My Internship with the Washington Department of Health at Public Health Laboratories
By Nhi N.
This summer, I am doing my internship at the Washington Department of Health Public Health Laboratories (PHL) in Shoreline. I found out about this internship through my department’s career services, and I interviewed with the DOH twice before getting the offer for the position. I will work as a Lab Assistant 1 in the Office of Environmental Laboratory Sciences (ELS). The Office of Environmental Laboratory Sciences is divided into two main sections: Environmental Microbiology and Environmental Chemistry and Radiation. The laboratory units in the ELS provide a wide variety of testing of environmental samples and clinical specimens and are certified by several federal programs that include the EPA, FDA, College of American Pathologists, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
This office is comprised of six units, and for my internship, I will work in the Biotoxin, Shellfish Chemistry & Water Laboratory Units, but I will mainly be in the Shellfish Biotoxins program. My internship will revolve around the process of sample preparation and analysis of different types of shellfish sent to the laboratory from many different regions in Washington. I will help and learn from other chemists in my program while we test shellfish for the presence of three main naturally occur marine biotoxins: Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) from Domoic Acid, Diarrheic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) from Okadiac Acid, and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) from Saxitoxins. I will also work under the supervision of a chemist for the Shellfish Chemistry for Metals (Arsenic) project.
I am most excited about seeing how what I learned in school will be applied to a real work environment setting. I look forward to learning more about environmental sampling from this internship and exploring more about the public health side of this field. Even though I took a good number of classes at the UW that include lab work, I was still a little nervous about being in charge of a station in the lab. I will have to make sure that the all the procedures that I perform are precise and correct to ensure that the samples are prepared correctly for analysis. However, on the first day that I worked in the lab, everyone was really nice and supportive. After meeting and being trained by my colleagues, I am now more comfortable with the work that I do in the lab, and excited to learn more over the summer.
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.
About My Internship at Washington State Department of Health
By Nick M.
My internship for the summer is at the Food and Shellfish Bacteriology Laboratory at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Public Health Laboratories. I was brought on to help with the Vibrio Project that goes on during the summer months. The researchers are monitoring the levels of the bacterium Vibrio Parahaemolyticus in commercial oysters during this time because pathogenic organisms grow well in the warm summer months and have the potential to cause illness when consumed raw.
Nick collecting oysters out on a commercial growing site
I was worried about finding an internship for summer, and after a couple months of delayed applications I grew more and more concerned. Luckily, with some help and advice, I was able to land my position for the summer at DOH and was quite excited -if not a little bit nervous- for when I started there. The main lesson I learned from my application process was to apply to everything that you would reasonably be able to do and to get started on your application materials like your resume and cover letters early so as to expedite the application processes.
From what I have experienced so far at the lab, I can already tell that this will be an extremely beneficial and impactful experience for me. This is especially true because I do not know exactly what I would like to pursue after graduation, and being in an environment in my field with people from all different backgrounds is a great learning opportunity for me. Most everyone I have talked to is very willing and eager to answer my questions, tell me about their own careers and interests, as well as listen to my own input and stories. All of my coworkers and leads have been tremendously helpful as I learn how to work in the lab. I have found that I am learning a lot about new techniques and processes that I did not know about before, but I am also relying on information I have learned in classes, which has proven to be extremely helpful.