Okay, so I didn’t have this internship experience this last summer. I actually had this opportunity the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I spent six weeks at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is in Seattle. It’s part of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, partnered with the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s to study and prevent cancer. On paper, it sounds like a pretty prestigious internship. And admittedly, I was lucky to have such an opportunity.
Here’s the thing about internships, though: they’re never as glamorous as they sound.
But it’s understandable. I was working under people who had been doing research for years, who probably knew more about their specific organism than everything I knew about anything. Being thrown into an environment like that, with professionals who had been doing this for such a long time, what could I possibly do? I didn’t have the same skill set that they did. And you know what? That’s what an internship is for. To build up the basic skills around the people who really know how. So, I did polymerase chain reactions to make copies of genes and got really, really good with a micro-pipet. I moved yeast from one petri dish to another. I made the gels for gel-electrophoresis. I made augur for yeast to grow in. While these were all small jobs, I really learned a lot. Not just how to conduct myself in a lab, but what they were actually doing in the lab.
I worked under Dr. Gerald Smith, whose lab at the Hutch looked into meiotic deformations in a species of yeast called S. pombe and a close relative called S. kambucha. I now know more about yeast than I ever thought I’d learn, but more importantly I learned about what it’s like to actually do research through observation. I got to see what they were doing and the environment that research goes on in. It’s a glimpse into a possible future of mine and that is so valuable, because it’s hard to know what you want to do for the rest of your life in college, where you’re preparing for that. I learned that while research is really interesting, it might not be for me. I got a lot out of those six weeks and it’s more than just an experience to put on my resume.