Intern Name: Madeline Norgaard'15
Major: Environmental Studies
Intern Title/Name of Organization: Science Undergraduate Laboratory Intern, Argonne National Laboratory, Department of Energy, Argonne, IL
How did you find out about the internship and what was the application process?
I learned about this opportunity through a professor who recommended I check out the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships that are offered by the Department of Energy. Internships are offered year-round at 17 Department of Energy labs across the country.
What were some of the highlights?
I worked with a scientist in the Environmental Science Division who is a specialist in terrestrial biophysical remote sensing technology. My supervisor allowed me to choose an area of her research that I was interested in which allowed me to design my own project. My research focused on the use of remote sensing and terrestrial vegetation as a way to understand soil microbial community structure. I completed a paper and model which my advisor incorporated into her own manuscript. In April 2014 her article was published with my name as co-author. The lab hosted professional development seminars, networking events, and diverse research presentations throughout the summer. I was able to meet and learn from scientists conducting innovative research in the energy field. I lived on site in apartments with over 100 other interns. I now have friends and connections from all across the country and world. On the weekends we had a blast exploring the city of Chicago.
What was a "typical day" like? What were some of your major responsibilities?
A large part of my day was spent reading numerous scientific articles, analyzing sources, writing, conducting interviews, meeting with my supervisor, and attending research presentations across the lab.
What were some of the challenges at your internship?
At times it was intimidating working with Ph. D scientists. However, they challenged me to think critically about environment problems and were eager to help me improve my researching and writing skills.
What did you learn?
I became an active reader as my advisor pushed me to examine an ever larger quantity of related studies and papers throughout the research process. I was challenged to develop strategies to actively look for information that would add support and evidence to my own ideas. I also learned how to conduct interviews with expert scientists. At the end of my term I had become a much stronger writer and researcher. I also learned what it is like to work in a lab and whether research is a career path I would like to pursue.
What advice would you give other students interested in internships or undergraduate research
Think about what you are passionate about and what you could see yourself doing after graduation. Aim for your dream internship because now is the time to explore your options and make connections. Express your passions throughout the application process. I had an excellent internship experience, but I also learned that working in a lab conducting research may not be the career route that I would like to take after graduation.