Monthly Archives: September 2014

All Good Things Must End

From the journal of Sarah from the week of July 28, 2014

My time as an education intern is over. I will no longer work on science projects. I won’t be testing Christmas lights or cutting wire. I won’t be meeting new campers and learning new names. I’ll be a student at Tulane going through the repetition of classes and cherishing what free time my schedule allows. I’ll miss the World War II Museum. I’ll miss the people I met and the relationships I built. I’ll miss the familiarity of the routine and the excitement of a new day. I’ll miss this experience. As sad as it is to leave the Museum and the camp behind, I know that my experience at the museum will impact me for a long time to come. I learned about an area that I had no previous knowledge of: I was always a visitor of museums not a worker. I never knew what went on behind the veils of exhibits or what was behind closed doors. Now I know that behind those doors are vending machines and coffee makers, conference rooms, and offices. Now I know that behind those doors are people passionate about museums and their impact, people who are trying to make a difference.

I am proud of my time at the National World War II Museum. I am grateful that I was offered the opportunity to help the museum further its goal of keeping World War II relevant by working with the other education interns to make a video that outlines pykrete and why it was so important to World War II. Though there were some obstacles to overcome when making the video, we finished filming and editing and hopefully it will be on the website soon. This project helped me accomplish my goal of leaving something for the museum that they can use for future summers and that will help them in their pursuit of keeping World War II relevant and alive.

I am excited to use my experience at the museum in my life at Tulane. I am excited to take different strategies back with me to my times spent in classrooms tutoring and I am ready to take my knowledge of the World War II Museum back to family and friends and encourage everyone I know to go and visit. I hope to use my experience at the museum to help me succeed in other internships and jobs I will find in the future.

I would tell students interested in an internship at the museum to take initiative and know when to speak up about activities/ events. Working at the museum was great, but at times some activities seemed repetitive and some activities were hard to relate back to the use of science and technology in World War II. I would tell students interested in museums to find an interest and study that. It is important to have people of many different backgrounds in one place to really advance the strategies and learning techniques they want to foster. The museum staff consisted of people with history degrees and English degrees. It was scary in the beginning realizing that I was the only English major in a sea of interns studying history. I would tell students that your major will help you if you apply yourself to the job and work to make a difference there.

Thank you, National World War II Museum. I had a blast.


Intern Kate making Pykrete!

Intern Kate making Pykrete!

Camp's not the same without a soccer game! US vs. Germany! Intern Joe (not pictured) was very enthusiastic that day!

Camp’s not the same without a soccer game! US vs. Germany! Intern Joe (not pictured) was very enthusiastic that day!

Lunch view!

Lunch view!

The classroom is clean! Ready for next summer!

The classroom is clean! Ready for next summer!


Summer Lovin’ Happened So Fast!

From the journal of Sarah from June 23-27, 2014

I have just finished my last week of camp! I should be excited. I am excited! However, there’s a part of me that is sad. I’m sad that camp is over. I’m sad that I won’t have to learn twenty new names and personalities. I am sad that my time at the National World War II Museum is coming to an end. There is still so much work to do after camp ends, I know I’ll be busy, but the fact that camp is over is driving home the point that summer is almost over as well. Soon, I will be going back to school and soon I will have to say goodbye to the museum and the experiences I had here.

Earlier I said that by the midpoint of my internship I would develop the skills needed to teach about the museum because I wanted to know more about working in a museum. I definitely learned what it means to work in a museum, but I underestimated just how much goes into running a museum. I could talk about general themes and tell you about science and technology in World War II, but there is much more to the story than science and technology. The history here is so rich, I feel like I need more time. I feel as if the knowledge I gained interning here is not enough. I am happy with what I’ve learned and what I’ve been able to share with the campers. I do think that I’ve reached my goal, but more goals await to be accomplished! Another goal I had was that by the end of the summer I would have researched and taught about science and technology in World War II and why that is important today. Camp is over and my time researching science and technology in World War II is also over. Though many of the activities were laid out for me and I did not have to do much background research, I know that soon I will be researching. The Overnight is approaching and I will be taking activities performed in camp and making them accessible to parents and children at the Overnight. The Family Overnight allows families to spend the night in the Museum and experience all the museum has to offer. I am excited to expand upon the activities performed in camp and make them fun for adults as well as children!

I am monitoring my learning internally and externally. I know I am learning when I am able to answer questions the campers have, but I also know I am learning when I can self-reflect and answer questions about my time at the museum and my work done there and if it is important and will impact me in the future. I am proud of my interactions with the campers and of really being there to help them with their projects and answer their questions. I already believe that these campers are so smart and know so much more than I do, so to help them learn and see them interact and have fun means so much to me.

