Tuesday, April 17, 2012

1. Tell us about yourself. What is your major and class standing? Where is your internship located and how did you get it?

My name is Charli Godshall and I am a senior chemistry major. I am interested in going right into the workforce after I graduate, so my independent study adviser suggested that I look for an internship for credit during my last semester. In my major, and generally in the sciences, internships are completed over the summer in the form of research opportunities. So, I didn't know where to start to find a company that would take me over a semester for only a limited number of hours (about 10 a week for one credit). The first thing that I did was go to Coffee and Connections, which was hosted by the Career Center. Here I actually met an alumni that offered me a position in his company for the semester. However, his company was located an hour from campus, and that would have been too far a drive. Next, I went to Google and typed in "Analytical Laboratories Bethlehem." I clicked on the map and all of the labs in the area showed up. I made a list of all the labs and looked at their websites. After I determined which ones would be best, I started cold calling them and asking if they were interested in having a free intern. The first few places I called were either not what I was looking for or not interested. I finally called Silliker Labs, located in Allentown and only 20 minutes from campus. The receptionist directed me to the corporate office in Chicago. Once on the phone, I talked with Katherine, who is the head of recruiting. She asked me to send her my resume and expectations for the internship. She told me that she would contact the chemistry manager, Sara, at the Allentown location to see if she was interested. When she finally called me back (which seemed like an eternity later but was really only a few hours) she was pleased to say that Sara was more than happy to have me if I was interested. Sara has told me that what piqued her interest was the fact that I knew what I wanted and went after it and I truly believe that my initiative to call companies is what really got me my internship.  

2. How did you feel on the first day? How did it go? Were your expectations met? Can you describe anything that surprised you?

My first day at the company was spent doing some general new employee training and starting my work. I read the employee handbook, safety information, and operating procedures. I was treated just like a new employee and therefore paired up with Brittany, my advocate. She is kind of like a mentor; helping me with my training or to answer any other questions I may have. Silliker is food chemistry lab. This means that companies send food to them for it to be tested. The food generally needs to be blended before any tests can be completed. This is where my training began. I was surprised that on my first day I would be doing work in the lab blending samples. I learned how to tell which way to blend samples and which type of blender to use. There is a lot more that goes into blending than just pressing a button. I left feeling confident that I had made the right decision about where to intern. I had learned so much already and I was optimistic that it could only get better from here. 

3. Tell us about your work environment and supervisors. How many people do you work with? What is great about it and what isn’t?

The Silliker lab I work at is a very large space that is divided into both chemistry and microbiology segments. The micro lab is very small in comparison to the chemistry lab, which consists only of my supervisor, Sara, and 4 chemists. The fact that it is so small is a plus, as everyone helps each other out. Additionally, each and every chemist has made sure that I feel welcome. They take the time to explain to me everything that they are doing and why, which ensures that I am learning all that I can.  

4. Tell us about your life outside of the internship. Are you living in a new location? Have you met new people?

Since I am doing this internship for credit during the semester, it is essentially like another class. In addition to my internship I am taking 2 classes and my senior seminar, am a senior resident advisor, HUB building manager, and tour guide. I go to Silliker 2 days a week and still have Fridays off, which is much needed as the rest of my week is so hectic. 

5. If you are earning credit for your internship, what types of assignments/projects are required by the College to earn credit?

For one college credit, I am required to complete 140 hours at my internship. This works out to about 10 hours a week. Additional requirements were determined through collaboration of my internship adviser and the on-site coordinator. These requirements include completing a daily journal of my experiences, what I like and don't like about the job, and new things that I am learning about the industry as a whole. I also have a plan of action with my on-site coordinator that outlines what types of tasks I will be completing as an intern. I meet with my internship adviser bi-weekly to make sure that I am on track and getting everything I want from the internship. I also meet daily with my on-site coordinator to discuss my plan of action and what I would like to be doing and learning. I have found that, to earn, credit, there are few set-in-stone rules that I must follow. Aside from the minimum hour requirement, my internship was able to be completely customized to fit my needs.   

6. What has been your most interesting assignment/task? What made it the most interesting?

The most interesting task that I completed at my internship was the blending of fragile food products. Some food products are designed in such a way that they are unable to be blended traditionally. For example, if you were to attempt to blend gummy worms, they would just get really sticky and you wouldn't be able to test them because they lose certain elements that are crucial for accurate results. So, the way around this is to place the item in the -80 degree freezer. The -80 degrees is in Celsius, which is -112 degrees Fahrenheit. After the product has been in the freezer for about 10 minutes they become very fragile. You then smash them with a hammer and put them into the blender to grind into a fine powder. This is very interesting, especially when the food product starts to reconstitute itself and become a bit slimy. It is also interesting because it teaches me a lot about different food products and their matrices.

7. How is your internship going? Are you enjoying the work that you are given? Are you encountering any difficulties?

My internship is going well. I have been learning a lot, especially because we recently absorbed another lab so we have acquired new instrumentation. I have been working closely with Kiara, who runs the instrumentation, to learn the new tests that we are offering at the lab. I have also been learning other traditional chemistry methods like ash, fat, and moisture. I have not had any real difficulties now that I have gotten into the swing of things.