Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Summer Research and Internhips in the Twin Cities

One of the many advantages of being at a Liberal Arts institution like Macalester is the exposure to opportunities that would be otherwise reserved for Graduate students. With guidance from the Career Development Center and the Science and Research Office many international students are able to obtain grants and fellowships for research outside of campus. Macalester’s location in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area opens up a broad range of opportunities for students to supplement their on-campus education with real-world learning experiences. Here are two examples.
My name is Akanksha and I am a rising Senior from Kolkata, India at Macalester College - I’m a Statistics/Neuroscience double-major and am passionate about all things that intersect those two fields- think Artificial Intelligence, working with big-data, neural/behavioral data analysis, and so on!

The summer after my sophomore year, I knew that I was interested in certain fields of study, but I had no idea about specific career choices that I needed to make. That was also when I started my summer research position as part of a student statistics consulting group of sorts, and we worked with several amazing Mac professors from the Math and Bio department. We were responsible for a host of things - including the revamping of a Mac lab-course! Not only did I have one of the most fun and enriching experiences, it also gave me a sense of direction of where I wanted to go next - I went ahead and declared a Stats major (quite late in the game) and continued to look for similar experiences.

That’s me outside my MDH office!
This led me to my current job as a data scientist at the Minnesota Department of Health - a job that I both adore and am enlightened by. As part of the Injury and Violence Prevention Unit, I conduct data analyses to observe and interpret health-related trends in MN. It’s an immersive experience and I am exposed to a deeper understanding of public health surveillance and epidemiological systems and how to use them fully to inform policy making decisions and raise public awareness. I have worked on a number of different projects including environment related deaths in MN (deaths due to heat, cold, flooding, etc). My more recent project includes an analysis on firework-related injuries and a data-brief that I did for the 4th of July.

One of my favorite aspects of the job is that my supervisor often gives me impromptu stats lessons in the middle of analysis meetings - the work environment has the perfect combination of corporate and academia vibes and it is immensely satisfying to work here!

I spend the rest of my time this summer  hanging out with my friends, running and doing yoga!

Me and my friends at Northern Spark (an
all-night art and light festival hosted in
Minneapolis annually).

That’s me and a friend enjoying some apple pie
at a U.S. Independence Day barbeque!

By Akanksha '15
Kolkata, India

My name is Aman Imani. I’m a rising senior at Macalester pursuing a double major in Biology and Chemistry. I am particularly interested in genomic engineering as a field of study and potential career path. However, like many of my Macalester classmates, I have other academic interests I am also interested in exploring. This summer I was able to obtain two internships is very different fields: science and business.

That’s me at my research lab at the University of Minnesota!

Genetics excited me ever since I took it in high school. I only narrowed down my interest to genomic engineering after taking Seminar in Genome Editing with Professor Mary Montgomery last Spring. While Macalester’s course-related laboratory component is a great introduction to the subject, independent laboratory research is indispensable. To this end, I got a position in the Schmidt-Dannert Lab at the University of Minnesota this summer. I started work in April so I could hit the ground running by the time summer came around. My supervisor, Chris Flynn, is a Ph.D. candidate and a wonderful mentor. Together, we are working on mushrooms that are agricultural crop pathogens. By modifying the protein profile of this mushroom, we hope to mitigate its toxicity and further its application in medicine. Chris provides the perfect balance between supervision and independent learning. I’ve learned a lot about laboratory techniques, critical thinking, troubleshooting and the process we call ‘research’ from him.                 

While my experience at the Schmidt-Dannert Lab continues to be very rewarding, I was also keen on getting a peek into corporate America. I applied for many internships and ultimately settled on working as an Analyst at R&D Systems (Minneapolis), a company specializing in manufacturing biological tools for research. My job involves reading a lot of scientific literature and creating a synopsis, of sorts, about how various products are being used. This internship dovetails with my passion for science since my work has exposed me to essential techniques in biology like cell culture and flow cytometry which I can apply to my research. This helps me do my job at the University of Minnesota better, too.

By Aman Imani 16
Mumbai, India