By Julia Greenland
Last summer LHU senior Danielle Tolton discovered the career of her dreams with Mercy Suburban Hospital, located in Norristown, PA, just outside of Philadelphia. As a Biology and Psychology major, Tolton was pleased to intern with the Senior Behavioral Health Unit, a geriatric dementia unit for psychiatric patients.
The Senior Behavioral Health Unit cares for patients already admitted into the hospital and also admits elderly from nursing homes. These patients must be at least age sixty-five, with psychiatric difficulties, for example dementia or psychosis. The unit then provides both psychiatric and medical treatment for these patients.
Tolton worked alongside various medical students, nurses, psychiatrists and social workers. They allowed her to lead group therapy sessions each morning for the patients. These sessions allowed the patients to interact with one another and helped to orient them because they usually could not remember the day, year, or where they were. Through these sessions, Tolton comforted the patients and helped them to understand that the hospital was there to help them.
Tolton also assisted with serving breakfast. She would distribute trays, spoon-feed those who needed the extra help, and clean up the dining room when breakfast was finished.
During the afternoon Tolton planned, organized and led activities. They often played bingo, watched movies, and played flashcard games to help trigger memory. Tolton was amazed at her patients’ memories and experiences. While most people now remember getting their first ipod, these patients remember turning on their first radio. These activities provided the patients with the opportunity to interact with one another and know that other people were in their same situation.
Sometimes Tolton helped the supervising Geriatric Psychiatrist with a project on Serotonin Syndrome. Occasionally, a patient’s medication can cause an excessive amount of Serotonin to flow through the brain, which can be potentially fatal. They begin to lose their motor abilities, have tremors in their extremities, and lose cognition. However, if patients stop taking the medication, their conditions will improve within twenty-four hours.
When a patient in Tolton’s unit displayed signs of Serotonin Syndrome, his medication was stopped, and he was placed under twenty-four hour surveillance. Tolton stated that for this case study, “I did daily observations and discussed the syndrome with the psychiatrist. For the most part, I did my own research through medical journals on the syndrome and incorporated it into my paper at the conclusion of the internship.”
The most difficult part of Tolton’s internship was working with the patients’ loved ones. “It was harder to work with the families than the patients,” she said. Loved ones could become frustrated with their family members for their loss of memory. The patients’ family had to deal with a once cognitive person, now deteriorating before their eyes. Family members had to realize “you can’t go in and get surgery to make everything better. Geriatrics is a different type of medicine,” stated Tolton. She knew dementia is irreversible and the best way to help both the patients and their families was to keep them as comfortable as possible.
Tolton’s most memorable moment was when she realized she made a difference in someone’s life. One day a typically anti-social, very quiet, but argumentative elderly patient refused to take his medication or participate in activities. He became combative with his nurse, and Tolton was sent to calm him down. They decided to take a walk around the geriatric unit. While Tolton pushed his wheelchair, held his hand and chattered on about various things, the man simply smiled and nodded at her. She could tell he did not fully understand everything she was saying, but was still enjoying her company. They detoured to the group therapy room so Tolton could speak with the psychiatrist, and when she returned from her conversation, the man held out his hand to her and said, “Where’d you go?” Tolton was amazed that he both recognized and spoke to her. “I knew he really appreciated me. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of working there. His joy was worth everything, and I was happy to know I helped,” she said.
Tolton expected her internship to be monotonous work, but she woke up every morning excited to go the hospital. As modern medicine allows people to live longer, geriatric doctors grow in necessity. Tolton took an interest in everything she learned, and realized she wants a career in geriatrics. “I didn’t know I was this passionate about being involved with the patients. I want to immerse myself in the patients’ lives to make them more comfortable,” stated Tolton.
Tolton obtained her internship by asking the hospital for permission to intern there. “It was one of the best experiences of my life. I’m glad I pushed for it because it helped solidify my career plans. I wouldn’t take it back for anything, and I’m going back to volunteer,” she stated. If you are interested in obtaining an internship, contact your advisor, talk with your professors, ask friends and family, or check out the internships on the Career Services website: www.lhup.edu/careerservices.
By Julia Greenland
Planting corn does not usually come to mind when students think of interning. Two LHU Biology majors, however, jumped at the opportunity to help the Penn State Crop & Soil Science Department develop a drought resistant corn plant. Seniors Cassandra Winters and Jesse Grasso worked for an entire summer with Penn State’s ongoing six year project.
The project’s purpose is to study the effects of different crops, how they grow in their environment, and to “isolate the gene expressed when corn goes through drought conditions. If the gene can be isolated and removed from the corn, the corn will grow better in drought conditions,” stated Winters.
The students’ responsibilities varied as the internship progressed, and each day was different and exciting. They assisted in planting corn and collecting DNA samples from the plants’ leaves. Using the molecular technique of PCR, Winters and Grasso learned to cut, copy and amplify the corns’ DNA.
The most tedious aspect of interning was removing the corn kernels’ outer skin for testing. For hours they would sit with tweezers separating the skin from the kernel until they had at least five grams worth of skin.
