LINK & Business Description
Animas High School offers a three week long program during May, called the Leading Internships for New Knowledge program (LINK). LINK is an internships program in which students are encouraged to go out and find internships with businesses that are doing what the student wants to do for a profession. Internships have ranged from working with the local Durango animal shelter, to working with Ade operations in Africa. Animas is based around a project based learning model, and the LINK internship program is directly in this path. LINK students learn how to apply their lessons to the working world and how to behave as adults in a shifting societal climate.
For my LINK internship, I chose to work in the Taatjes Biochemistry labs at C.U. Boulder. The Taatjes lab works to better understand the processes and chemicals which regulate human transcription. The Taatjes labs are invested heavily in the application of the research they perform, and all of the research done is linked to solving real world problems.
What were the steps you took to find an internship and the challenges you faced?
When applying for a job, networking is key. As it happens, this is true for finding internships as well. I was lucky enough to have two people in my life with vast networks: Professor David Blake, and my father Richard Leavitt. These two individuals were kind enough to give me access to their networks, which made the process of finding an internship in a research position very easy. I first approached
Dr. Blake and asked if he knew of any available internships in a genetics focused research facility. Since we had worked together in the past, he was more than happy to give me access to a scientific internship database. From this, I found several opportunities in Boulder, and then approached my father. My dad worked in Boulder for a couple decades ad has acquired an immense amount of contacts in the area. After looking over some of the internship opportunities I found promising, he gave me the contact information of several people, one of whom was the wife of a lab director. After making the introductions for me, I contacted her husband, and found myself a position in his lab.Honestly, this process was pretty easy, due to the help I received. I contacted one person after researching opportunities, and got an internship.
Why did you choose this internship?
I chose to pursue this internship, because it is directly related to what I want to do for my career. I want to work with human gene therapies. Not only was I going to be working on genetic manipulation of human cells, but I was also going to be working with an
MD PhD student, which is the degree needed to pursue a career gene therapies.
What do you hope to gain from this experience?
From this experience I hope to gain two things, lab skills and an insight into which academic path I want to take. Of course, I will be working in a lab, and thus gathering the skills needed for good lab practices. I also hope to have conversations with my mentor and other lab workers about their prospective career paths and why they chose their degree. This will help me find the correct and most effective academic path to work with human gene therapies.
What do you hope to bring to the business?
I know that while I hope to be helpful to my business and be of assistance, I probably do not have the necessary knowledge and skills yet. With this in mind, I hope to bring a simple mood of enthusiasm to my business. When working in a biology lab, it is easy to forget how amazing the projects and science going on are. I hope to bring a fresh view of enthusiasm to the business.
What mark do you hope to leave on your business?
The largest mark I hope to leave on this business, is an open door to future interns. I hope that by doing a good job and representing our community well, the Taatjes lab and other professional research institutes will welcome high school interns in the future.
What abilities or skills were most useful coming into LINK?
The skill that was most beneficial to me coming into my internship was the ability to use a micropipette. Due to the fact that incredibly small amounts of chemicals are needed for experimentation, special tools called micropipettes are used. Had I not already been familiar with this tool, I would have had to spend time learning how to pipette, which would have subtracted from my experience. In fact, this skill is so important that the first question I was asked was if I knew how to pipette.
What was the most important skill you developed over LINK?
Over LINK, I developed confidence in myself. Before LINK, I was very worried about whether or not I was ready to go out into the world on my own and be truly independent. I was worried what would happen when I was faced with a real world challenge, which presented itself as getting lost in the rain. I calmly handled the situation, and managed to find my way to somewhere that I could charge my phone and eventually found my way home. I solved my own problem without assistance. I now know that I can handle future issues with composure and efficiency.
How did you grow through shortcomings or challenges encountered during LINK?
I dislike large cities. Being alone in a large city was a new, and at times worrying, experience. However, as the first few days of anxiousness passed, I realized that the city didn't need to be large. I could make it seem small by having my own small community within it. Once I realized this and began thinking along this paradigm, I overcame my anxiousness.
How were you important within the organization? Why should your mentor accept high school interns in the future?
Within academia, there is a culture of giving back. All scientists were at one point just an intern, so there is a culture amongst the community where those in higher positions "payback" their past kindnesses by teaching others. For this reason I believe that my mentor should continue taking on interns, to continue the cycle of learning. As an intern, I offered my business the experience of teaching a student and offered limitless enthusiasm, to what had become mundane for them.
How did the internship experience help you plan for next steps for college and/or career readiness?
After talking with my mentor, I realized the degree that I must pursue. I realized that to work with new medicines, I must pursue a MD PhD degree.