Conversation: Internships

  • Lori:

    “We’re a smaller group and the faculty knows us well. They find something and bring it to you. They say, ‘Beth, this internship might be good for you.’ In most other schools, you might see a poster on the wall that says, ‘Fill out this little card and mail it in for more information.’ I needed that personal attention and encouragement.”


    “That’s how it happened in my case. I wanted to do an internship, but had no idea where or what. All I knew for sure was that I had a strong environmental interest. And then I got an e-mail from the Honors College director (Dr. Goebel, at that time), describing the Department of Energy’s ERULF (Energy Research Undergraduate Laboratory Fellowships) program. There are about ten national labs, and they take about 650 to 700 students nationwide. I applied and was accepted at both Oakridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.”

    “My internship supervisor was working on about ten different projects, and she started me working on air-quality testing options, looking for solutions. She gave me background research and guides to running the equipment and then, essentially, let me run with it. I’d come back with results, tell her what I’d done, what I might try next, and she’d send me back out. At the end, she had me write some research papers on soil and wetland reclamation. Much of this was teamwork, which is also a valuable experience. On top of all that, this fellowship had me working and researching at a national level, which is also good when it comes to applying to graduate school and for a job. And, to say that I worked at the Department of Energy for a summer and that I was in a high-security lab—well, it’s an interesting story to come back and tell your friends. I was under high surveillance. Ultimately, I’d like a career as a watershed coordinator.”


    “More and more people in Washington, D.C., recognize the name of IUP because of alumni or interns they’ve met. Also, once you’re in grad school, that’s really all people are interested in, where you are now; what program you’re doing. The assumption here is–and correctly–that because you managed to get into a competitive graduate school, whatever undergraduate institution you attended must have given you a good preparation.”


    It’s because the Honors College found a way to fund my research that I was able to work in my field that first important summer. This is the work we’re publishing and that I’ve presented at a conference—an intercollegiate conference where most of the other students were from big research and Ivy League schools. And because of this work, I really got hooked on organics–and what we call ‘green’ (or environmentally friendly) chemistry. Now I’m also a student assistant on a grant for a project to train individuals on how to handle hazardous materials.”