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Preparing for Summer and Picking My Last Fall Classes

April 23, 2013   

How has this time come already!?!?  I finally secured an internship for my last summer before I graduate and I just registered for my last fall semester of classes.  This feels really strange, but I know that it’s going to be a great summer and semester. 

For this summer, I will be working at University of Pennsylvania doing research on Salmonella and Black Plague bacteria.  Don’t worry, there’s virtually no risk of contracting the diseases!  I applied to a bunch of internship programs over winter break, but I actually got this opportunity on my own.  I didn’t want to rely on the programs that I applied to, which are extremely competitive, so I looked up researcher’s profiles and happened to come across Dr. Schifferli, who I will be doing this research with.  I sent out a ton of emails with my resume and Dr. Schifferli replied and seemed really enthusiastic about having a student in his lab.  I met with him over Spring Break to talk about what he does and officially committed to working with him soon after.

I learned a great lesson from this experience of applying to internships- you need to take matters into your own hands if you really want something.  I knew that I wanted to do research on infectious diseases this summer.  While the structured programs I applied to are great gateways to research opportunities, it is just as effective to take matters into your own hands and directly contact people whose research you are genuinely interested in.  Most people are very receptive to having students contact them expressing interest.  Many of the people who emailed were unable to take students, but sent my resume around and helped connect me to other people who were interested. 

In terms of classes, this is going to be my first semester in my entire Hamilton career without an official structured lab class.  My biology class, Microbial Ecology, is a research-based class that meets once a week for 3 hours instead of the usual 3 50-minute lectures and an additional 3 hours of lab.  I am also going to be taking Lighting Design and Ancient Jewish Wisdom.  I also will not have classes on Friday’s or until 10:30 or 11 AM every day.  I think that this is going to make up for the all of the 8:30 and 9 AM classes that I’ve taken over the past three years.

Although I don’t have a scheduled lab in any of my classes, I will be doing a senior research thesis in Biology, which will require a lot of time in the lab.  At Hamilton, most concentrations require seniors to complete a senior project as a graduation requirement.  In the Biology department, we do a yearlong research project that culminates with a final presentation of our findings and a report of our experiment and the outcomes.  I got my first choice for an advisor, Professor Pfitsch, and my thesis will probably involve studying some combination of invasive plant species and how they affect invertebrates.  I’m really excited to get started and perform my first independent research project!