May 9, 2011


One week from now, I will begin my volunteer internship at a cancer research facility in Philly. As you may remember from this post, I have contacted a 'whole heap' of research labs in February and March looking for someone to sponsor me for an internship. I wanted the experience more than anything. It is one thing to acquire many college degrees, but it's another to have enough experience to get a job done when/if you are hired. I learned this while applying for laboratory jobs this past school year. Many companies were more interested in hiring someone with a high school diploma and about 6+ years of experience than someone with their BS or MS with no professional experience. I knew I had to do something about it.

I contacted various researchers personally, submitting my academic CV and asking if I could work in their research laboratory during the summer (even if it was just a volunteer position). I got the response from one facility asking me to come in for an interview during my spring break. I went in nervous as all ever, thinking that they might ask me to relay something like the molecular pathway involved in apoptosis.  I met with the the head of the breast cancer research lab, and I honestly believe that he had already made his decision before I got there. He asked why I was interested in cancer research. I explained to him my experience with cancer in one of my family members and all that I have learned about cancer in my classes, news reports, articles, etc. I was really emotional answering his question, but he handed me tissues and said it's okay because it "shows [my] passion for the subject". Without further hesitation, he welcomed me as a full-time volunteer researcher and told me about the team members I would be working with and asked that I had two recommendations sent to him. It all happened so fast that I doubted being accepted. I thought, 'well, maybe he was just giving me an idea of what it would be like to work there, if I were to be accepted'. The following week, I received an email from him listing all of my responsibilities for the summer. Needless to say, I was thoroughly surprised and pretty ecstatic!

So, I begin my internship next week. And with this, I feel as though I am one step closer to my dream of working at a cancer research facility. This summer will be challenging. I will be volunteering full time, with only holidays (Memorial Day and Independence Day) and weekends off. I have two 10-page, single-spaced papers to write, a weekly debriefing meeting with the lab, and a final 20-minute presentation at the end of the summer to discuss what I have accomplished and learned. This will be challenging indeed, but it's what i want.

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