Ines Uwase ’20: Darby Creek Valley Association

Name: Ines Uwase
Class Year: 2020
Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Kigali, Rwanda

Internship Organization: Darby Creek Valley Association
Job Title: Data Management Intern
Location: Philadelphia (They do not have an office so I work on campus.)

What’s happening at your internship?

I work from campus or anywhere else that’s convenient since DCVA does not have an office. I work with the director, Susan Miller, to enter the required data to manage the organization and plan fundraising. I also carry out research about the species the organization helps to protect and design charts to visualize the information for the general public. I also had the wonderful opportunity to shadow professionals at the Stroud Water Research Center.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied for this internship to work for an organization that serves a purpose that I strongly believe in. DCVA helps protect the watershed in the Eastern Delaware county and I wanted to actively help them achieve their mission, or have the pleasure learning how such an organization operates.

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

My favorite part of this internship has been shadowing the Stroud Water Research Center and learning an immense deal from Matt, who graciously let us shadow him. I had the opportunity to work hands on and learn to examine the water quality, calculate water velocity, etc. This opportunity also gave me an idea of what exactly I want to do in this field.

What is something you have learned from your internship that you didn’t expect?

I started this internship with the idea that I would only learn about environment-related work; however, I have also learned how to work in a different work environment and employer. Working on campus has taught me how to be disciplined and follow a strict schedule to get work done.

Ashley Boyette ’20, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Name: Ashley Boyette
Class Year: 2020
Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Hillsborough, N.C.

Internship Organization: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Job Title: Research Intern
Location: Edgewater, Md.


What’s happening at your internship?

I’ve been working in a lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center studying the relationship between nitrogen fixation and biodiversity. I spent a lot of time collecting soil samples out in the field, as pictured, and even more time in the lab analyzing gas samples and running genetic tests on different rhizobia. It’s been really cool to further understand the relationship between these two crucial concepts!

Why did you apply for this internship?

I had never held a true research position before this summer, and it’s always something I wanted to dive into. When I saw a posting for this position at SERC, it seemed like the crux between my passion for environmental conservation and my interest in biological research.

What is something you have learned from your internship that you didn’t expect?

Prior to this internship, I was convinced I knew what I wanted to do after graduation; science, and more specifically, environmental education. One of my biggest passions in life is making science accessible and exciting for kids for whom the subject might not resonate. Now, though, I’m learning that I really like doing research as well, much more than I thought I would. It’s making me do some serious self-reflection on what postgrad life could look like.


Was this internship what you expected it to be?

I went into this internship with few expectations of what it would look like; I knew I was going to work in a lab with people who focused on global change dynamics and nitrogen fixation, but that was it. Having the opportunity to create my own research project and learn lab and field work skills I hadn’t had before was a wonderful surprise. I also wasn’t sure what to expect from the dynamic in the lab itself, but I’m very grateful to work in the lab I was in because my PI, mentors, and fellow interns have made this summer so much fun.

To learn more about the work SERC does and to have a meaningful research-based internship, check out the SERC’s website or the broader Smithsonian Institution!

Riya Philip ’20: ‘Missing Microbes’

Name: Riya Philip
Class Year: 2020
Major: Environmental Studies (Computer Science minor)
Hometown: Mumbai, India

Internship Organization: Missing Microbes (film), Sarah Schenck
Job Title: Post-Production Intern
Location: New York City

Riya Philip

What’s happening at your internship?

Working in New York City this summer on an upcoming film which talks about consequential public health concerns has been extremely rewarding both professionally and emotionally. During these two months, I have been given opportunities to experience the electrifying energy of the city, work with extremely talented filmmakers, and expose myself to an artistic world very different from my own. Sarah Schenck ’87 employed me as her intern to work on producing parts of the film. The documentary, titled Missing Microbes, which is co-produced by Sarah and Steve Lawrence, highlights the injurious influence of antibiotic resistance and C-sections, which are destroying our microbiome and engineering it in negative ways. The feature film also studies how a personalized nutrition program based on microbe analysis can treat diabetes. My role in this internship has been diverse — learning professional editing tools, creating and editing machine-generated transcripts for the interviews from original footage, writing and uploading blog posts, managing and organizing all the data and media associated with the film, coordinating meetings with potential motion graphics companies, and participating in shoots were some of the responsibilities I enjoyed taking on. However, since this is a public health film, the content strictly revolved around medical topics, which allowed me to engage in learning about medical procedures, technologies, new discoveries and the scope of the research conducted by the doctors in this film.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I recently picked up another major last spring, Environmental Studies, due to my passionate interest in the subject, and decided that the next internship I would take on would be related to an environmental issue. I was determined to work on something exciting and relevant to my field of study, yet also beyond the traditional scope of academic subject matter — I was looking for an opportunity that would satisfy both my passion for the content I was learning, and enrich my living experience by exposing me to a completely different facet of life. After browsing through job postings, I came across an opportunity which tied together critical, contemporary foci in public health … in a film. Based on interviews with renowned names in the medical world, and with a prime focus on Dr. Martin Blaser, the author of Missing Microbes and professor of microbiology at NYU, my interest was piqued. The opportunity dealt with crises in health, in particular the overuse of antibiotics in countries like China and India causing antibiotic resistance, the risks associated with cesarean sections, and Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) treatments as a means to alleviate the symptoms of obesity and autism, among others. The documentary’s central message revolves around the evolving human microbiome, and its significance in treatments for diseases, medical procedures and global health concerns.

Another reason I applied for this internship was because of my background. As an international student from Mumbai with a strict focus in STEM subjects, being able to work on a film was something I didn’t know if I could ever do again in my professional career. I also viewed this summer as an opportunity to build connections with people, experience NYC and explore the scope of my own talents, in skills previously foreign to my knowledge.

Living in a new city? What has that experience been like for you?

In one word? Thrilling. As someone from Mumbai, the Indian equivalent of NYC, Manhattan felt like home since I arrived. I am lucky to have family that lives in the city, which gave me a sense of comfort and security. However, even though my primary work location was in Brooklyn, I decided to live in the cultural hub of historical significance, entertainment, art and soul food — Harlem. I was lucky enough to find a gorgeous apartment right above Central Park, with roommates that I have now formed strong friendships with.

The daily commute across the city to work was an hour long each way, yet the experience taught me to become a master subway navigator — a skill you can only learn through practice! I also learned to scout the best locations for authentic food, visited NYC landmarks, went on tours, met people from a plethora of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds, and most importantly, taught myself to become more trusting and open.

Was there anything special about how you found this internship?

In a nutshell, I have been fortunate enough to grasp several skills — both professional and global in the scope of their applications. Learning to work with a schedule that changes on an almost-daily basis, networking and forming connections with the people producing the film, learning first-hand about the research behind the technologies employed in treatments from the doctors, and most importantly being able to comprehensively synthesize these experiences into something concrete has been advantageous to both my personal and academic outlook on the subjects I study. A special part was the degree of responsibility I was offered within the internship and the trust that followed. I was never treated as just an intern but was instead treated as family and was able to flourish as such. I was given contact with esteemed figures in various industries including public health and film, which has nourished my curiosity even further in these areas. I am also excited to start my independent film project, which will focus on a specific topic in environmental sustainability, as an extension of this internship into the next academic year.