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Biology students share summer internship experience

Published on September 26, 2022

Biology students share summer internship experience

Juliana Didero-Mullen holding a barred owl as she presents about her internship.

Sierra Madden discusses liver research and testing that she conducted for her internship.

Billi Kozak presenting about the source of viral infections amongst a species of caterpillars.

Piechowicz discussing genetic counseling to guests.

Dozens of biology students and faculty gathered in room 104 of the Dr. David G. Carter Science Building on Sept. 23 for an hour-long summer internship showcase. This first seminar event of the semester was hosted by Biology Professor Kristin Epp, who invited four students to share their internship insights and experiences. 

“As a department, we encourage our students to share their research and internship experiences with the faculty and their fellow students during scheduled departmental seminar times,” said Epp, the J.C. Hicks Endowed Chair. “We have so many students that had incredible experiences this summer, and I wanted them to share those experiences with us while they were still fresh in their minds.” 

The four Eastern students who presented were senior biology majors Juliana Didero-Mullen, Sierra Madden, Billi Kozak and Megan Piechowicz. Each of the presenters explained their various roles and responsibilities within their companies and answered audience questions. 

Epps said that although each internship focused on biology, each intern concentrated on different areas of the field. “An internship experience may really help students think about what they do, or maybe don’t want to do for their future careers.” Epps continued by saying that biology is an extensive field of study, but she hopes that each amateur scientist can have the opportunity to explore what they are truly passionate about. 

In fact, none of the student-speakers' specializations or internship-roles overlapped with one another's. Didero-Mullen worked as an avian caretaker for Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation and Education, while Piechowicz interned for Middlesex Health as a genetic counselor. Kozak conducted a research internship for Tufts University to uncover the effects of Junonia Coenia Densovirus on Baltimore’s checkerspot butterfly populations. Whereas Madden’s internship was fixated on conducting lliver research with Brown University and Lifespan Hospital. 

“I was really excited that I was able to find an opportunity that allowed me to connect with others in this field,” said Piechowicz, a genetic counseling intern. “My internship also helped ensure that this is a career path that I would like to pursue in the future. But, more than anything else, I am just thankful that I was able to inform undergraduates about how I found this opportunity — especially since it took me such a long time.” 

Piechowicz informs guests on how to find internships within their desired field.

Didero-Mullen teaches students about raptor sanctuaries.

Kozak explaining how frass and carcasses can carry the virus.

The students were encouraged to share what they learned as they navigated their way through post-graduate occupations that related to their career goals. For Madden, the most impactful lesson was not how to be successful, but how to fail. 

“I learned how to fail this summer,” said Madden. “Believe me, I failed a lot during this internship, but I realized that to learn, or to be successful, requires a lot of failure. It takes resilience and self-motivation but pushing myself to overcome failure taught me more than anything else.”  

However, feeling indecisive and unsure while facing adversity is all part of the process says Epp. "For many disciplines, including Biology, internships give you experiences that can both shape the path of your future career and give you the edge you need when competing for jobs or graduate positions after finishing your degree. The network of relationships you build can open doors for you in the future,” said Epps. 

Many of the interns, including Didero-Mullen — who came to the event with a barred owl on her left arm — may have already found their calling. “She is one of the best interns we have ever had,” said Mary-Beth Kaiser, the founder of Ashford’s nonprofit raptor sanctuary. “She is very dedicated, follows instructions well, and she is even comfortable handling the unruliest birds. Hands down, she has been one of the best interns that I have ever had. I’ve had a few interns from Eastern in the past and every one of them has been wonderful.” 

Epp believes that these seminars can have a positive impact on students. She says that internships give students the ability to decide what types of opportunities and experiences they could pursue if they want their interests to coincide with their future careers. 

Written by Jack Jones