July 4, 2011

Internship Thus Far

There is much to learn and experience during a summer internship contrary to what I believed before I started. I thought, ‘how much could I possibly do in 15 short weeks?’ I now know.

In the six weeks that I have been at FCCC, volunteering as a full time research assistant, I have learned so much! I have learned: that I still have a problem with tardiness; how to deal with language barriers (somewhat); animal sacrificing and dissections really don’t faze me much (only when I have someone over me telling me how to hold a scalpel); and many other things regarding the mammary gland—including its development, morphology, architecture,  similarities between the human and rat’s mammary glands, and how to dissect it whole. I am also learning a bit of histology, which I am sure will be beneficial for my Histology class in the fall. This has truly been a learning experience for me. I guess it was worth the two years of being offered the opportunity (I’ve been applying to work as a volunteer in this Breast Cancer Research Lab since 2009). 

Outside of my experiences in the lab, I have also been able to interact with some other people at the hospital. I met one really nice nurse one day I ate lunch alone. She told me that the Center was “a great place to work” because there are so many good things going on there. She reminded me that there were “sad things” too, but mostly good. I have been able to observe some of these sad things, myself… patients walking around the hospital in their gowns. Others may even pace around the beautiful garden outside in their gowns with family members by their sides. Some choose to have their chemotherapy treatment on an outside bench on a sunny day. These are the things that made me sad.  There was another day that I was unable to find the group of volunteers I normally have lunch with, so I sat at a table with two women. One got a business call, so she was on the phone most of the time that I sat there to eat my sandwich. The other asked me what my role was at the hospital. I didn’t want to pry by asking her why she was there, but I saw the hospital bracelet and was tempted to ask if she was a patient there. Her response was in a bright tone. “As of today, I am”, she said. “I’m waiting for them to page me so I can begin chemo”. As those last words came out, I saw her eyes become glossy with tears. She did not cry, but I am sure the reality of it all stung deeply. I honestly did not know how to respond, and I kind of wish I did not ask, but I also felt that there was a reason why I was pushed to ask. Either way, we did not have much to say to each other, and I had to get back to work, so that was the end of our conversation. (I know, ‘what a way to end a convo?!’, right?!)

Anyhoo, overall, this has been a really good experience for me. Not only do I gain some laboratory experience, but I will be getting paid starting July 1st. Yes. My full-time volunteership has transitioned to a full time paid internship! Also, beginning July 5th, I will be the mentor of four high school students coming to the lab for the month of July. We also have a huge project beginning that day, that will last until November, but I will only be able to help in the first half (processing 300 samples) of it. 

This is such a wonderful opportunity. I get to work with great people and a well-known breast cancer researcher (and his wife) who has over 300 publications!! Life is good. All glory and honor goes to God for all of this.

The members of the BCRL, minus my 2nd mentor and one of the Research techs -- yea, we're not all in our fancy lab coats. 

P.S. I also love the diversity of our lab, in regards to ethnicity and areas of expertise/skills. We have a Colombian, Argentinians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, etc. Funny story: A new girl started as a temporary hire about 2 weeks ago via one of the guys (on the far left in pic) that work in the lab. She is blonde hair, blue-eyed like the guy on the far left in the pic, and she was also that guy's lab partner in undergrad. At lunch one day she asked "Are you Jamaican?" I told her I was and questioned why she asked out of the blue. Turns out, Tom, the guy she went to undergrad with, told her that he was the only American in the lab. When she heard me speak, she thought to herself "Well, she doesn't sound Jamaican. And then when she saw another of the volunteers, (on the left in pic), she also thought "Well, clearly she is American too". I laughed SO hard!

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