Internships/Career Advice

My Summer Internship in D.C.

Alyssa attending a seminar on food policy at the Washington Post.
Alyssa attending a seminar on food policy at the Washington Post.

If you ever want to step out of your comfort zone, my suggestion is to go from working in a barn and an animal shelter for years, and then going to intern in the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. for a summer. Last May, I left UConn and drove seven hours down to our nation’s capital to spend the next few months interning for Congressman Joe Courtney.

I heard about the opportunity to go to Washington during fall semester of my junior year. I wasn’t sure where I wanted my path to take me, but I had been considering a career in agriculture policy. When I learned that the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) awards stipends to students interested in interning in government each year, I jumped at the opportunity. I had to apply and interview, but eventually I learned that I was one of a few students nationwide to receive one of those awards. From there, ASAS helped me find an office to intern in. I was interested in working for Congressman Courtney because he represents my home district, which is full of small family farms. Agriculture is an important sector in Eastern Connecticut, so when I learned I was chosen to intern in his office I was ecstatic.

Alyssa with Congressman Courtney on her last day of the internship.
Alyssa with Congressman Courtney on her last day of the internship.

Interning in a big city was a culture shock. I lived in Maryland and had a 45 minute commute on the subway each morning and evening. I knew nobody, but quickly became friends with other interns who were in the same position as me. However, the biggest change for me was working in an office instead of outdoors, but I found myself really enjoying it. Each day, I spent a lot of time answering phones and speaking with constituents. They would often call in to express their support or opposition for issues that were currently being debated in Congress. Additionally, I helped the legislative staff do research for letters that would be sent out to constituents, as well as for upcoming legislation. Since the staff knew I was focusing on agriculture, many of the topics I researched for them involved animals and agriculture. My favorite part of the internship was being able to sit in on meetings and go to hearings regarding upcoming agriculture legislation and the upcoming Farm Bill.

This experience helped me narrow down what I might want to do in the future. Now, working in an office doesn’t seem like such a big stretch. I’m currently considering going to graduate school for food and agriculture policy. I found that I really enjoyed researching topics to educate constituents regarding current issues, and I’m now leaning towards a career in extension to help with community education concerning agriculture. While I may not find a career in government, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to intern with Congressman Courtney. I learned so much from the experience, and it’s something that I’ll never forget.

Junior Year as Told by a Premed Student

My reaction after watching a birth for the first time! I want to be a neonatal doctor, so getting to see a birth was very exciting.
My reaction after watching a birth for the first time! I want to be a neonatal doctor, so getting to see a birth was very exciting.

Junior year is notoriously very difficult, regardless of major or pre-professional program, there is a lot at stake. Students are tasked with gearing up for their last two years of college by planning classes, making sure to meet all requirements, and thinking about what their next step will be. Whether you plan on attending graduate school, entering the workforce, or taking time off, there is a lot to consider and it can be extremely overwhelming. I am an Allied Health Sciences major, beginning my junior year, and I plan on attending medical school following graduation. I do not plan on taking a gap year before going to medical school, so a lot is happening this year, and it’s happening very fast. I have spent a lot of time preparing for this year, and now I am working on how to manage classes, study for the MCAT, and find ways to improve my application to be the most competitive.

First, the MCAT. I plan on taking it in early 2018, and to do this, and do well, I have a lot of studying. It is important to think about your own study habits and how comfortable you are with the material when preparing for an exam of this magnitude. You must find what will work for you to be successful, because everyone learns and takes tests differently. Personally, I have found it helpful to enroll in an MCAT prep course through Kaplan. This course includes guided online sessions for three hours each week, study books, and personalized assignments that are geared to help you in areas you need improvement. This is just one of the many ways people go about preparing for the MCAT. Find what will work for you and make you successful. Additionally, make studying a priority along with all of your other classes!

A second thing that can be stressful about applying to medical school is the application itself. While this is many months away, it does not hurt to think about what you can do now to improve your application, makings yourself a more competitive applicant. What types of things are you involved in? Do you have any volunteer or clinical work in a hospital? These are a couple of questions you can ask yourself, and if you find that you are missing something, try to search for opportunities to fill the gap. For example, this past summer I traveled to Spain where I was able to shadow doctors in a hospital for a month. This was great exposure to the medical field, and I learned a lot about Continue reading

My First Professional Conference

Mindy on the Tampa conference center steps overlooking the water
Mindy on the Tampa conference center steps overlooking the water

I have always had a love for the environment and the water, so naturally, when choosing my major I picked one that incorporated all of my interests – Natural Resources. Coming into this field I really did not have a specific path I wanted take and was open to guidance. I joined clubs and started research to try and see which environmental aspects caught my interest. However, it wasn’t until my research lab sent out an email about the American Fisheries Society annual meeting that I found the perfect opportunity to explore my field. Whether it was attending multiple symposiums or networking with some of the most influential and intelligent fisheries managers, policy makers, and biologists the possibilities were endless.

