Ximena C.

January 6th – January 27th (5.62 hours) – These past two weeks I have only been into my internship site twice because of scheduling issues. It was nice to refine my skills, when it comes to being able to schedule events with more than one party. After I was able to set a date to start going back to my lab, at the University of Arizona, I was able to pick up on my regular duties. One meaningful experience I have through all of the scheduling and starting back at my internship site/lab, was that I got to show another new student around, Taylor, who is just starting to work at the lab because her major requires lab hours/credit. Besides showing her around the lab and informing her about the different research people are working on at the lab, I got to show her how I run my assay and training trials for the research I’m working on. It was a very enlightening experience for me because it allowed me to not only reinforce my knowledge on the research but also that my mentors at the lab trusted me enough to introduce a new student to the lab.

Although at my time at the lab, at the University of Arizona I have developed multiple skills, both soft and technical, I believe one of the most crucial and important skills I have learned is a soft skill. The soft skill is being able to have the ability to compromise in order to make a schedule with two or more parties. I have been developing this skill since I started up an internship program but have will find it and expanded it since I started working at my lab. As a result of me a high school student working at a lab at the University of Arizona, multiple scheduling conflicts have arised. One being that my high school and the U of A are on two different calendars therefore their day off my day off when I get back from breaks etc and do not align the majority of the time. This has really pushed me to use and refine this skill constantly, in an appropraite professional manner. My mentors most definitely did help me develop this skill but as time as gone by they expect me to inform them of scheduling issues, which has forced me to constantly engage with this skill set. I can continue to improve this skill by taking initiative when scheduling conflicts arise or to make sure I communicate well enough when someone else reaches out to me with possible scheduling conflicts.

This skill will most definitely benefit me in college or a career because in these areas I am now not only responsible for me but for others as well. As a result of me already being in a college environment because of the location of my lab, I am constantly seeing the ways that the specific skill I have developed can be applied daily. Now that I have this skill I can apply it to the rest of the time at the lab and any future jobs or classes I have. I can also now contribute to the schedule making for the lab, instead of simply providing the days and times that I am available. Even when my college and career come to an end, this skill can continuously be applied to life situations. I will continue to greatly benefit from this skill with the time I have left in the internship program, my internship and even onto my professional endeavours.

While I was looking at the poster of previous students, in the hall, I came across the term forebrains. A forebrain is the anterior part of the brain, including the cerebral hemispheres, the thalamus, and the hypothalamus. When I was first reading this, I did not understand much of it conceptually, so my one of my mentors Keating was nice enough to explain it to me. 

November 12th – January 5th (10.83 hours) – As a result of working at the University of Arizona, at a neuroscience lab, my internship schedule is based an awful lot in the University of Arizona school schedule. Each semester there are students that leave the lab because it does not fit into their schedule anymore or there are new students that show interest to work in the lab. Towards the end of the University of Arizona semester, I was lucky enough to give a tour of the lab and talk about what I do at the lab, to a sophomore in college who plans on working at the lab second semester. I felt accomplished and honored as an intern because my mentors trusted me enough to lead an incoming student in the lab. I learned a couple of enhancing tools during this experience. I had to set up a meeting time with the college student through email and had to make sure both our schedules aligned with the available times to tour and explain the work at the lab.

A time I had to seek additional resources to understand a concept or complete a task, after guidance from my mentor was when understanding how the variables when training and assaying the ants work. During second semester I will be working not only on my intern duties but also on my AP Research project, with their mentorship. As a result, I have to be able to thoroughly and deeply explain, as well as understand the concepts. My mentor and I setup a meeting so that they could explain the information to me, so that I could ask questions for clarification and deeper explanation. After that meeting, I still did not fully understand the concepts in order to be where I want to be for my research. I emailed on of my mentors and she sent me an extremely insightful paper, that explained the concepts in extreme detail. She also gave me access to the free online U of A library to look for additional sources. Apart from the helpful resources she supplied me with I still did my own research on EBSCO host, google scholar and online libraries.

