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What's up this summer? Beluga whales, cook stoves, zombie camp, and much more

July 25, 2014
by Rachel Griess

School's out for summer, but these undergraduates in CSU's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences are hard at work in internships and other jobs tied to their career aspirations. Read on, and learn how our students are making the most of summer break.

John-Michael Benson, biomedical sciences senior, the Tamkun Laboratory on campus

Benson is kick-starting his senior year working in Dr. Michael Tamkun’s research laboratory, which explores the role of ion channels in regulating physiology. Benson has learned more about novel research techniques, molecular biology, and genetics – as well as the patience and positive attitude needed in scientific research.                              

“I was excited to have the opportunity to apply what I had been learning in my classes to such an interesting field of research,” Benson said. “The skills and experiences I am gaining though my internship are invaluable, and they will certainly help prepare me for a career in the sciences.”

Grace Berens, biomedical sciences sophomore, the National Ability Center, Park City, Utah

Berens, right, hopes to become an occupational therapist and already is gaining skills by leading recreational activities for people with special needs. She has attended cycling classes with a woman with cerebral palsy and has taught a child with Rett syndrome to swim.

“My internship reaffirms how important people are. I have learned something from almost everyone I have met this summer, whether they were a parent, participant, or coworker,” Berens said. “No matter how many disabilities a person has, they have abilities that are valuable, precious, and important.”

Kelley Hixson, environmental health senior, CSU’s Powerhouse Energy Campus

As an intern in the Center for Energy Development and Health, Hixson studies cook stoves from around the world to help understand how their emissions influence global climate. Data reflecting particulate matter and thermal efficiency are used to improve human and environmental health.

“I am still trying to decide whether I want to continue on with school after graduation, so I thought a research internship would help me decide,” Hixson said. “It’s always fun to discover and learn about developing fields.”

Jeremiah Joyce, environmental health senior, El Paso County Public Health Department, Colorado Springs, Colo.

No day is the same for Joyce. He conducts food-safety inspections one day and monitors air quality the next. Whatever the task, Joyce enjoys promoting public health and believes his internship will help him toward a career in family medicine.

“It’s nice to able to apply what I have been learning and actually see the difference it makes,” Joyce said. “It’s given me a valuable perspective I can reflect on later in my profession.”

Ryann Prenni, environmental health senior, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Tukwila, Wash.

Prenni is preparing for a health career by training in industrial hygiene, ergonomics, and workplace safety. She surveys and evaluates work spaces to ensure healthy and safe conditions for airline employees.

“The most important thing I have learned is to always be aware of what is going on. Working in health and safety means that you are helping protect the employees,” Prenni said. “This internship takes what I’ve learned in class to the next step.”

Maggie Rollert, microbiology senior, Alaska SeaLife Center, Seward, Alaska

Rollert is helping to rescue and care for injured and orphaned animals at an aquarium and marine mammal rehabilitation facility. She has worked with a variety of animals, and even assisted in a necropsy of two beluga whales.

“My education has familiarized me with diseases that affect marine mammals,” Rollert said. “This has allowed me to better understand treatment, care, and management for the unhealthy animals.”

John Shannon, biomedical sciences junior, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.

Shannon hopes to become a medical doctor, so he’s spending the summer learning from both biomedical researchers and physicians. He is investigating the influenza virus – and also making rounds with physicians to observe visits with and surgeries on children with cancer and infectious diseases.

“It emphasizes the core ideas of my college education. I work with people from around the world with the common goal of helping children in need,” Shannon said. “You can only learn so much in the classroom, and it is not until you are in the field that you can truly master a given skill.”

Allie Scudder, environmental health senior, TOLMAR Inc., Fort Collins, Colo.

Scudder works as an environmental health and safety intern at a pharmaceutical company, where she’s learning about safety in the context of new technologies and facilities. Among other duties, she assists with worker safety, waste management, hazardous-waste management, and chemical safety.

“The most important thing I’ve learned is to be ready for anything and to be open and willing to try new things,” Scudder said. “It’s really huge to be able to get this real-world experience and the background I need to perform well in my future career.”