The schedule of events for the annual meeting, along with the August 2017 fisheries magazine
The schedule of events for the annual meeting, along with the August 2017 fisheries magazine

Professional meetings are a perfect time to gain skills and knowledge that you would not be able to experience back at home. I spent most of my time attending some of the 74 symposiums, all of which had different foci. Some of these topics included fish health management, biochemical tropic markers, lionfish, large oil spills, and more! Since my university research and experience span from freshwater fish to saltwater fish and everything in between I made sure to go to a diverse array of seminars. I was very overwhelmed at first because there was so much to chose from, however, seminar after seminar I realized which field I was more interested in than others. My personal favorite being Swirling, Jumping, Burping and Farting: Pre-Spawning Aggregation Behaviors of Bonefish (Albula vulpes) by Andy J. Danylchuk. The intriguing title led many to his meeting room and his pre-spawning aggregation findings were incredible. I also attended a very valuable talk on the future of the nation’s fisheries and aquatic resources. During this seminar I received Continue reading

The Story of Buttercup

Buttercup and Alyssa at the Dairy Show
Buttercup and Alyssa at the Dairy Show

I spent a lot of time in high school and the beginning of college worrying that I would never find anything that I was passionate about. Everyone made such a big deal about it—counselors and teachers were always encouraging us to pick a major or career that we love. When I was applying to college I intended to be a nursing major, but once I got in I promptly changed my major to chemistry and then again to biology. Nothing felt right. I was getting closer—I knew I liked the healthcare industry but I wasn’t quite there yet. Finally—I don’t remember how I came to this realization—but I figured out that I wanted to work with animals and not people. I came to UConn officially as an animal science major, with the intention to go to veterinary school. Still, this just didn’t feel exactly right, but I was getting closer, so I stuck with it.

During the spring of my freshman year, I received an e-mail about participating in a dairy show, no experience necessary. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I went to the meeting anyway.  I knew I needed some experience with large animals if I wanted to be competitive for vet school. I learned that I would pick a dairy heifer, train her to walk and set up, groom her, and finally show her in front of a judge in a few months. They had a list of names of the animals we could choose, and I picked a random one: Buttercup.

I started working with Buttercup a few times a week, and every time Continue reading

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn”

Hanging out with Prince before lessons!
Hanging out with Prince before lessons!

Last semester I had the opportunity to intern at the Camp Care Inc. Therapeutic Riding Program in Columbia, CT. Since I am minoring in Therapeutic Horsemanship Education, I was required to learn the basics of running a therapeutic riding program and being a therapeutic riding instructor. Throughout my internship, I had the opportunity to work with many different riders and instructors. Besides learning about why we do certain stretches with our riders, how to work with riders who may decide they don’t want to ride anymore mid-lesson, and safety practices for if things go awry, the Camp Care program gave me much more than I ever anticipated.

On my first day I met Kirsten, one of the riding instructors and my new mentor. She welcomed me with open arms and made me feel as though I’d been there for years. She quickly “taught me the ropes” and I jumped in with two feet. The barn work was easy to get used to, especially coming from a horsey background. I knew the basics of feeding, cleaning up, and exercising horses. What was completely new to me was working directly with the riders. Although I was a camp counselor for a few years at my local horseback riding camp, I had never had the opportunity to work with children with special needs. Continue reading

10 Ways to Have a Successful Second Semester

  1. Mindy and her fellow College Ambassador helping out at a food waste seminar on campus.
    Mindy and her fellow College Ambassador helping out at a food waste seminar on campus.

    Let go of last semester – First semester is over, let go off all the stress and bad experiences you’ve had. The best thing about second semester is that it gives you a clean slate and new opportunities. Take advantage of all that UConn has to offer.

  2. Get Involved – A new semester means another involvement fair, another Greek week, and more possibilities. If you aren’t a part of any clubs or organizations step out of your comfort zone and sign up for some. Even if you only go to one meeting you are at least trying out new things. If you are already part of some clubs/organizations, join another if you have time! It never hurts to make friends and be involved in the UConn community. You can also try going to body wise classes that UConn Recreation offers. They are organized fitness classes ranging from yoga to HIIT. Getting involved and trying new things helps you submerse yourself in all UConn has to offer. It will make you feel more comfortable and a part of the community.
  3. Eat breakfast – Eating right gives you the energy to make it through the day. I always eat a balanced breakfast with eggs, toast, and some form of fruit. Last year I always skipped breakfast and found myself getting tired and taking a lot of naps. Now that I make time for not only breakfast, but also lunch and dinner, I feel like I have so much more energy.
  4. Fix your sleep schedule – Along with getting up early enough for class and having enough time to eat breakfast, you want to make sure that you’re getting a good amount of sleep each night. After winter break your sleep schedule is probably all messed up. People sleep until noon maybe even 2pm during break and stay up late or go to bed too early because they’re bored. Being back at school you need the break the habits you just made and fix your sleep schedule. Getting 6 to 8 hours a night gives your body enough of a break to relax and get ready for the next day.
  5. Breakfast at McMahon dining hall.
    Breakfast at McMahon dining hall.

