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b2ap3_thumbnail_Ansley-Thomas.JPGThis summer, Ansley Thomas is preparing for a future as a college professor by immersing herself in college education research. Thomas, a senior biology major, is participating in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Georgia.

“My favorite experience is being here surrounded by people who are passionate about teaching undergraduates and who demonstrate how invested and proactive they are about their teaching,” said Thomas.

Thomas is working side-by-side with Dr. Tessa Andrews, assistant professor of genetics at the University of Georgia, and Kelly Lane, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, on investigating the professional identities of graduate students.

“Specifically, we are interested in how they [graduate students] develop and what they look like when they do,” said Thomas. “I help mainly with data collection by finalizing the transcripts from our interviews and assisting with qualitative analysis coding.”

One of the most challenging aspects of Thomas’ work has been gaining familiarity and comfort with the qualitative data, which she shared, and is different from typical bench work in the way that it is handled, collected, analyzed and written. Fortunately, her coursework at Waynesburg has been helpful in providing her with a solid starting point.

“All of the biology courses I have taken give critical background knowledge for this kind of research,” said Thomas.

Thomas is thankful for the opportunity to be surrounded by the biology education researchers at the University of Georgia. The type of education research they are conducting is different than any work she has experienced in the past.

“Having research experience opens you up to the community of research as a whole and to the process of research,” said Thomas. “Acquiring that skill or knowledge is useful regardless of your future plans.”

Being that this experience has related so well to Thomas’ career goals, she feels confident that she is in a strong position to make them a reality.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Kristen-Wilson.jpgPreparing for a successful future is a major priority for senior chemistry (secondary education) major Kristen Wilson. This summer, she is devoting her time to chemistry education research, which she knows will ultimately benefit her decision to become a high school chemistry teacher. 

Wilson is spending 10 weeks as an undergraduate researcher in chemistry education at North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo, North Dakota. She is conducting research on data collected by Dr. James Nyachwaya, assistant professor of chemistry education at NDSU and Wilson’s advisor.

In addition to conducting research and analyzing data, Wilson will be attending seminars on education based research and professional development. At the completion of her internship, Wilson will present her final research at a poster session, which she will bring back to Waynesburg.

“The poster will come back to Waynesburg, and if it is exceptional research, I can get additional funding to present the research at national conferences,” said Wilson.

Aside from Wilson’s work, she is taking advantage of networking opportunities with the NDSU faculty. These relationships may have the ability to provide her future career opportunities upon graduating from Waynesburg.

“Opportunities that internships and research open include strengthening research abilities, but this experience is showing me a field of research that I may have never seen,” said Wilson. “It is a very unique type of research that I will be bringing back to Waynesburg when I return in the fall.”

Wilson credits her participation in various Waynesburg activities for helping her have a stronger ability to work closely with others. She is a member of the Commuter Club, Relay for Life and the American Chemical Society (ACS). Wilson has also been inducted into the education honorary society, Kappa Delta Pi, and the chemistry honorary society, Gamma Sigma Epsilon.

“All of these involvements at Waynesburg have helped me become more comfortable with working with others and being a leader,” said Wilson. “They have provided me an opportunity to work closely with other professors and students, which has helped in this internship.”

In particular, Waynesburg’s ACS student chapter has been a great benefit to Wilson’s education. Being involved in the student chapter has introduced her to a lot of chemistry education research.

“Had I not been involved in ACS, I may not have taken an interest or even known this field existed, which, in turn, would not have made me search for opportunities like this one,” said Wilson.

Wilson will serve as the president of the University’s student chapter during the upcoming academic year.

Most of all, Wilson’s chemistry classes at Waynesburg have best prepared her for the work she is doing at NDSU.

“The chemistry classes at Waynesburg have helped me develop the skills needed to find, read and analyze research articles,” said Wilson. “The dedication to research and development of a research project that I had done at Waynesburg helped to prepare me for the expectations that Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs, such as this one here at NDSU, expect.”

