My First Two Months at CASE – by Alejandro Jorge

I started my work as a high school student intern at CASE in September 2019. My tasks include completing and troubleshooting electrophoresis labs, searching for scholarly STEM opportunities and cataloging them, and performing various administrative tasks. Additionally, I occasionally assist the instructor at CASE’s First Light Saturday Science program for middle schoolers. During the sessions, I help guide students throughout their experiments, encouraging them to try, fail, try again, ultimately, learning astrobiology science by doing. 

I’ve always been interested in the sciences, especially those pertaining to outer space, and my career goal is to become an astrophysicist. However, after helping organize lessons and enjoying those more than troubleshooting labs, I’ve considered shifting my career goal more towards that of a university professor, where I would not only get to conduct research but also teach what I love to similarly excited students.

So far, the most memorable experience I’ve had was the unconventional assignment of making cotton candy for a First Light session teaching about gas giant planet formation. I got to use CASE’s cotton candy machine to make several bags of the treat. But as I started, it felt like the machine was taking forever to create a scoopable sample of cotton candy, and all I could pick up was the occasional strand. Even after the machine began to make a scoopable sample, I didn’t manage to scoop the webs of sugar well, crumpling it often into clusters of sugar. Nevertheless, I found a technique of scooping that worked well: holding the cone at an angle, rotating it in my hand, and revolving it around the top of the machine to scoop up webs as they formed produced fluffy formations of cotton candy. The experience taught me that fun tasks are not always easy, but they are doable as long as you enjoy them.

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