S.T.E.M. Students Discuss Their Summer Research and Internship Experiences

Kayla Bertholf

Science and Environment Editor

 

Sobika Thapa ‘23, Computer Science

What was your summer experience/internship called?

I interned as an user interface design (UI/UX) intern for a software company in Nepal.

Give a summary of your experience.

During my internship, I participated in user research and interaction studies, translated user stories and business requirements into effective designs, designed sitemaps, wireframes, prototypes and UI and worked with visual designers to evolve the brand identity style guide.

What are two valuable skills you have learned?

Talking about my hard skills, I got more proficient in designing software tools like Figma, Adobe XD and Adobe Illustrator. It also gave me some insights about the experience a user feels when interacting with a new technology. In terms of my soft skills, this internship helped me develop my formal interaction skills and work on groups.

Did this experience help you narrow down your career choices?

Working as a UI/UX designer has been on my list of career choices post-graduation, and I am glad I got the opportunity to get this experience. About narrowing down my career choices, I still have one more summer before I graduate. I would like to explore some other career options in my field, so I can make sure I choose the job that satisfies me the most.

How did this experience compare to your liberal arts education experience?

Even in Wooster’s education, we need to be creative and have critical thinking skills. It was the same for my internship as well. A lot of the things that I have learned in Wooster came in handy, especially indirectly. We had to think broadly about designs because not everyone would like the same interface. The writing skills that I had obtained from Wooster helped me write good case study papers and communicate fluently. Since most of our clients were from the U.S., the liberal arts education experience correlated with my internship.

Do you have any advice to students wanting to pursue this area of research?

I would say, anyone who is creative and has a love for designs should go for it because I, personally, loved all the tasks that were given to me. The work is not too hectic but it sure is quite time consuming when you first get into it. It would be better if you have some knowledge about the software like Figma and Sketch which are widely used for this job. Nonetheless, in a week or two, you will get the hang of the software so there is not a lot to worry about.

Mazvita Chikomo ‘22, Environmental Geoscience

What was your summer experience/internship called?

I had an APEX Fellowship with The Ohio State University and served as a peer mentor for Applied Methods Research Experience (AMRE),  on the Stormwater Community Project.

 Give a summary of your experience.

Through the APEX Fellowship, I served as a land-use environmental consultant for OSU’s Earth Sciences Department, based in Columbus, OH, collecting, analyzing lake data, and educating the public about aesthetic water management. I conducted independent research in a 10-week applied research program with supervisor Dr. Audrey Sawyer. We analyzed groundwater flow of Mirror Lake using ArcGIS to create and analyze digital elevation models. The research was synthesized to create a poster to be presented at the Geological Society of America (G.S.A.) annual meeting. I will also use this experience to design a groundwater modeling tutorial for future College of Wooster Earth Science students.

 What are two valuable skills you have learned?

This experience helped me to learn the necessary groundwater modeling techniques required to complete my Senior I.S. This experience also helped to confirm and solidify my interest in a career path in hydrogeology.

 Did this experience help you narrow down your career choices?

Yes, this experience definitely helped me to narrow down my interest! It helped me to realize that I definitely want to go to graduate school and helped me to see what a healthy environment for graduate school looks like with an advisor who wants what’s best for you.

How did this experience compare to your liberal arts education experience?

This experience reflected my love of arts and sciences fostered by my liberal arts education. We used scientific methods and visual aids to create models that effectively communicate the science of groundwater modeling while using my creativity to create visually appealing figures that can speak to the environmental versus societal impacts of water management. The depth of analysis required at this level combines the faceted lens one obtains in a liberal arts education.

Do you have any advice to students wanting to pursue this area of research?

This advice applies to anyone pursuing any career: once you find your interests/passion, reach out to people in your network (faculty, staff, friends, peers, etc.). You never know how that conversation will go and who can connect you to your next internship or research project. All it takes is a simple conversation, hard work, determination, and perseverance to ignite your desired career path.

Annie Cohen ‘22, Psychology

What was your summer experience/internship called?

I was an ethnographic research intern for the Partnering Anthropology with Science and Technology (PAST) Foundation in Columbus, Ohio.

Give a summary of your experience.

Over the course of the summer, I shifted between three main activities in my internship. At the beginning, I was assisting the research team as they finalized a report for the Ohio Board of Education and RemotEDx. I watched recordings and sat in on focus groups and pulled out integral points. My second assignment was doing field work. I sat in on around 40 STEM summer program sessions and wrote over 20 observational reports. Finally, I conducted data analysis on the surveys that were completed by campers. I was able to pull out what the campers liked and did not like, as well as what worked for their learning styles. I also briefly looked at the role of gender and how it affected confidence and work ethic.

What are two valuable skills you have learned?

I learned a lot from this experience. One thing that I learned was how to analyze open-ended data. I also became more confident in my research capabilities.

Did this experience help you narrow down your career choices?

I’m still not sure what I would like to do as a career, but the experience has solidified my interest in research as a career.

How did this experience compare to your liberal arts education experience?

I took Educational Psychology my sophomore year and it was really interesting to get to see the theories we discussed in our class play out in real life. Other than that, my experience was completely unlike anything else in my education so far.

Do you have any advice to students wanting to pursue this area of research?

Although conducting research in a Non-Government Organization is a “thankless” job, it is so worth it to know that you are making a difference for others!

Shankar Bhat ‘22, Biology & Political Science 

What was your summer experience/internship called?

National Science Foundation (N.S.F.) Research Experience for Undergraduates (R.E.U.) at South Dakota State University (S.D.S.U.): Genomes and Phenomes.

Give a summary of your experience.

Over the course of ten weeks, I was part of a cohort doing research in plant genetics and bioinformatics. I was working under Dr. Anne Fennell at S.D.S.U. who specializes in grape genetics and is researching perennial crop adaptability to climate change. I studied the genes that are differentially expressed when a grape plant is developing its bud and going dormant. This was a focus of the study because this unique trait – bud dormancy – is critical to the development of grapevines in the spring and has significant implications for grape adaptability through increasingly unpredictable winters. Additionally, with others in my cohort, I partook in workshops that taught us how to use various bioinformatics software and began the construction of a transcriptome of the flower, Viola pedatifida.

What are two valuable skills you have learned?

I learned how to process differential gene expression from raw data from DNA and RNA extraction. Additionally, I learned how a large research team collaborates across institutions and shares knowledge for the development of the field.

 Do you think this experience has helped you narrow down your career choices?

This experience helped me understand in part what a research career looks like … and that it isn’t a good fit for me. I really enjoyed being able to focus on a singular project, however, I definitely prefer to be working on more than one thing at a time so that I never get bored of my work.

How did this experience compare to your liberal arts education experience?

This was an interesting summer in that it was a very focused crash course into genetics and bioinformatics which is very different from my experience as a double major with a S.T.E.M. and a social science. I really enjoy being able to use different parts of my brain throughout the day and felt that the well-rounded education we get at Wooster helped me adapt to unexpected challenges.

Do you have any advice to students wanting to pursue this area of research?         

I absolutely recommend that S.T.E.M. students interested in research apply to a wide variety of R.E.U. programs. I am more microbiology focused yet I still learned a ton and was able to substantially contribute to my mentor’s research (and her grad student’s research!). This experience not only taught me about genetics and bioinformatics, but it also taught me about the research process which was invaluable. Further, despite seemingly unrelated, I am still able to transfer some of what I learned to my I.S. which is super exciting. All in all, an invaluable experience.