STEM Pipeline Blog / August 5, 2019
From CASE to College: How My Internship Prepared Me for Future Success – by Mia Campbell
When I first arrived for my interview with CASE as a junior in high school, I was incredibly anxious. I’d never had a job interview before. Knees shaking and stomach full of butterflies, I stepped into the room where my future coworkers sat waiting for me. Almost two years later, I was hugging those same people goodbye just a few days before leaving for college.
During my time at CASE, I shared lunch breaks, insights, and anecdotes with my coworkers and supervisors. I had the amazing opportunity to learn from and be mentored by highly accomplished professionals both in the office and in the lab.
I initially worked in the office, where I developed a range of skills that allowed me to succeed in more administrative, logistical roles. When I returned the following summer to work in the lab, I helped to teach high school students lab techniques as part of CASE’s Summer STARS program. This allowed me to apply my passion for science along with the skills I learned in the office during my time as an intern. I absolutely loved learning the essentials of working in a lab and teaching them to others—how to make agar plates, proper techniques for pipetting a variety of substances, and methods of DNA amplification, including polymerase chain reactions.
Coming in with little knowledge about biology beyond what I’d learned in my high school class, I was initially unsure about how much I’d be able to engage in lab activities. However, the technical vocabulary and precise methodology that had intimidated me on my first day quickly became routine as I grew into my role. I read about and discussed the theory behind recombinant DNA to prepare for a lesson, and was then able to solidify this knowledge while relaying the information to students. What we learned, for both me and the students, became even more tangible through daily hands-on activities in the lab. Every day, I felt simultaneously prepared to teach while also engaged and challenged by what I was learning alongside the students.
I’m currently majoring in architecture at UC Berkeley, with potential plans to minor in French and Global Poverty and Practice. Although I don’t plan to pursue what would be considered a ‘traditional’ science degree, working at CASE has exposed me to many different disciplines and allowed me to explore my interest in biology, chemistry, and astronomy. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of architecture, I have no doubt that the scientific knowledge I acquired in my time with CASE will be useful to me in the future. It will certainly be relevant if I do happen to land my dream job at some point—designing livable habitats for astronauts as a space architect.
Beyond gaining scientific knowledge, I was able to boost my confidence as a mentor, mentee, and instructor. The experience also introduced me to new research techniques and inspired me to look for research opportunities within the field of architecture and other related design fields. Working at CASE and being surrounded by such supportive and creative coworkers was an exceptional first job, one that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to follow their passion for research and hands-on science.
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