look at data before but I could tell, and others let me know too, that it was good and useful that I was doing this.
By July I began doing technical writeups of procedures and the set up. So that others could replicate it or so that others could be trained to do it. I began participating in group meetings with both our lab and some engineers and LBNL. For these meetings I would write reports and present my data on the now smoothly running test stand. I joined in on discussions about the the issues that were being observed with positioners and offered my analysis.
By August I really began to feel as a team member with the lab. My input was valued and others approached me often to know how the testing goes. I will let you know too, it feels great to be part of a team.
Overall it feels like I got to this position through a lot of hard work and dedication. Obviously having some prior experience in programming, troubleshooting, hardware and analysis helped me too but this gave me a lot more experience with those too. Some other things that I gained experience in was working as a team and giving presentations on my work — explaining it in a technical sense. This is all very valuable but it is only half of what I get to take away from this. The other half is that I worked on an exciting science project the DESI project which has a good chance of producing exciting results in the near future. Also all of the contacts I have made with my lab members, professional physicists and engineers are irreplaceable. If I ever need some help, advice or recommendations I have plenty of people I can trust to go to.
This experience has basically been the dream for me continuing my plans to go to graduate school to study physics.
Throughout the majority of my summer, I spent my time using this instrument in the picture above. What it does is measure absorbance using a software program called Ocean Optics. I would gather data on the concentrations of NADH as enzymatic reactions occurred, which would in return provide me with a change in absorbance inside the cuvette. Next, by this change in absorbance, I was able to calculate what the concentration of certain nucleotides was in the tissue sample provided from the manipulated rats – the rats were separated into specific groups to test how a certain variable would affect the molecular composition of the heart for each group of rats. Once we compiled this data, we were able to make some conclusions on how hypertension affects heart composition in rats.
I think it’s common knowledge that “Auf Wiedersehen” is one way to say good bye in German, but the literal translation of it is “until we see again,” which is truly how I feel about Germany, the folks in Gießen, and the whole experience of working there.
I think the greatest impact of this internship for me was, as aforementioned, leading me closer to a long-term path of research and academia. Taking classes and learning about chemical theories and ideas is definitely interesting to me (or else I wouldn’t be majoring in it!) but there’s so much more to doing research than just applying theories and testing out new ones. It’s a whole new process and foreign way of thinking, of constant reassessing and redeveloping ideas until you find something that seems to make sense and fits. There is almost no right or wrong, which seems counterintuitive to the way most people think about math and science. There is only trying and retrying until you find success.
Moreover, there are so many everyday tasks performed in the lab that a theoretical background just can’t prepare you for. How to properly mortar a product (everyone has their own secret), how to prepare a cell, how long to press a cell, how to set up various instruments, and most importantly how to get all your work done every day and manage your time well. It was so much harder to do all these seemingly simple tasks when I had to consider whether there was time in the calendar to make a measurement, how many lab spots were open in the glovebox, whether or not I had all my pieces dried and ready to go for the next task.
Most importantly of all, this internship gave me confidence. As a woman who aspires to work in a STEM field, I’ve often felt out of place. I never really considered myself a “science person” or someone who always loved math and numbers and theories and Truth. I didn’t think that, even though I had taken all the same classes as my peers and excelled, I was qualified for a position in a lab setting especially in a university abroad. But I did it! I applied and I was selected and I was treated with respect and taken seriously by all my lab mates and colleagues. And that was truly the most rewarding aspect for me–to realize that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was.
So here’s to an extremely successful and amazing summer of science, and all the labs I hope to join in the future. Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland–I can’t wait to come back.
It’s been an incredible experience to work alongside the post-docs and graduate students in the Department of Microbiology this summer.
Near the end of the summer, there is an annual Undergraduate Symposium where all undergraduates in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology get the opportunity to present their projects in the form of a talk, aka PowerPoint Presentation. I was incredibly nervous – especially considering my fear of public speaking. But it was a giant leap outside of my comfort zone that I’m grateful I took. I not only got that much closer to overcoming my fear of public speaking, but I also gained a deeper understanding of my project as a whole.
And most importantly, we’re getting closer every day to finding and identifying the carbohydrate-degrading bacteria of interest! I’ve learned so much, and hope to continue work on this project into the school-year.
So it’s finally over, and I just wanted to reflect on how the experience was. Working in the lab was really quite fun… Although I was unable to obtain any real data during the short months I was here, I feel I learned a whole lot through the failed experiments (like asking for help, specifically one of the other people who have been successful in the experiments to just watch me conduct the experiments after failing like 2 times…). Hopefully I will be able to continue during the school year and continue with what I learned, and hopefully come up with some more good data!
