"Being able to have firsthand experience in research gave me an idea of what it would be like to work as an epidemiologist. It was ... an immersion experience, like when you go to another country to learn a language better."
Mirta Maravilla Rosas is a senior biology major and she came to Saint Martin's University from her hometown of Sumner. She is a first-generation student. She serves as an office assistant for the Office of Housing and Residence Life. She is the treasurer of the Latinx Student Alliance and a member of the Sustainability Club. This past summer she had an internship at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Fred Hutch) and she took time to answer questions about her internship and her experience at Saint Martin’s.
How did you find out about the internship, and what did you know about Fred Hutch beforehand?
Last year, I knew I wanted to do an undergraduate research program for the summer, so I asked Dr. Coby for some suggestions. He suggested I apply for the summer undergraduate research program at Fred Hutch, however, I later found out about Fred Hutch’s Summer Internship Program on Infectious Diseases in the Immunocompromised Host and decided to apply for that instead. I didn’t know as much about Fred Hutch before applying, but after reviewing their website, I really liked the idea of working there. It seemed like a friendly academic environment.
What was a typical day like during the internship?
In the beginning of my internship, I spent time getting trained and obtaining access for certain documents. My primary investigator (PI), Dr. Steve Pergam, and a Ph.D. student, Margaret Lind, then reviewed my project with me and gave me resources to learn more about the topic. My project pertained to the mental status documentation of hematopoietic cell [cells that give rise to other blood cells] transplant recipients with suspected infections and the relation between that documentation and screening criteria for sepsis [a complication that can arise from an infection]. Therefore, I spent my first week doing research on the mental status changes within septic patients. This helped me learn more about the topic before starting my project. Typically, I would work on my project at my desk, go to seminars and attend meetings with my PI on important topics that were going on within Fred Hutch and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
What did you like best about the internship and what did you learn?
I loved my relationship with my PI Steve and my mentor Maggie (PhD student). They provided me with guidance, career resources and connections with other students and professionals who are in the field that I was interested in, as well as in other fields of interest.
My internship helped me learn a lot within the field through the research that I conducted, as well as through the different seminars I attended. I also attended informative sessions that gave advice for future career goals, such as applications to medical school and grad school. This really opened up my mind to different possibilities.
How did your classes at Saint Martin’s prepare you for your internship experience?
As expected, my science classes really helped me prepare for my internship. Especially when it came to reading scientific articles and finding ways to make sense of words or procedures that weren’t within my knowledge. Most of the science classes I’ve taken require a lot of reading and writing for labs and research. This allowed me to develop my writing skills and reinforce my ability to research.
How did the internship influence your ideas about what you want to do in the future?
Being able to have firsthand experience in conducting my research really gave me an idea of what it would be like to work as an epidemiologist. It was very much an immersion experience, like when you go to another country to learn a language better. Being able to talk to people who hold specific jobs I’m interested in further allowed me to see whether I would like that job style. I was also given the opportunity to shadow three different physicians, and having that experience allowed me to appreciate the jobs that physicians do, but made me realize that I wouldn’t want to be one. Therefore, my internship helped me identify the types of jobs that I would and wouldn’t like.
This experience was amazing and definitely helped me grow as a student and as a person. I was able to make lots of memorable connections, both personal and professional. I would like to encourage more students to use their summers to partake in some sort of career development such as an internship.