Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca once said, "If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favorable to him." As a rising senior at the University of Connecticut majoring in biological sciences, it has become paramount for me to realize a career path before I finish my undergraduate studies. In my years at school I have found so many opportunities and interests; I volunteer as a lab assistant in one of the microbiology research labs, I help lead my fraternity’s chapter (Tau Kappa Epsilon) as treasurer and CFO, and I am also an active member of the UCONN airsoft team.
While all of these experiences are great, [my internship at the Millstone Environmental Lab has given me something I have been trying to realize for a long time… a place of synergistic focus for my love of the environment and my studies at UCONN.] When my school advisor first sent out an email about internship opportunities at the Dominion plant in Waterford, I sort of browsed the description and thought, how could my studies be applicable to a nuclear power plant? As it turns out, there are plenty of opportunities to be had.
My day can vary from trawling out by the intakes on our research vessel, to collecting plankton samples (which will later be examined and processed), to spending the morning hauling lobster pots and collecting, tagging, and releasing lobsters for our studies. As an example, we study lobsters by examining their gender, molt stage, size, and stage of shell disease. The lobsters are all tagged and those that we recapture can be studied to examine changes in these vital statistics over time. Aside from that, my time is spent processing plankton samples in the lab by picking out fish larvae and eggs from the raw sample which are later identified by the full-time biologists.
My work at the Environmental Lab varies from week to week and always provides me with something new to learn. I only wish there was more time in the summer to learn more skills and obtain more knowledge that I couldn’t possibly get anywhere else! The full-timers that work in the lab are all incredibly knowledgeable in their respective fields and are also extraordinarily helpful and friendly. They are excellent coaches and take the time to explain all the work that goes on in the lab. When everything is said and done, all our work will get published in an annual report that is required by the CT Department of Environmental Protection.
This experience has given me a priceless opportunity, both as a scientist in the industry and as a young adult emerging into the global workforce. To any students considering a co-op program or internship, I would put that at the top of any priority list. My dad has always told me that you know when you’ve found what you love to do when you lose track of time working on it. I feel that this internship has helped point me in the right direction to achieve that vision.