The resolution to the situation was me informing myself through the resources my mentor supplied me with and additional information I found. I was able to gather some of the necessary information myself, through online libraries and resources. Although I did find some information for some of the concepts I did need to revisit them with my mentor for additional guidance, simply because I did not find the amount of information I was hoping for. White my new found knowledge of the concepts, I shared them with mentors, just to insure that I was correctly informing myself. I also began to pay more attention to the variables and concepts that I had new found knowledge on, when working on my research and intern duties. Overall, the resolution to my situation was insightful and more than I had expected. I was looking over the research that has been done at the lab I am interning at, with my mentor.

On one of the research posters, the word glomerular organization was used multiple times to describe the effects of the research. Glomerular organization is a spherical structure, that is a network of small blood vessels.

October 29th – November 11th (9.88 hours) – One meaningful experience I have had in the internship program is dealing with my schedule conflicts and schedule conflicts that arise at the last minute. These past two weeks I went four times total but two out of the four were not aligned with my schedule. According to my schedule I go in on Monday from 2-6 pm and on Thursdays I go in from 2-4 pm. I showed up on Monday, November the 4th but ended up going home and being there a little less than two hours because I was not feeling well. Although I did get a bit of the ant training done it is not valid because it was left incomplete, as a result of me leaving early. I had to insure that I still got all of my tasks and ant training done for Thursday, therefore I had to use my communication skills and learn how to stay on top of tasks. I took the initiative and instead of falling behind and having to catch up the next couple of days, I went in on Tuesday, since I felt much better and stayed on track with my schedule and tasks. This was such a meaningful experience because I learned how to take initiative in a professional setting.

I would say that when it came to my attendance and punctuality this semester, from my mentor’s perspective I would say I did a good job. When it came to establishing a schedule at the beginning of the semester we made sure to establish a meeting so that we could both see what days worked best, according to both of our calendars. I let my mentor know what days would most definitely not work for me and then asked them what days they preferred me to come in. My mentor appreciated that because it allowed him to be at the lab the same days I am because he teaches classes at the U of A, so he had more flexibility in that sense. For the whole semester I stuck to my schedule, unless there was a holiday so the lab was closed or the one time I did not feel well so I had to leave early and cut my usual schedule hours short. Since this happened at the lab, I let my main mentor Wulfi know that I was heading home and he gave me approval to head home. I also texted my other mentor Keating to let her know that I was heading home so that she would not be out of the blue when she came back to the lab. Since I fell short on my hours I communicated with Keating a day to go make up the works and hours that I missed and went in the next day to complete my tasks as an intern.

When it comes to my own time management skills in regards to balancing my school schedule, homework/extracurricular and my internship I would say that they are good. I made sure to begin my time management skills to use and thought when I applied for the internship program. I thought how it would fit into my schedule and if I would be able to manage it with the rest of my school activities. When I went to set up my internship schedule I thought about the days I typically have the most homework, club meetings, and what days I can overall devote more time to my internship. I go into my internship on Monday from 2-6 pm, which is a good amount of my day, including about the 45 minute commute from Vail to the University of Arizona and then I go on Tuesdays from 2-4 pm. I now know that I will usually get home anywhere from around 6:30 – 7:00 pm, so that helps me plan ahead with homework. For example, if I am aware of homework due Monday night or Tuesday on the weekend I will do it on the weekend but if I find out about it on Monday, then I will try to do as much of it as school, when I have free time. I hope to continue my good time management skills into the second semester.

When I was at my internship site, a lab at the University of Arizona, I learned the term chemosensory. Chemosensory is a term used when relating to, or functioning in the sensory reception of chemical stimuli. I learned about this term when I was looking at some of the current research that one of my peers, Michael, is working on.

