Tag Archives: Department of Health

Nick M.: My Experience as a Food Lab Intern

My Experience as a Food Lab Intern

By Nick M.

Nick M. in the lab.

This summer I interned at the Department of Health Public Health Laboratories working in the Food Lab. My main focus has been assisting with the Vibrio Project, which monitors levels of the bacterium Vibrio Parahaemolyticus during the summer when the water is warm enough for the bacteria to proliferate.

When I first started my internship, I was most excited about gaining practical knowledge/experience in my field of study. I had taken most of the related classes and felt that I had at least an idea of what was going on, but I had no hands-on experience outside of classroom labs. The internship program has really helped me to understand what working in a lab is like. I was able to observe work in other labs as well as in my own. The program also gave me the opportunity to apply my learning from class towards a tangible product. While this is just an example of the type of work I could do in the future, it was very useful for me to experience it for myself. I also appreciated talking to my coworkers and hearing about what the experiences that brought them to the lab.

While I do feel that I took away a lot of practical experience from this program, the takeaway that seems most valuable is the connections I made throughout. At work, it was almost like having a career panel that you went back to everyday. Everyone in the lab was very eager to share their career path and advice, which gave me free reign with all of my questions. I found it extremely helpful to hear all of this information and build these relationships so that I can continue to learn from them and ask questions in the future. After this experience, I feel more prepared, and at least a little more comfortable in finding a career path that best fits my goals in the near future.

Jamie O: About My Internship At The Hawaii Department of Health

About My Internship At The Hawaii Department of Health

By Jamie O.

When I first began my internship at the Environmental Microbiology Section, I spoke to my supervisor about the specific plans she had for me.  Now that I am at the end of my internship, I can say that I definitely had the opportunity not only to participate in the tasks she had prepared, but so much more.

For the Vibrio spp. validation studies, I prepared samples by first scrubbing away debris from the shellfish shells.

 

My supervisor’s primary plans for me involved learning how to process water and food samples with EPA- and FDA-approved standard operating procedures, and I have definitely gained a greater understanding of these procedures from being mentored throughout each step of each process.  I observed how media was made for the different analyses, and then saw how the media is used for each type of analysis.  Throughout the internship, I saw how the microbiologists in the lab receive the samples and process drinking water, beach water, dairy, and shellfish samples.  Not only did I observe, but also my supervisor and the microbiologists in the lab were so gracious to allow for me to get hands-on experience, like helping to set up for the analyses.  I even had the incredible opportunity to go to Hawaiian fishponds where the shellfish samples were obtained for the lab.  In addition, my supervisor allowed me to get involved with Vibrio spp. validation studies with shellfish samples by working hands-on with real-time PCR.

My advice to future environmental health interns is to be attentive and inquisitive throughout the length of the internship.

I then shucked mostly diploid and triploid oysters with bone cutters and shucking knife.

In order to successfully complete such tasks, I made sure to pay close attention when being taught to ensure that the tasks being entrusted to me were going to be carried out in the best way possible.  Also, in the lab it is imperative to observe carefully when watching lab techniques during the processing of samples in order to truly understand how those in the lab work so hard to ensure the quality of their test results for public safety.  By refining these skills, future interns will be able to make the most out of their experiences and truly learn and be of use to their coworkers.

I’m grateful to everyone I had the honor of working with for making my summer internship such an amazing experience.  They encouraged me to get as much hands-on experience as I could, and they were so patient in teaching me about what they do best.  Having the opportunity to intern at the SLD in the area of environmental health that I am passionate about with such a dynamic group of people made my summer more than worthwhile, and I am excited for future interns to have such an enriching summer as well.

After decanting away the shellfish liquor, I assisted with blending the shellfish meats prior to analysis.

Meet Our Interns: Jamie E.

How I Found My Out-of-State Internship

By Jamie E.

Jame E calibrating the pH meter and taking the pH of media being used for analyses.

