I had to give up studying abroad for the EUREKA internship last summer (2015). I have always been a believer in everything happens for a reason, and I completely see the reasoning now. I guess this is mainly for those curious about the internship, the experience, and are wondering why they should do it. (Because you totally should!!!)
I feel like I have to give a lot of credit to the lab I joined. The Hayton lab is full of fun and interesting people, along with my amazing mentor. I could see her investment in me and I appreciate that so much. Hearing how others’ mentors acted, I am so glad mine was there every step of the way. Some mentors just gave a topic or brief directions to the undergrad and didn’t do much else. My mentor helped me work through things when I hit a wall and was there for me through all of it. This may in part be due to the small size of the Hayton lab. When I joined there were only nine of us including Professor Hayton and I. I have also done a bit of growing up thanks to the members of my lab. I went to multiple get together/party/things with graduate students. The definition of a party completely changes as you get older from our current definition of what we think of as the typical Isla Vista party, hence my lack of the proper word to call it. It is a little weird being the only undergraduate, and the only one who doesn’t drink (I legally can’t either), but it is a learning experience. I was also invited to my first non-family related wedding, my mentor’s wedding actually. That is a weird feeling on its own. Usually your parents are reminding you, “Oh were going to your cousin’s (or whichever family member’s) wedding.” It’s different when you get an invitation addressed to you, not your parents, not to “the family of…” You realize you hit the age of “people I know are getting married.” Yes, people from my high school have already gotten married and had kids, but its different when you get invited. It’s almost like, it may be happening to other people, but now I realize I really am becoming an adult too. It’s hard to explain, hopefully this side rant wasn’t pointless. My mentor is also leaving with her PhD after this quarter. Unfortunately, I may not be able to go to her defense. But! I have seen the process of writing a dissertation, and it is no easy task. These are just a few of the experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything.
One last major experience was my first scientific conference! Great experience with such a learning curve. I learned that no you don’t have to be there the whole time, yes you should, but it is not required. I need to get better at networking, like a lot better. I feel like there was a lack of networking focus because I went to an undergraduate research conference. Not something big like ACS where more professors are interested in going. Take advantage of networking while you can! Another thing I have learned through the EUREKA meetings is luck is not a thing in the chemistry career world. Its mostly great letters of recommendation, knowing people where you are trying to go, and hoping your resume is the one they pick.
I also learned a lot about myself. I absolutely love doing lab research. It was such an amazing experience. I was also very invested in it. I mean who doesn’t want to make the first molecule of its kind and possibly be one step closer to curing nuclear waste?! I mean c’mon, that’s pretty cool isn’t it? I learned I really need to get my act together and better learn how to balance my time. In that lesson I also learned I might not be the best for graduate school, even though I absolutely love research. Graduate school is harder than being an undergraduate, without a doubt. Without telling my life story, I simply realized that graduate school might be too much for me to handle mentally. Even though I would miss being in a lab immensely.
Another lesson: Focus on academics. Focus on academics! Focus on ACADEMICS! Yes research is going to be soooooo much more fun that studying for that midterm next week, but trust me, put down the vials and beakers, and study. Your mentor and PI will understand. They were in those undergrad shoes once too. You are in college to get a degree, so do that first! Make that your number one priority. I paid the ultimate price by not passing a class. Yes I tried, but no matter what I did it just turned into a giant jumbled mess when I took the tests. I still believe everything happens for a reason because this quarter I will be raising that non-passing grade to a B! (Trying to not jinx an A) Unfortunately, that means I can’t study abroad this summer, again. Since now I need to take summer classes here at UCSB. I have come to terms with it, accepting it as a bump in the road that I kept driving past. Soooooo… don’t mess up like me, focus on academics!!
On top of academics and research, give yourself time. Focus on you as well. Being a walking ball of stress won’t help anything. In the end, everything boils down to your mentality. Keep that smile, and your chin up!
This internship has changed my college career and how I look at things. I would tell anyone to do it because I learned so many valuable things I would have not learned otherwise.