    Plan ahead – After syllabus week you should gather all the important dates from each class and transfer them into your agenda pad/planner. Having exams and quizzes written down will help you plan for studying and plan for weeks that are “free” enough so you can travel that weekend without having a load of homework. Planning ahead is also beneficial not just with course work, but also courses in general. Planning out your semesters in advance will help ease the course picking chaos and allow you to put courses together like a puzzle in terms of labs, discussions, and hard/easy classes. It is good to have a mixture to not overwhelm or underwhelm yourself.

  6. Apply to internships – I don’t know about you but I procrastinate so much during winter break, I don’t want to do anything. However, when I go back to school I need to make sure I’m productive by applying to
    Mindy and her sorority, Sigma Alpha, at the homecoming parade in Fall 2015.
    Mindy and her sorority, Sigma Alpha, at the homecoming parade in Fall 2015.

    internships because they are very important. They provide you with real world experience in your field of study and can be a stepping-stone toward your future job. If you haven’t already started looking I recommend you do so soon! Summer internships normally have their applications open from early January until mid-February and require information like transcripts and letters of recommendation. UConn’s Center for Career Development has a lot of awesome information and advice that helped me when I applied.

  7. Apply for scholarships – Scholarships are so important these days because college is so expensive and debt is piling up. There are thousands of scholarships that can help lessen the financial burden. Topics range from being within your major all the way to writing an essay about a certain book or living in a certain town. UConn has an Office of National Scholarships, which is very helpful in finding specific scholarships, but a classic Google search is also informative.
  8. Find the right ways to study for class – Doing well in your classes is an essential part of having a successful semester! However, all classes and professors have such different teaching methods and testing strategies. Students can go talk to their professors about what material they should be studying, which is very
    Mindy visiting Hammonassett State Park over spring break.
    Mindy visiting Hammonassett State Park over spring break.

    helpful. And sometimes the first test or quiz might not go to well but when you get the hang of how your professor tests you can find the right ways to study for future assignments. Different ways to study could be how you take notes in class. Some people handwrite notes, print power points, type notes, or just listen. Another way to study would be to rewrite your notes or study every night for a single class for a certain amount of time.

  9. Spring Break!!! – Working hard in school is very important, however, relaxing and having fun is important too. Going somewhere for spring break gives you something to work towards and look forward to for the first 2 months of the semester! It’s also a great opportunity to relax for a week and clear your mind before you finish off the year.
  10. Budget your money – it’s so easy to spend over a thousand dollars a semester on food, clothes, and other random things. Then at the end of the semester you are going to wonder where all of your money went and wish you saved it or spent it on something else. It is important to budget your money and realize how much you’re spending when you order/buy something.
  11. Overall, keep going – On the days when you feel like you can’t look at another textbook or hear about another rare bacteria found in the middle of the rainforest, just breathe. Course work can be so stressful and overwhelming, however, it will get done and you will be okay. The key to a successful semester is to not give up and to keep going.

Are You Ready for CAHNR Career Night 2016?

The upcoming CAHNR Career Night scheduled for Wednesday November 2nd from 5:30-7:30 PM in Wilbur Cross North and South Reading Rooms is a valuable opportunity for all students – whether you’re a freshman looking to decide on a major, a sophomore or junior seeking an internship or a graduate school program, or a senior looking for a post-graduate career – the Career Night event is a moment for all students in any part of their college experience to capitalize on. One key item for students to keep in mind as they prepare for and then attend the Career Night program includes learning how to identify and then pursue the “gap” in the recruiting process as practiced by many employers at most career fairs.

What do I mean by “gap”? At most career fairs tabling organizations indicate their preferences for would-be recruits based on academic major often leading many students to incorrectly conclude the firm’s representative is not interested in talking about other career paths. However, in some instances, those employers also have other lines of business and job functions for which they are not expressly recruiting for at the Career Night program, but in which you have a strong interest in pursuing as it aligns with your career goals, and this is where some good old-fashioned research, reconnaissance, and preparation on your part come into play to find the “gaps.” By familiarizing yourself with the employers that will be attending the Career Fair, you can then go to the website and LinkedIn page of a few of those firms that strike your interest to see if they have a line a business that might have the need for someone with your skills, abilities and interests. You can then create Continue reading

“Nobody Knows Where They Might End Up…”

If you’re as much of a Grey’s Anatomy fan as I am, I’m sure you’ll recognize the title words of this post. Nobody knows where they might end up – I believe this can resonate with people of any age group, but particularly college students. College can be one of the most exciting, challenging, and stressful times in one’s life. The pressure to succeed and be on the “right” path can be overbearing. We may make mistakes and find our lives to be totally different from what we planned or expected.

