It’s rare for a freshman to find an internship through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).
However, that didn’t stop Marietta College’s Rachel Shoop ’15 (Parkersburg, W.Va.) from scouring the REU website in a desperate attempt to land one of these coveted opportunities.
“I made a list of the ones that most interested me and narrowed down my options by looking at eligibility requirements and dates (most of the internships last 8 to 10 weeks),” says Shoop, who is majoring in Biology. “Some of my possibilities were removed from the list because they were searching for sophomores and juniors, but a few stated that they would consider freshmen with a decent background in the sciences.”
Only a few options were left on the table, but one of her top choices — Proteomics and Functional Genomics internship at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh — was still in play. After filling out the online application, submitting two letters of recommendation and her college transcript, Shoop had to wait a few weeks to learn her fate.
“I was hopeful, but not expecting to get picked,” she says. “But about three weeks later I was surprised to find an acceptance letter with an email.”
Along with the valuable experience she is gaining, Shoop also gets a stipend, allowance for food, transportation and lodging. Despite some quizzical looks from friends and family who are shocked she is doing an internship just one year after graduating from high school, Shoop says she is not concerned at all about moving away for 10 weeks to live in Oshkosh this summer.
“It intimidates me a little because they make me feel like I’m taking on a great new challenge. I expect it to be challenging at times, but it’s not something I feel I need to be afraid of because I am confident in what I have learned so far in my freshman year at Marietta College,” Shoop says. “This internship will push me harder, but that is what it is meant to do; that is the educational value of this experience.”
Dr. Dave Brown, Associate Professor of Biology, was quickly impressed by Shoop’s academic acumen in his Introduction to Cellular Biology and Biology Lab, and believes she will succeed in Wisconsin.
“She was a strong student in both of those classes and it was obvious that she was curious and had an interest in what she was studying. She asked me to write her letters of recommendation for internships this summer and, although she is early in her undergraduate career, I felt comfortable writing those letters for her based on her initiative and my experience having her in a lab course,” Brown says. “The internship that she was awarded should be a great experience for her and will give her the opportunity to learn laboratory techniques that we don’t do at Marietta College. I am always glad when students get the chance to participate in an internship as it provides them with experience in different types of jobs and helps them to identify what type of career they are interested in pursuing after they graduate.”
Shoop has some lofty goals for her internship.
“I hope to improve my understanding of genetics and how genes are expressed in an organism. I will be studying how climate change affects gene expression in plants, so I’m pretty confident I’ll be given that opportunity,” Shoop says. “I also hope to improve my skills in research and in the laboratory because I believe these will be important skills as I start looking at a capstone in the years ahead. I’m also very excited to be going somewhere new. Marietta College is a short drive from where I grew up, so I didn’t exactly move very far. Wisconsin will be a great new experience for me and I’m eager to meet new people who are also interested in genetics.”
If her expectations are achieved, Shoop will not only be in position for future opportunities, but it will also keep her moving in the direction she wants to go for her career.
“I know I want to study genetics in my career. I love how all life can be based in the sequences of our genetic code,” she says. “I haven’t decided whether I want to go into research or work from an office yet, but I hope that this internship can also help me out there. I’m most likely going to be attending graduate school, but we’ll see exactly what for in the future.”