Winters and Grasso learned to identify the UFO-1 gene in corn. If the plant was short and lean, its leaves had a crease down the center, and if the leaves were an orange color, then they had found the good drought resistant gene.
This program at Penn State is funded by an NSF grant. Its goal is to help develop graduate students and to show interns what graduate school is like. Grasso was originally unsure if he wanted to attend graduate school in the future, but the graduate students and professors he worked with helped to change his mind. The PhD student “made me want to further my education. He would ask us our goals and what we want to get out of our degrees,” said Grasso.
Winters too found that working with PhD candidates taught her much about the project and the techniques used in labs. “Working in a lab is something I enjoy very much. I didn’t think it would be something I would want to do,” said Winters. Since interning, conducting research in a lab is a career goal Winters hopes to accomplish. She would now like to be a part of breast cancer research.
For both students, interning was crucial to developing their skills and gaining an understanding of their prospective fields. Winters was surprised at how hands-on the experience was. “I thought it would be more like the labs I took on campus,” she stated. Instead, Winters was able to develop her independence and said that “It was definitely worthwhile and the most educational experience I’ve had in college.”
Grasso said, “The internship helped strengthen my desire to want to be involved with research. Education is not just about books. It’s crucial to have external experience in your field, because you can only learn so much from the classroom. Internships help you know what you want to do after graduation.”
Cassandra Winters and Jesse Grasso found this internship by networking with their professors at LHU. If you are interested in obtaining an internship, contact your advisor, talk with your professors, ask friends and family, or check out the internships on the Career Services website: www.lhup.edu/careerservices.
By Julia Greenland
For most people, a yearly visit to the dentist is a dreaded experience. For Biology major Liam Register, however, visiting the dentist multiple times a week helped confirm his career goals. A junior at Lock Haven University, Register interned during the entire 2010 fall semester at Carson Brown Dentistry in McElhattan, PA.
Carson Brown Dentistry is a dental practice where patients can receive routine cleanings, x-rays, crowns, bridges, root canals, and fillings. Register began his internship there by job shadowing the employees, but by the end of the semester, “I had worked my way into assisting,” he said.
Register said he sought an internship with a dental practice because “Dentistry always appealed to me, and I always wanted to do something in the healthcare field.” His responsibilities varied each day because each patient had different needs. Register, for example, may one day assist with a filling, but the next day he may assist with an evaluation of the mouth, crown or bridge. Through his internship Register learned to prepare and clean examination rooms; sterilize utensils using autoclave, a procedure which uses heat and pressure; take impressions and pour molds; seat patients; and assist the dentist with suction procedure of air and water by holding the patient’s mouth open and handing the dentist utensils.
Interning with Carson Brown Dentistry helped Register to learn about himself and his future. “I can work with anybody. You see all sorts of patients and have to be able to handle anything that comes your way,” he stated. “It was positive and confirmed my career goals of wanting to go into dental school.” The internship experience was so positive that Carson Brown Dentistry allowed Register to continue working there with pay after his internship officially ended. He describes his work environment as positive and friendly. All seven of the other employees he worked with “tried to help each other out. The whole office is great to work with,” he said.
Register’s Microbiology and Pharmacology classes helped prepare him for his internship because they dealt with bacteria, the importance of sterilization, and the prescription of antibiotics. He says that few of his classes actually pertained to the dental industry, which is why he finds learning from real experience so valuable. “It’ll look great on my resume for dental school,” stated Register. “Hopefully, I’ll be a step ahead of other kids because I have spent so much time at Carson Brown Dentistry.”
Carson Brown Dentistry is Liam Register’s family dentist. He acquired his internship by asking if he could job shadow in the office. If you are interested in finding an internship, network with local businesses, talk to your advisor, or take advantage of the resources offered at the Career Services website, www.lhup.edu/careerservices.
By Danielle Burkhart
Whether diving on the coral reefs of Honduras, training zebra sharks, or collecting macro-invertebrates to analyze the health of a stream, Cody Bliss believes in getting outside experience to complement his course work.
A senior biology major with a concentration in marine biology, Bliss is now completing his third internship. He feels all of the experiences have allowed him to gain a sense of direction and explore different areas. Each experience was unique and together they provided him an opportunity to use a broad range of skills. Even though his internships were major commitments, he enjoyed aspects of all of them.
His first internship was at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium in the summer of 2008. He applied for and received a stipend to help him with some of the expenses as it was an unpaid internship. He worked part-time in the aquarium in the open ocean and the tropical salt water areas.
He stated, “It was a more formal, professional internship.” He observed and kept records of animal behavior. Bliss also prepared the food and medicines for rays, sharks, tropical fish, and invertebrates, and fed them.
His second internship was this past summer with the Wallops Island Marine Science Consortium for Education and Research (Wallops Island, for short). During the internship he worked with campers teaching them about conservation. Bliss said, “The human interaction made the experience so rewarding.”
“Kids that hated the place (initially), loved it before the week’s end and wanted to be marine biologists. They learned college-level materials…and the vocabulary that they left with! It goes to show how much they learn,” commented Bliss.