When I began to look at internships for over the summer, I made sure to look for opportunities that not only explored my area of interest within environmental health, but also were close to my home in Hawaii.  Since leaving home to go to school on the mainland, I wanted to take the opportunity to become more familiar with the public health issues that are concerning communities in Hawaii, while also exploring my interest in environmental microbiology.  After thinking of where to begin my search for Hawaii internships, I decided to try searching through the State of Hawaii Department of Health website.

As I was exploring through the website I was so excited to see that there was a State Laboratories Division (SLD) on the island of Oahu, and that there was an Environmental Microbiology section.  Though I did not find internships listed, I emailed the supervisor of the Environmental Microbiology section inquiring if there were any undergraduate summer internships available.  I followed my internship advisor’s advice and had also looked at other internships in Washington, but in the back of my mind I knew that if there was an internship at the SLD that it would be my first choice.  I also knew that there was a slim chance of me having the opportunity to work specifically in my area of interest with communities back at home in Hawaii, but I still anxiously waited and hoped that there was a chance.  When I received a reply email, I was thrilled and incredibly grateful to find out that the SLD was willing to take me on as an intern for the summer.

My advice to future environmental health interns is to not be afraid to reach out to organizations conducting work in your area of interest, even if it may seem that there are no internship opportunities available.

State of Hawaii Department of Health State Laboratories Division

If I had not taken the initiative to ask about available internships, I would not have gained the abundance of knowledge and variety of experiences that I have had here at the SLD.  I also would not have been able to work with such a kind and supportive group of people that I did work with at the lab.  For these reasons and many more, I encourage future environmental health studies to take this risk, because it may lead to a truly unforgettable and enriching experience.

 

Meet our Interns: Xamantha C.

Starting My Internship

By Xamantha C.

Xamantha in front of the LA County Environmental Health Headquarters

My First Day

On June 14, 2017, I took my first step into LA County Environmental Health Headquarters. The office, at first, was as confusing as the Health Sciences library—a maze formed by endless cubicles and different rooms instead of winding hallways and classrooms. Overwhelmed by the amount of programs kept behind the large amount of cubicles, I didn’t know where to start when I was asked what programs I would be interested in shadowing, but I was excited!

My excitement stemmed from the opportunity to use my Environmental Health education outside of the classroom and to learn from the workforce. I was overjoyed to know that I would have the opportunity to shadow people from different programs. The idea was exciting yet nerve-wracking. What if I don’t actually like the programs I’m interested in? But that’s the beauty of it I guess. This internship will allow me to discover what I like and what I don’t like about Environmental Health because even as an incoming senior, I only had an idea. Now I would have the opportunity to explore my career goals and interests in a hands-on environment.

Internships give us the opportunity for us to find our niche within Environmental Health. If unsure of what you actually want to do within this vast field, internships that will expose you to the multiple areas of Environmental Health can be your first step on your journey to what you want to do in the future.

An Informational Interview

Though I was introduced to many people on my first day, there was one that really stood out to me. His name is R. On my first day, I had to go to HR to pick up my badge. I felt very grateful that R volunteered his time to drive me to Human Resources. I’m glad he did! His passion and excitement resonated with me. One of the many interesting things we talked about were our individual journeys into the field of Environmental Health. Like many people I know, R got into Environmental Health by accident/by coincidence. He started out as Pre-Pharm but ended up not finishing that route because of unforeseen circumstances. After some time, he was introduced to a job as a part of the Environmental Health Strike team, one of the first and only Environmental Health teams in the nation tasked to respond to Environmental Health emergencies and disasters! He came into it not knowing much about the field but after his training and after a few months of working, he realized he loved it. He said that if he could go back and start off in this field, he would.

His story further solidified that my choice to stay with Environmental Health was a great one. When I was a sophomore, I was searching for a major that would lead me not just to jobs, but to opportunities where I can actually love what I do. If there are people who can come into this field without prior knowledge and end up loving what they do, then I am in the right place. Environmental Health is an important field, and we should all be proud that we are a part of it! It is our job as future professionals in Environmental Health to advocate for this field and show its significance. Even as students, we must increase the field’s visibility so that in the future, people will have more understanding of and access to Environmental Health professions.