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The Rowland Hall Internship Program Comes of Age: A Personal Essay by Rowland Hall Senior Alicia Lu
Posted 11/21/2016 10:37AM

The summer of 2016 marked the third successful year of placing rising seniors in career internships through Rowland Hall’s internship program. The program places students in real workplaces, involves them in projects and research, and reinforces our mission to help students lead ethical and productive lives.

Thanks to Rowland Hall's connections in the community and our generous parent body, a wide variety of summer internships are available to eligible students. With your help, students are given opportunities to explore career interests through practical experience.

In the below essay, Alicia Lu reflects on interning in Dr. Michael Kay’s Infectious Disease Drug Discovery and Development Lab. 

Top image: Second graders help senior Alicia Lu, right, test a math app she made for AP Computer Science. Alicia’s interest in STEM drove her desire to intern in a lab the summer before her senior year. Below image: As part of the Rowland Hall internship program, senior Alicia Lu works in Dr. Michael Kay’s Infectious Disease Drug Discovery and Development Lab at the University of Utah.

For many of us students, summer break means finishing our English assignments and binge-watching episodes of our favorite TV show on Netflix. Although these are both noble causes, the summer could also be spent exploring the world beyond high school.

Rowland Hall’s internship program offers motivated students an opportunity to spend the summer after junior year exploring their passions and career interests through professional internships. The program’s goal is to provide students with valuable learning experiences through practical and hands-on work out of the classroom. This program furthers experiential learning here at Rowland Hall and also gives students the chance to write about a professional work experience on their college resumes.

Every year, there is a diverse range of internships available, from surgery to law and even video game design. Previously, students have interned at local organizations such as the Utah Animal Care Center, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, TWIG Media Lab, and Alliance for a Better Utah. However, students are also free to work with the program coordinators, Laura Johnson and Garrett Stern, to find new internships that might satisfy their own interests.

My own involvement in Rowland Hall’s internship program began in the spring of my junior year. I had really enjoyed my math and science courses and felt that I could further explore those fields through a summer internship. When I first applied for STEM internships, I was excited yet concerned that as a high school intern my work in the laboratory would be limited to cleaning glassware and making solutions. However, my experience at the Kay Lab in the University of Utah’s Biochemistry Department completely eliminated any reservations I previously had.

I began my experience by meeting with Dr. Michael Kay, an esteemed professor whose lab specializes in finding peptide inhibitors of Ebolavirus and HIV. After speaking to Dr. Kay about his projects, I decided to join the Ebolavirus project and was assigned to Dr. Nicolas Szabo, a postdoctoral biologist who focuses on researching the best amino acid sequence to inhibit the virus from entering human cells. With Dr. Szabo, I ran phage display experiments, synthesized peptides, and learned aspects of Python programming specific to biological research. I also had the incredible opportunity to use the lab’s Ion Torrent, a nanotech deep sequencer that efficiently sequences DNA samples and stores billions of sequences digitally on a single semiconductor chip. The chip is almost paper-thin and the size of a flash drive. I got to keep one, which was a really fantastic, nerdy moment for me!

Though the project and equipment were intimidating at first, I quickly became integrated into the lab and was treated like any other researcher, keeping a lab notebook and eventually running my own experiments. Dr. Kay and Dr. Szabo provided me with various scientific articles not only about their Ebolavirus project but also about other developments in the epidemiology field.

Throughout the summer, I got to know and work with the other 12 lab members both in and out of the lab. With my fellow “labbies,” I attended presentations and poster sessions from U of U researchers who had made recent advances in their projects. These learning opportunities were an important part of my overall experience as I was exposed to different scientific fields and gained an understanding of a career as a professor or researcher.

I concluded my internship in August by giving a 20-minute presentation on the results of my own research project. Working the whole summer (around 25 hours a week), I enjoyed my time at the Kay Lab very much; it was a great introduction into the world of research, and the lab atmosphere was nothing but supportive. The work I did in the lab introduced me to epidemiology and biochemistry, fields that I’m now very interested in. I learned that I truly love science and I enjoy being around people who love science as much as I do. I would encourage any student to participate in an internship, as I left mine feeling more passionate and excited about STEM than ever.

How To Get Involved

If you or someone you know is interested in sponsoring a Rowland Hall intern for summer 2017, please email Laura Johnson.

Our 2016 Summer Sponsors and Interns

  • Alliance For A Better Utah: Kate Button
  • Biomechanics and Human Performance at Tosh: Eleanor Mancheski
  • Cytozyme Laboratories: Megan Fenton, Cindy Shen
  • Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah: Karyna Howell
  • Huntsman Cancer Institute Colocare Study: Chloe Fleischer
  • Infectious Disease Drug Discovery and Development with Dr. Michael Kay: Alicia Lu
  • Law with Christopher Von Maack: Lena Chan
  • Orthopedic Surgery with Dr. Michael Chardack: Matthew Orford
  • River Restoration with Eric Mcculley: Katie Henn
  • Spinal Medicine with Dr. Emil Cheng: Rachel Morse
  • Twig Media Lab: Joey Amiel, Stephanie Nolan
  • Utah Animal Care Center with Dr. Pam Nichols: Cade Vanorman
  • Utah Gastroenterology—Women in Medicine with Dr. Holly Clark: Tobi Yoon
  • Video Game Design at the University of Utah with Dr. Robert Kessler: Jason Cowdrey

Examples of organizations spotlighting past Rowland Hall interns


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