October 15th – October 28th (12.55 hours) – One meaningful experience I have recently had in the internship program has been the opportunities I have been lucky to be a part of, that I would not have had if it had not been for the internship program. This past Sunday, October 20th, I got to be a part of the Insect Festival with my lab and other Neuroscience labs. The Insect festival is made up of multiple Tucson organization, local parks and museums and labs at the University of Arizona. My mentor Wulfi, a senior in college and I went to represent our lab and talk to people about insects and the neuroscience aspects to them. I took the maze where I train the ants, other insects brains and I took a microscope so people could see an ant brain up close. This was such a meaningful experience because I got to explain the research I am doing in the lab to other people and practice on long term public speaking.

A time that I interacted with a coworker, other than my mentor for professional reasons, was twice these past two weeks. I initiated communication with Rachel Sadler because she helps with the math calculations that need to be run, after I run the assay trials. As a result of Rachel not being at the lab, my method of communication is strictly through email. I let Rachel know when I have put in the data for the week, so she can go on the google sheet and run the math calculations, so I know what ants to train on Monday. Very rarely does Rachel initiate communication with me, she will only initiate communication with me if she needs me to type in the data earlier than the usual day. It has been helpful to initiate communication with Rachel because it has allowed me to keep practicing my email skills and getting the right tone across.

A time that I interacted with a coworker other than my mentor, purely for social reasons was at the Insect Festival. At the insect festival, Michael, a coworker at the lab was there presenting his own research. Michael sat next to me and there would be times where there would not be people at our booth, so we would talk. I initiated the conversation the first time because I like to talk to people and get to know people better. I was comfortable during this interaction because I have never shied away from conversations with new people because it is exciting to get to learn new things about them. Since when Michael and I are at the lab at the same time, we are both typically busy and do not get to interact on a social level, this is typically the same for most of my coworkers. The only coworker I do get to talk to on a social level on a more regular basis is Keating because we work so closely with the project.

While I was looking at the poster of previous students, in the hall, I came across the term neuropil. A neuropil is a dense network of interwoven nerve fibers and their branches and synapses, together with glial filaments. When I was first reading this, I did not understand much of it conceptually, so my mentor Wulfi explained it to me.

October 1st – October 14th (12.77 hours) – As my internship experience continues, the amount of insightful experiences I have been able to have, keep growing. During these past two weeks, at one of my scheduled days, I had to use my communication skills and think of solutions for a problem that arose. On Thursdays I assay 6 ants in sets of 3, in order to figure out which one is the most active and those are the ones I train on Monday. Today when I went to the lab 5 out of the 6 ants had died, therefore I could not choose the 3 most active ants. Since my mentor for this research project was not in town today, I had to think of what to do, whether I should assay another 2 ants and then train them or if I should just train the one ant, or neither and instead do some house cleaning. I emailed my research mentor and she did not respond right away but eventually she did and recommended two options and let the choice to me. I had to choose which option I believed was best for the time remaining at my site or if I was willing to stay a bit longer. I ended up choosing to just train the one ant because I thought if I trained 2 ants from the batch of fed ants I chose from Thursday, then those two would not be starved and be at an advantage or disadvantage to the other ant. This has helped me refine my communications skills and use them in a much more professional scenario.

I learned the term alpha and gamma rays when I was talking to a fellow peer at my lab, Irina. Alpha and gamma rays are parts of the brain that one can see because it is part of neural oscillation. When I was talking with a fellow peer, Irina, she was telling me about her current research and how she is looking into alpha and gamma rays within mushroom bodies.

September 17th – September 30th (16.22 hours) – As I continue to intern at the University of Arizona, the more people I am getting lucky to meet. Most of the people who work in the lab are University of Arizona students or people who work at the University of Arizona, therefore I have been able to have an insight into their college days. They have given me advice going into college and how to be able to not just go to school and do homework but also become involved in labs, if that is what I continue to be interested in. Keating, who is a graduate student I work with, has provided me with resources that I would not have, if I did not intern at the lab. They include help when applying for the University of Arizona and information on the Neuroscience department, as well as having access to their online database of previous research, that could help me for my AP Research class. As I continue my internship experience, I have had the opportunity to continue to have meaningful experiences, which have contributed to my growth as a student and intern.