All throughout high school, I could be found working on political campaigns, interning for my congressman, and running a state organization that was a youth auxiliary for a political party. Most people assumed that when I got to college I would major in political science or history. However, my junior year of high school I took an intro to astrophysics course. Since, my life has completely changed. When I started out as a first-year student, I always knew I wanted to become involved in politics, but I had my heart set on astrophysics. Learning about colliding galaxies and pulsating quasars drives my existence. I find it dumbfounding that our own Milky Way Galaxy will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy and space is so vast that not a single star (like our Sun) will collide. The effort the National Aeronautics Space Administration is currently making towards colonizing Mars is a true testament to the unequivocal fruition of human wonder. Generations before explored new continents and generations after will explore new worlds. After taking a few classes in physics, mathematics, and astronomy I learned one key fact about myself: I enjoy talking about science but I do not necessarily want to make a career out of it. Although I did not want to give up my passion for space science, and that is why I decided to participate in space research this summer.
The internship I had this summer at the Space Research Building cemented one key sentiment for me. I always want to remain in the space community. More importantly, this internship has made me realize that my career doesn’t have to compromise space or politics. I do not have to choose just one. It is my hope that upon graduating, maybe even from law school, I can work for NASA in whichever capacity I am able to do so. Space law is a new field, but I strongly believe my passion for space and love for the law can combine to form the ideal career for me.
I think what has most surprised me about my internship was how “laid back” the atmosphere has been. For example, I have this set image of what attire and how people would act in a professional atmosphere. However that has not been the case most of the time at the company I intern at. The attire is casual there and it makes it super comfortable to work in. Also everyone is super friendly and helpful and don’t make me complete ludicrous assignments like the ones that are depicted in cinematic media of interns.
Another thing that has surprised me is the different departments in the company. I mean I’m aware that companies have multiple functions that need special attention but it kind of surprised me of the different positions people with the same major hold. I always assumed that if you have X major you work in Y fields. But there is quite the variety in the company.
The final thing that is surprising is that you kind of never stop learning at this company regardless of what field or department you work in. That’s awesome to me because it keeps you on your toes and it keeps you asking questions. You will forever be using you’re problem solving skills! I love the experience of working in a professional setting because I feel like I’m well prepared as far as what to expect in my future internship/career.
As an EHS&S intern, I experienced a variety of struggles and obstacles while on the job. Some of these obstacles include being knee-deep in a project and having a coworker or management ask you to start on another task for them, not being trained in a timely manner, not having an actual office, having management hound you for completion of a project because regulatory punishment falls on thr management of the site and more. Many of these struggles are common for individuals, especially those in EHS&S. Experiencing these struggles was very important as it will prepare me for my future jobs and train me to build skills and knowledge that will allow me to better handle the situations in the future.
One of the biggest obstacles I faced was getting access into our Great Manufacturing Practices manufacturing areas. This obstacle alone included several smaller obstacles built into one. First, I had to make sure I completed all of my online training. This required reading hundreds of pages in our standard operating procedures, which honestly was the easiest obstacle in this situation. The second obstacle included getting in person training to ensure I understood the SOPS and could preform the gowning procedures. This was the hardest obstacle by far. I have 4 coworkers, but only one is trained in training other workers on gowning. It seemed nearly impossible for her and I to align our schedules and officially train me in gowning so I could enter the manufacturing areas. Eventually, after weeKS of failed appointments together, I was trained. My third obstacle then was getting the training confirmation approved and gaining security access. I applied for security access and we placed the training completion online. This took only a couple days, but it still added to the time we had already spent waiting. Eventually, I was in, but then to perform my job inside the manufacturing areas I had to schedule multiple trips into the manufacturing area to do my risk assessments. As you rememeber, aligning schedule can be quite difficult. It took me 4 or 5 failed meetings to finally get into the building, perform my assessment and have the information I needed for my report. The amount of coordination one security access required was exhausting. It took over a month to complete the process, when it probably could have ended in a couple weeks. Because of schedules, miscommunication, unexpected life events and more, this process doubled in time, if not longer. While extremely frustrating, it was very beneficial to experience and overcome the obstacle. I learned to have patience for others in a work setting. I learned that while I repeatedly waited for other people’s schedules to match that I had time and room to work on other projects. I also learned that with great responsibility in making an important pharmaceutical drug comes a lot of regulations to follow, many standard operating procedures to learn, and an organized process of gaining access and having appropriate training. It was a grueling process, but in the end, this obstacles enlightened me to the daily requirements of an EHS&S employee and worker within a pharmaceutical company.