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Robert-Leon.jpgProfessional experience is important in building a healthy resume, which is exactly why finance major Robert Leon began exploring internship opportunities for the summer. Approaching his junior year of college, he wanted the opportunity to intern at a small firm to gain some practical experience since his resume was somewhat bleak in the financial sector.

Leon’s search process led him to an amazing opportunity with financial giant JPMorgan Chase (JPMC). The worst thing, he thought, was that they would just say no. Not having high hopes, Leon was surprised to receive an email notifying him that his application had passed the first round of screening and he was selected as a candidate.

The next step was to write two essays, one that explained why he would like to intern with JPMC and one that shared his interest in the financial sector. Two weeks after submitting his essays, Leon received another email that said he was chosen for an interview. Leon describes the whole interview process as a surreal experience.

The interview was a two-day event in Dallas, Texas, which consisted of various meetings, seminars and a face-to-face interview. During the interview process, JPMC also offered advice on how to transition from the classroom to corporate America, information that will be extremely helpful entering the workforce.

Leon’s professors at Waynesburg spent a few weeks prepping him with mock interviews to better prepare him with possible questions and build his confidence.

“It was quite intimidating coming from a small school, but from sitting down and talking with the other students, I felt strongly about my preparation and the coursework that Waynesburg University has provided me,” said Leon. “I could go toe-to-toe with any of those students and I credit a lot of that to the diligence and constant challenges that Dr. Ola has given me.”

Leon competed against 19 other candidates from many high profile national schools. He was offered the position about a week after the Dallas interview event.

Leon’s acceptance led him to JPMC’s corporate offices in Columbus, Ohio, to serve as a two-month summer intern in the Chase Leadership Development Program, serving on the Consumer Bank Risk Management Quality Assurance team.

Much of his work included checking controls and running tests in different proprietary applications to ensure that fraud alerts are triggered in different transactions, which was a completely new area for Leon and presented him with some challenges along the way.

“Just within the first two weeks, I learned far more than I would have expected,” said Leon. “It wasn’t a job of making copies and getting coffee; I was [quickly] doing practical work to help add value to the team.”

In addition to learning the job responsibilities and managing his schedule, Leon was challenged by the international scope of his team, half of which was located in Mumabi, India. This presented Leon with a time zone and language barrier that he didn’t expect going into the internship.

“We have conference calls or telepresence meetings to get everyone together, but you can’t just walk down the hall to ask a question,” said Leon. “Patience and understanding were the only ways to describe how to handle those situations.”

Fortunately, Leon describes, everyone was very helpful with whatever questions he had. He shared that questions were encouraged because it shows that you are engaged in your work.

Overall, the experience was everything Leon had hoped for and more.

“The internship has shown me what corporate culture is like and what is expected on a daily basis,” said Leon. “You have to use a creative mindset along with a strong analytical framework to figure out the problem and a way to deliver what is expected.”

Waynesburg has helped Leon in learning this mindset for approaching problems and handling a professional workload. He has a new level of appreciation for the liberal arts education he is receiving at the University and realized it has allowed him to appreciate the views and ideas of others more easily.

Even through his participation on Waynesburg sports teams, he has built professional skills that are important in the work force, such as time-management and prioritization.

“In the professional world, the to-do list never ends; there is always work to do, but you have to set your priorities for each day,” said Leon. “My experience in managing school work and sports has been a great asset to rely on in the workplace and helped me to show a willingness to take on multiple projects at one time.”

Being able to have this experience at such an early age has been a blessing for Leon. The opportunities, both educationally and professionally, can be endless moving forward.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Aaron-Schuster.jpgWhile some students struggle to select their major in college, for recent graduate, Aaron Schuster, computer security and forensics was an easy selection; it fit his interests perfectly.

“I was always into technology. Computers just clicked with me,” Schuster said. “On top of that, forensics intrigued me. I would watch crime shows and try to solve the case as it went along."

It was his interest in computer security and forensics that led him to his internship at the West Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Digital Forensics Unit last summer.