During this internship he traveled to the island of Roatan off the northern coast of Honduras in the Caribbean. There he completed a three-week research course, studying sea fin disease and, in particular, a particular soil fungus, asperigillus, and how it affects the reefs. He compared marine sanctuaries with non-marine sanctuaries looking at variables, such as, current strength and depth of water.
For his third internship, Bliss is working this semester with Trout Unlimited, an organization that promotes conservation and restoration of acid-mine drainage polluted water bodies. He collects bottom macro-invertebrates then analyzes the specimens with a kit provided by Trout Unlimited. “They are a good indicator of pollution in a stream,” he explained.
He continued, “Trout Unlimited is a very realistic internship. With the work given me, I feel like an employee.”
His internships have given him the chance to compare and contrast work environments. “I love working in the mountain setting of freshwater biology, but I like working with salt water better,” stated Bliss.
He found each of his internships in different ways. As a kid he visited Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium, and he loved it. When his brother, who is a donor to the zoo, found out about the opening, Bliss applied and got the position. In the case of Wallop’s Island, LHU has an established relationship with them. Also, he knows an alumna who works there; through that connection he became interested in the internship. For the Trout Unlimited internship, he was interested in a local internship so he contacted professors, and they knew the organization.
The most challenging internship was at the aquarium. “My coursework didn’t prepare me for this. I was thrown into the setting. But I learned so much.”
Bliss stated there are surprises with any experience. That’s what has helped him grow as a professional. The internships forced him to think on his feet. “I gained confidence. I feel that I can now go into a work setting, whether it be a lab or an aquarium, and be comfortable with my skills.”
Most students would think that three weeks on the island of Roatan in the Caribbean would be “exotic” enough, but not for Bliss. “I wish I would have gone for bigger internships. I wish I had more time to keep going. Internships are definitely not a waste of time.” Bliss has a job offer this summer after he graduates at Wallop’s Island. He has also been invited back to the Aquarium. Not bad in these times of economic stress. “It’s definitely helped me get a foot in the door.”
Bliss is a strong advocate for internships. “Students get caught up in classes and fail to see the value of the experience. I did internships to get exposure in the field. At times I got the feeling of being thrown to the wolves. But we all have to do it eventually. We will jump into new things, and we have to be prepared.”
By Danielle Burkhart
“My internship was a stepping-stone.” Internships serve as bridges between college and the real world. The benefits are
endless, as one recent Lock Haven University graduate has learned.
Megan Kepler graduated from the Biology Department in the fall of 2009. Kepler’s first internship was with the Clinton
County Conservation District where she worked with acid mine drainage. Her most recent internship was with the
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission this past summer.
During Kepler’s time with the Commission, she assisted in assessing the recovery of a local stream impacted by a sodium hydroxide spill. Initially, the Commission predicted that the stream would be back to normal in six years; however, according to Kepler, they soon discovered recovery was taking place a lot slower than anticipated.
“There was a lot more going on than expected that is affecting the recovery,” said Kepler.
On an average day, Kepler would work from 8 am to 4 pm; however, there were many occasions that required her to start earlier and leave later. Kepler even stayed overnight at her worksite during sampling events.
Kepler’s responsibilities included sorting and identifying macro-invertebrates (aquatic insects), along with insect and fish sampling. During her internship, she learned a lot from both her boss and her father, who also works for the Commission.
“My boss would show me how something was done, and then just let me try it,” said Kepler.
She also had the opportunity to complete a biological assessment that she co-authored with her father. During this assessment, she learned a lot about report writing, analysis, manipulating data, and editing techniques from peer editing.
Kepler describes her internship as a stepping-stone. However, her internship was much more than that.
“You realize the possible impacts a person can have on the environment and how you can make a difference in the field if you get involved,” said Kepler.
One of Kepler’s most memorable moments during her internship was when the Commission would electrofish to count fish and identify them. Electrofishing electrically charges the water and temporarily stuns the fish. The voltage that is put into the water is adjusted to an appropriate level so not to put the fish at risk. After the fish are identified and recorded, they are returned to the stream. She enjoyed being out in the field and seeing first-hand what all goes on. Kepler witnessed this many times and said each time was just as amazing as the first.
“You don’t realize what’s in there, and then you electrofish and a ton of fish float up to the surface.”
Lock Haven University helped prepare Kepler for her internship in many ways but two classes stood out. Entomology, the study of insects, and an aquatic biology class assisted her greatly throughout her internship.
Kepler understands the importance of the organization that she interned with and hopes to educate others.
“The biggest thing is to pay attention to what you do to the environment; this was a large scale spill but everyday everyone can do their part. If you see something that doesn’t look right, then call the right agency to report it.”
Aside from the environmental aspect, Kepler was impressed by how her host site treated her as a woman working in the field of biology. They did not treat her differently, and a lot more women are moving into the field while proving themselves worthy.
Kepler has just been accepted to start her masters at Penn State University where she currently works as a research technician. This will help her get more involved in research within her field while working under a Penn State fisheries professor.
Megan Kepler found her internship through the connections that she made in her field via networking.
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Penn State Crop & Soil Sciences Department