Katie and her Chicken
Katie training her chicken for Little I

So sit down, take a few deep breaths, and listen to me when I say that everything is going to be okay. It is more than acceptable for your plans for your time in college to not turn out as you had anticipated.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, and a variety of internships and volunteer experiences throughout high school to the present have solidified my desire to follow that career path. I began my freshman year at UConn as a dedicated student ready to take on any challenge – I was my high school class salutatorian, had a strong work ethic, and was totally sure nothing was going to get in the way of graduating early and attending veterinary school. As I continued through college, I started losing motivation and began more tangibly struggling with mental illness. Time flew by and before I knew it I was placed on academic probation in the Spring of 2015. I felt lost and devastated; I feared that I had completely jeopardized my future career and goals. Fast-forward to the present: I made the Dean’s List in the Fall 2015 semester, I retook some classes to improve my GPA, and I have postponed my veterinary school applications until the next cycle. As a senior graduating in December, these and other experiences along with the support of my advisors, professors, and friends have truly shown me that it is okay to be on a different path than your original intentions, as long as Continue reading

Start-Up Your Research Career

The summer 2016 interns and their mentors on presentation day.
The summer 2016 interns and their mentors on presentation day.

Did you ever have a product idea or insight that never got beyond the imagination stage? Many people do, but few people have experience with entrepreneurial startup companies that take the big leaps necessary to develop ideas into new services or technologies that create a market or meet customer needs. This may seem like a daunting idea to start your own company, but UConn has developed the Technology Incubation Program which provides facilities and services to support start-up companies and to promote technology development in the state of Connecticut. There are facilities at the UConn Storrs, Farmington, and Avery Point campuses which all provide laboratory and office space, access to instruments and equipment, and business and financial planning to startup companies.

In the laboratory checking for viability and counting cells on the microscope.
In the laboratory checking for viability and counting cells on the microscope.

Although you may not be ready to jump in and start your own company, you can still learn what it’s like to work for a start-up through the UConn-TIP Bioscience, Entrepreneurship & STEM Internship Program. This program was designed to pair undergraduate, graduate, and recent graduate students in the STEM field with one of the start-up companies in the UConn TIP program. During the ten week internship, the student will work on a project created by their sponsoring TIP mentor, and will attend a variety of workshops focused on career development, networking, preparing for grad/med school, and specific technology based talks.

This past summer, I was paired with a company called ImStem Biotechnology as a TIP intern at the Farmington UConn Health campus. ImStem aims to provide a cell therapy product using human pluripotent stem cells in order to treat a variety of human autoimmune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. My specific project was to culture the stem cell product with human immune cells from various donors to detect for any activation of the immune cells. This project was important for the company because in order to move a drug onto the market, the FDA requires a series of safety studies to be performed to assure that the drug will not adversely affect the health of the patient. The data that I collected and analyzed was used in the proposal to the FDA for the continuation of ImStem’s drug development. At the end of the internship period, each student is required to Continue reading

Policy, Agriculture, and Science: the Unforeseen Ties

Tyler InternshipWhen I first enrolled as a Pathobiology major, I never thought much about the political process and how it impacts science. I thought that by taking a basic civics course in high school that I knew more than enough about the government and how a bill becomes a law. After taking one political science class sophomore year, I realized just how wrong I was. While science is something that is often objective and testable, the way science is implemented in society is messy. Things like: religion, finances, ethics, and personal vendettas can either take scientific research and use it to benefit the general public, or use it as a tool for discrimination and misrepresentation of facts. It has been seen before. From using information on HIV as a way to hinder LGBT+ people in healthcare, to having environmental science affect our energy policies in the United States and abroad, public policy and politics have great effects on not only public health, but science and agriculture itself. Even our programs at UConn are affected by public policy in the form of budget cuts.

In order to learn more and get a hands on experience, I obtained a position as an intern for the Connecticut General Assembly, the legislative branch for our state, through UConn’s Political Science department. As an intern, I had the opportunity to apply my knowledge of pathobiology as well as my experiences at UConn from UConn Model United Nations and Undergraduate Student Government. I often conducted research on various issues ranging from veterans affairs to public health. I was able to observe various hearings and meetings regarding vital programs that actually made Connecticut the second state to end homelessness for veterans as well as Continue reading