“You will be a devising a statistical analysis report using information from NDAs and performing various experimental trials utilizing HPLC and HDX.” This is what I was told on the first day of my internship at the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) in St. Louis, MO. This is not a joke, and I give you full permission to go ahead and read those first two sentences one more time. Now, if you are wondering what an NDA is or what HPLC stands for, and you are feeling this instinctual need to open Google, then you are absolutely NOT alone. First, let me start with how exactly I ended up 837 miles away from my home in Virginia, to a conference room in government research lab trying to hide my fear and confusion behind a rather unconvincing smile and nodding motion in front of my new employer.
I began my hunt for a summer internship around the end of last fall semester, and started by updating my resume and cover letters, requesting transcripts from Enrollment Services, and asking professors and employers to write letters of recommendation. I want to warn you all this “hunting” is not for the weary, and that it can and did lead to a lot of really awkward conversations with potential employers at job fairs on campus, hours of sifting through job search engines looking for an internship that sounded interesting AND which I was qualified for, and application deadlines that always seemed to be have been missed by just a single day. My Holy Grail of an internship wasn’t discovered until after a former student had been invited to speak to the engineering students about their work with the FDA. This had inspired me to apply, and I quickly added the FDA to a list of at least 15 other organizations that I now had to anxiously await a response. After a phone interview and a few indecisive weeks later, I decided to take the position in St. Louis and begin my summer of adventure in a new and unfamiliar city all on my own.
Now, as you could probably assume from my first few opening lines, St. Louis has been NOTHING I expected it to be. Quite honestly, I was convinced during my first week in Missouri that I had made a horrible decision and that I was going to have to devise some sort of eccentric plan in order to get back to the East Coast. But to make a long story short, after my initial week of fear and nervousness, I decided it was time to plunge head-first into the Midwest culture that was surrounding me at all times. This of course is not a challenge I would recommend taking on alone, and my transformation would definitely not be complete without the help of some of the most spontaneous, cheese-loving weirdos I have ever met in my life. I owe to them the confidence I gain each week and this confidence has allowed me to not only enjoy but excel in the work that I am doing here.
With only about 3 weeks left to my internship, I can say with complete pride and excitement that I have opened up a place in my heart for St. Louis. I have learned more than I had ever expected, and I have met some of the most brilliant people in and out of the lab. The team of researchers I work for at the FDA are unbelievably supportive and I cannot properly express how inspirational of an opportunity this internship has been for me.
So as I wrap up this blog I would like to share a little bit of my newly founded Missouri wisdom and advice I have learned from this entire journey: 1. Never convince yourself that you are not talented enough, 2. Don’t be close-minded about new places and people, and 3. Always, Always, Always GO CARDS!
Morgan is a junior Biomedical Engineering Major from Stafford, Virginia. When asked about her favorite aspect of CUA, her immediate response is, “The professors and the students! CUA is an extremely supportive campus!” A little-known fact about Morgan is that she’s danced in the Macy’s Day Parade with Joan Jett.