Since I work in a lab at the University of Arizona, there are not that many people who work in one lab, at the same time. As a result of this, I do not use email at my internship site but instead use in-person conversation. The room where I am conducting research at the Gronenburg lab, is right across from my mentor, Wulfila Gronenburg and the graduate student who helps me, Rebekah Keating, office’s are right across from me. Therefore, the easiest and most efficient way to communicate at my lab is through an in-person conversation. This is the method of communication because most of the questions one typically has at the lab are in depth questions, which require typically longer answers. Another factor that plays into the communication method of in-person conversation are that typically we need immediate answers to the questions and/or concerns, in order to keep research moving along in an efficient way.

With it being my first time working in a lab multiple questions arose within the first weeks of me interning at my site and they continue to arise. As a result, I have been forced to become comfortable with asking questions in the moment because if I don’t, it could negatively impact the research being done at the lab. Everyone that works at the lab with me, my peers and mentors, have made sure that I feel comfortable to ask questions whenever they arise. Most of my intern work is done at the lab, such as conducting research, collecting data and cleaning any supplies used but sometimes I do some data collection work at my house. As a result of this, sometimes questions come up but my mentors and peers are not across the hall, therefore I will send an email with any questions I have. I am now at the point where I feel comfortable with asking questions and even for some feedback on my work.

I learned the term quinine when I was being taught how to make certain components needed for the research I will be conducting. Quinine is 60mml solution, that has an extremely bitter taste and strong smell. When I was being taught how to make the solution, I was told to wear gloves because if the quinine gets on my skin, it will leave a hint of the smell and dry my skin out.

September 3rd – September 16th (9 hours) – One meaningful experience I have recently had in the internship program is getting to sit in on a lab meeting. A week before the lab meeting, my mentor and another advisor I have at the lab invited me to sit in on a lab meeting they have, typically once a month. Since this was my first meeting, I didn’t quite know what to expect when it came to the way people conducted themselves in the meeting. This was a meaningful experience because it gave me insight into how lab meetings are conducted in a professional setting. In the meeting I got to see Irina’s presentation on mushroom bodies and alpha and gamma rays, surrounding stingless bees, which she will later present to a group of neuroscientist. During Irina’s presentation, the audience, which were people working in the lab or the advisors, were constantly asking questions for clarification for themselves or even reflection questions for Irina herself. It was comforting to see that even in a high level educational and professional setting, one still needs feedback from their peers and constructive criticism and that the expectation is not to be perfect but yet display your best work and continue to learn.

I was sitting in and listening to a presentation at the lab meeting and the presenter, Irina, said the word mushroom bodies. Since her presentation was surrounded and based on mushroom bodies in stingless bees, it came up multiple times. Mushroom bodies are a part of the brain in stingless bees, and many other insects, they are known to play a role in olfactory learning and memory.

August 20th – September 2nd (2 hours) – One meaningful experience that I have recently had in the internship program is how to balance the internship program requirements and expectations, along with my internship site’s requirements and expectations. As time has gone on, it has been proven to me that many of the expectations and requirements overlap with each other and has made it easier and more manageable. At my internship site I am expected to be respectful and work to the best of my ability. These same expectations apply to the internship program. Regardless, the requirements have been proven to be a bit harder. At my site they are expecting some type of poster. As where at the internship program, we do not quite know how we are presenting our information yet.

Working in a lab, there are most definitely certain lab etiquette that needs to be followed. In saying that the etiquette in my lab is very safety based and not as much professionalism based. When I was getting a tour around my lab/internship site and continue to explore it myself, I have found that there are unspoken rules at the lab. For example, when I met Keating and Irina at the lab, I realized that although they share a work space, when they are each working on their projects they do not talk to each other, as a way to keep focus and work in an efficient manner. Regardless of everyone working in a more individualized manner and keeping to themselves, whenever help is needed, everyone makes sure that one can ask for it. Lastly, when it comes to the way my coworkers should or should not distribute their work, there is not really a right or wrong way. Everyone makes their schedule according to the amount of lab work they need to do and how much time they have.