Though guided by his interest, Schuster was prepared for this opportunity through his education at Waynesburg University.

“My education gave me the tools I needed to hit the ground running with my internship,” he said. “There was very little need for any kind of training when I started and my coworkers benefited from that. I understood the terminology and work I needed to do right away, which made my experience much more enjoyable, as well.”

While at ICAC, Schuster helped to create case files, document evidence, image evidence items, ensure equipment worked properly and drill holes in old drives for security purposes.

Through his experience at ICAC, Schuster gained first-hand experience related to the daily operations of a forensic unit.

“The labs in the movies and TV shows are made to grab your attention and look really cool, but they’re impractical and misleading,” he said. “Interning at ICAC showed me what it’s truly like to be in that field.”

Part of learning about the field included being exposed to the reality of the dark and immoral offenses that occur in our world.

“The job is to catch those people,” Schuster said.

Schuster takes his interest in the field very seriously, and for that reason hopes to one day make the world a safer place.

“[Whatever path I choose], my job will be to keep the world safe and secure,” he said. “I like the feeling that there will be people living their normal daily lives because I helped take one more criminal off the streets, or stopped one more hacker from accessing sensitive information.”

Schuster credits his time at Waynesburg in helping to shape his future goals and aspirations.

“Waynesburg has had a positive impact on who I am,” he said. “From the faculty to the students, it feels like one big community. Being here for four years hasn’t just made me a better person, but also a better Christian.”

Schuster recently accepted a job in the IT department of a company that manufactures defense equipment; an opportunity that he explained is a great starting point.

“Some of the employees in the digital forensics unit of the company began working in IT initially, which ultimately led them to landing their dream position in forensics,” he said. “This job will give me the exposure I need to begin working in forensics or security.”

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Rachel-N_20150806-182248_1.jpgUpon her arrival at her internship in an unfamiliar jungle located in a foreign country, Rachel Narasimhan, as one might expect, felt a bit homesick. However, she received comfort from an unlikely source, in the form a baby howler monkey named Stevie. After that moment, she never looked back.

This summer, the Waynesburg University senior biology major spent a month as an intern at Aloutta Sanctuary, a rehabilitation and research center located on the Chiriqui Peninsula of Panama, observing and working with monkeys like Stevie. During her time at the sanctuary, she was able to work with many different types of monkeys, including two capuchins, two Geoffrey’s Tamarins and two baby howlers.

While there, Narasimhan was provided with many opportunities to interact with and observe these monkeys, taking on responsibilities such as providing enrichment for them and watching and recording any behaviors they might exhibit that are typical to monkeys in captivity. Each day, she spent nearly an hour documenting howler behavior in order to compile an ethogram, an inventory of every behavior exhibited by the howlers during the period of time in question. It was through observations such as these that she learned how to read and interpret their facial expressions and body language, so as to improve her interactions with the monkeys.

“It is one thing to see them in photographs and to learn about their behavior in a textbook, but nothing compares to seeing it in person,” Narasimhan said.

She was also able to bond with these animals through activities such as grooming sessions and cuddling with the babies. To prevent the monkeys from becoming bored, the interns often rearranged the branches in their enclosure or hid food in interesting places for them to find, tasks fun for both the monkeys and the staff.

In addition to working with the monkeys, Narasimhan spent time studying the effects of teak harvesting in a local teak plantation on the animals that live there. Despite being profitable, teak plantations are often devastating to local mammal populations. However, she found that through collecting the teak in a way that leaves the understory rather than completely removing it, the plantation will be more sustainable.

“Conservation and sustainability are the reason for all of our work at Aloutta, and I [enjoyed] learning about how to make the world a better place, one step at a time,” Narasimhan said.

Narasimhan feels as though she was truly blessed to have had the opportunity to spend part of her summer at the Aloutta Sanctuary. The experience has showed her how much she enjoys working with animals. Upon graduation from Waynesburg University with a major in biology and a minor in psychology, she hopes to be able to continue doing the type of work she experienced during her time in Panama.

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