I cannot believe that my internship is drawing to a close, I am not sure if it feels like it went by really quickly or if it feels like I have been here forever. Either way I learned a lot, and it was an amazing experience. I went from feeling trepidatious about working in the lab, to feeling so confident in my knowledge that I could guide others.
The summer has been filled with different projects and opportunities. We focused on Puerto Rican soil and leaves to learn about the effects of logging on forests and microbial communities. I saw that project from DNA extraction to pH analysis. From polymerase chain reaction (or PCR, where we make copies of the DNA) to sequencing the DNA. From results to conclusions. It was so interesting to see the whole process of the project, and to be involved in every step. The only portion of the project that I did not touch was the actual collecting of the samples. But as the summer progressed I would have the opportunity to do that as well.
We also finished up a five-year long project that looked at 10 specific green roofs throughout the five boroughs. Although I was not involved with the beginning of the project, I did get to finish it. As I write this we’re about to send the DNA off to be sequenced. By the time I return to the lab to work during the semester we should have results. I think my favorite part of working in the lab, besides for meeting and collaborating with amazing people and learning so many new skills, was the fieldwork. We set out in the morning with our backpacks filled with water bottles, hats, and sunscreen. We carried a bag full of sample bags, ethanol for sterilizing our equipment, and lots and lots of latex gloves. I walked down the street with a soil corer resting on my soldier. Even though it was hot and sunny and we spent most of the day walking or on public transportation, it was still my two favorite days of the summer. It was so lovely to be out exploring the city I have lived in my whole life. I saw pockets of Harlem and the Bronx I had never gone to, I even got to take the Staten Island Ferry for the first time in my life (I think we were the only New Yorkers onboard). I really felt like a scientist those days, somehow more than when I’m in the lab wearing my white lab coat (which at this point is more brown from all the soil I’ve been working on). I literally got my hands dirty those days, and it sure was fun.
Not only have I learned new lab techniques: pH analysis, PCR, the proper way to take a soil sample, but I have learned a lot about myself. I now know that I am trepidatious when I learn something new, afraid that I’ll mess something up. But once I have done something a few times I am confident, confident enough to teach these new skills to others. I also am a voracious learner, once I have learned a skill I want to learn a new one. My goal by the end of my time in the lab is to learn how to perform every type of analysis-I do not know if this is realistic, but I will keep plugging at it.
One of the reasons I wanted to intern in the lab this summer was to see if research was something I would want to pursue as a career. While I do not know if my question has been answered, I do know that I really enjoyed my time in the lab, and hope to continue doing research, at least for the next few years. Education is also something that interests me, and I did do a fair amount of teaching in the lab: teaching new interns how to do specific things. I have learned the importance of patience and organization, and of tailoring how you teach to every student you encounter.
It has been an amazing and informative summer, and I cannot believe that my internship is drawing to a close.