My internship location is an almost perfect natural fit for my conduct and personality. Although I do have a set schedule for when I go in, I really enjoy having the liberty and flexibility to change my schedule. For example, recently I took on a project that I was going to have to work on more time than I thought I would and was very easily allowed to change my previous set schedule. Regardless of all the incredible aspects to my internship placement, there are some aspects to the professional environment that I am yet to get used to and feel like I need to work to meet the expectation. For example, like mentioned in the paragraph before, when my coworkers are working on their lab projects/work, they do not really talk with each other. I am very used to constantly conversing with others and not really having silence. Regardless, I am excited to continue to grow as a person in the new environment I face at my internship site. At my internship I am lucky to gain an incredible amount of knowledge on a daily basis and come across new vocabulary.

While I was dissecting an ant brain with my mentor, I came across the term feelas. Feelas are the “antennae” of an ant, which they use to feel things around them. Cutting off the feelas are one of the first steps I learned that I have to do before beginning the dissection of the ant’s brain.

August 6th – August 19th (0 hours) – As a result of getting an internship later than the expected date and my mentor being out of town until later in August, I have still not been able to go in to my site and have responsibilities of an intern. Regardless, I have still had many meaningful experiences in the training and in the process of waiting for my mentor to return. These last couple of weeks I have had to assign myself individual task as an intern. I had to make sure that I was still keeping in contact with my mentor, so that by the time he got back from his trip in Europe, I can jump straight into the lab. A meaningful experience I have had is learning to be flexible and patient. Since my mentor has not had access to his email on a daily, even weekly basis, it has been hard communicating any questions I have regarding the making of my schedule. Although it is my internship and my mentor is trying to best accommodate my schedule, I still have to be thoughtful of their schedule. I hope by my next reflection log I will have meaningful experiences in the workplace.

July 18th – August 5th (0 hours) – As a result of getting an internship later than the expected date and my mentor being out of town until later in August, I have not been able to go in to my site and have responsibilities of an intern. Regardless, the knowledge I have gained through this process has been tremendous. Some meaningful experience I have had in the trainings is networking with my peers that I might already be friends with or do not know as well. At a PD meeting, I was talking with a fellow peer, Jenna Mazza, and she helped me find another possible option, having to do with neuroscience, if nothing else worked out for me. Another meaningful experience that I have had in my search for an internship is all the challenges I faced, when it came to looking for a mentor. I had to adjust my schedule around a potential mentor’s schedule, as well as getting used to how different response times are from the ones I am used to from teachers. Overall, I have had extremely meaningful experiences during both trainings and my search for an internship and look forward to more.

Although I have already learned so much from my time so far in the internship program, there is more I am looking forward to learn. Although, in training we have already discussed goals as an intern. I would like to expand my knowledge on how to set realistic goals for myself as an intern, how to know which ones are stretch goals and which ones are realistic goals to have, as an intern. Although I have not started my internship, I am looking forward to learning so much from my mentor. At the past meeting I have with him, Dr.Gronenberg, he was very insightful when it came to clarifying any questions I had about the actual lab and what they do. I am looking forward to learn from mentor, how to use professional lab tools and more of an insight into how to possibly be part of a lab once I continue my undergraduate education.

So far, the Vail Internship Program has been such a well rounded experience, where I have gotten to grow as a student, professional and individual. There are many things that I have learned from my time in the program, one being that I have improved my communication skills in a more professional matter, from simply adding an automatic closing to my emails. Another thing that I have learned from my time in the program is to not be afraid to ask for help or clarification because it can help prevent a mistake. One thing I have learned about myself as a professional, is how to present myself in a professional manner. For example, how to dress, how to communicate, etc. One thing I have learned about myself as a student, is how to organize my activities and manage my time in a more efficient manner.