RTI PSM Student Internships
Several NC State University students had a chance to intern this summer at Research Triangle Institute (RTI). Two PSM students give us further insight into this unique opportunity.
Will you continue your work with RTI? When did you start your internship and when will it end? How many hours did you work? I started at RTI on June 4, 2012 and worked 32 hours each week. I stopped working at RTI full-time on August 10, 2012. I will work 15 hours per week at RTI through August and possibly longer if funding allows for it.
Can you tell us about the project you worked on? I grew five strains of anaerobic thermophilic Clostridia on defined media. I started cultures from frozen stocks and transferred grown cultures to media with carbon sources that were successively more difficult to metabolize. I also performed DNA extraction, amplification with PCR, and purification to sequence the 16S ribosomal gene and verify culture purity. I will soon use the pure culture to start reactions in a 2.5L bioreactor.
In which PSM program are you currently enrolled? What made you decide to pursue a PSM degree? I just began the Master’s of Microbial Biotechnology program. I chose this program because of its focus on acquiring skills that are essential in an industry setting, both a science background and business expertise. I am interested in applying Microbiology techniques and Biotechnology tools to meet our society’s current and future needs. This program will enable me to recognize potential markets and trends, determine what products and processes can be commercialized, and understand how to develop and use that technology.
What kind of networking activities were you involved in? How has this helped you find a job? Since I just began this program, I have not yet participated in networking activities that led to employment. I found out about the internship at RTI through Dr. Mark Keen, who emailed me RTI’s invitation for NCSU students to apply for this bioenergy research internship. As this research is very appealing to me, I sent in my application and resume immediately.
What do you think prepared you for your career after school is over? During my experience at RTI I was able to practice fundamental Microbiology techniques and meet great people. I valued having my own project and goals because I determined each week what steps I should take each day, and I knew why those steps were significant in moving towards accomplishing my objectives. This sense of planning my approach to meet long-term project goals will assist me most in the MMB program and in my future career.
What did you enjoy most about your internship? My internship was great because I had goals and made decisions based on my results. I would get to RTI, check my cultures in the incubator, and if they looked good then I would observe samples under the microscope. I enjoy observing the cultures under the microscope and taking pictures of them. If the cells looked healthy, and I had a decent population, then I would transfer those cultures to new media. When my cultures were still growing, I would prepare new media or plates to have it ready. I learned how to make defined media and how to work anaerobically through this process. I also practiced and enjoyed troubleshooting when problems arose. Several times I adjusted the components of my liquid media and plates to determine optimal growth conditions. It was always exciting when my cultures grew well and fast after making a positive change.
I interned under Dr. Javier Izquierdo in RTI’s Center for Agricultural and Environmental Biotechnology performing research with oleaginous yeast to produce lipids for alternative fuels. The internship will be for a total of ten weeks, working part-time. This meant that I needed to be creative and stringent with what I was working on in order to get timely and meaningful results for the team, and myself. I loved the challenge of working on something that my prior experience and education prepared me so well for.
As an intern at RTI we had various networking events we could take part in. Stella Lam did an excellent job of setting up these events with various top employees of RTI. In addition, we could interact with other interns from areas of RTI that we would not otherwise meet. I do not know many other interns within medium-sized companies that are able to say they met with VPs or CFOs of their company. From both my PSM and internship, I have learned that networking is almost always the most effective way of securing a job that you love.
I graduated in May from NC State’s PSM in Microbial Biotechnology. The primary reason I decided for a PSM was that I could gain both science and business training directly related to my career interests. My other option was going for a PhD, but I think that the goal of the PSM was a better fit for me at the time. I plan to pursue my MBA after working a year (or two) to allow it to be more applicable to the situations I will encounter.