I believe that I gained many transferable skills so far. I have furthered my communication skills and have gained experience working in a business setting off Tulane’s campus. I have learned what it means to be a leader by watching my supervisors lead everyday. I have learned the importance of preparation but also the importance of flexibility because sometimes it rains and sometimes bottle rockets don’t explode. I have learned so much from this internship and hope to use the skills I learned back in the real world, back in the world of school and work, back in a world where I don’t get to visit the National World War II Museum.

A family stopped by to investigate our Bottle Rocket adventure! She took notes!

A family stopped by to investigate our Bottle Rocket adventure! She took notes!


We Can Do It!


More airplane fun! This time the target is Colin- one of the camp supervisors!

More airplane fun! This time the target is Colin- one of the camp supervisors!

Crazy hat day at camp!

Crazy hat day at camp!

Uh-Oh! Prepare for blast off! Mentos and diet coke don't mix very well...

Uh-Oh! Prepare for blast off! Mentos and diet coke don’t mix very well…

My First Week at the National World War II Museum!

From the journal of Sarah during the weeks of June 2-13, 2014

I work as an Education Intern at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. The museum works to educate the public on the many different aspects of World War II by providing people access to oral histories, special exhibits, and interactive activities. As an Education Intern I will help run Science Camp. Science Camp is offered to 9-12 year old boys and girls who are interested in aeronautics, engineering, physics, biology, and medicine. I will help the campers complete their projects and watch them experience hands-on activities relating to science and engineering in World War II. After camp ends, I will evaluate the camp and the activities accomplished, I will turn activities into family workshops and classroom activities and assist with other department events, duties, and initiatives.

I found my internship with the National World War II Museum by attending Tulane’s Internship Fair in the spring of 2014. I attended the fair and met many different representatives from many different internship sites. Actually, the last table I visited at the fair was the museum’s table. I almost turned away and left for the day, but something about interning at the museum made me stop. I must have looked like a crazy person to the lady sitting behind the table. I had water bottles and lunch boxes and other goodies from walking around the tables. My folder with my resumes inside wasn’t as neat as it was when I first walked in the door what with me opening and adding business cards so many times that day. This didn’t stop me from walking to the table and asking bluntly what I needed to do to intern at the museum. I took the paper home and applied that night. I was called in for an interview and accepted the internship offer then and there. My summer plans were made.

My first week at the Museum was hectic. The week of orientation was fun because I met my fellow interns and worked to complete the camp schedule. I helped make a robotic arm out of wood and super glue. We finally got it to work, only to have campers break it during the first week of camp. That was definitely a low point, but I’m glad someone used the arm that was such a pain to build. After orientation week was the first week of camp. It was middle school all over again. I had to learn twenty new names and remember twenty new faces, all boys. My first week was spent corralling 20 nine to twelve year old boys around a museum where the attitude is usually somber and quiet. I had a great time my first week, but am definitely looking forward to seeing more girls in camp.

The first week was not easy. It took a few days to get used to the commotion of camp and the shuffling of activities. It also took a while to get used to the schedule and master the technique of the different activities. I continue to be impressed by what these campers can do! I really do not think that I would have been able to complete some of these tasks back when I was learning about science and technology. The campers’ science skills and knowledge about World War II amazed me this week and will surely amaze me next week when I meet twenty new faces and learn twenty new names.

I expect to learn more about World War II and its impact on Louisiana and the world this summer. I expect to put my time tutoring in various classrooms to the test and see what I really learned about furthering learning and growth in the classroom. I know that camp is supposed to be fun and engaging and not like school, but many of our activities take place in the classroom and require intense supervision because they involve scissors or wires or chemicals. I expect to gain more understanding of different areas of museum life and what it takes to keep a museum running. I also expect to have a great time and enjoy the tasks that the campers enjoy!

First week of camp! Here's our busy schedule.

First week of camp! Here’s our busy schedule.

Here's a picture of the folders the campers make that house their completed projects.

Here’s a picture of the folders the campers make that house their completed projects.

Campers testing their Camo Robot!

Campers testing their Camo Robot!

Last entry, end of internship

In my last post, I addressed many of the learning goals which I set for myself at the beginning of the summer. A skill acquisition type of objective, working with the confocal microscope, replaced my initial objective to work with stereology software. As confocal microscopy was deemed more appropriate for the task at hand (to view, label, and quantify types of neurons based on their neurotransmitter type and subregion localization within the ventral tegmental area). I had hoped to master the use of this equipment by the end of my internship. However I have found that mastery of any skill requires far longer than a single summer’s worth of practice. This is one point which truly served as a learning experience regarding the real world of scientific research, and of the working world in general. Along with confocal microscopy, immunohistochemistry was another skill which I had desired to master by the summer’s end. I have come to find that such skills might take a life time to master, and that one can never truly perfect them but instead constantly improves technique with practice. Scientists in this field, including the ones who spent time training me this summer, have spent decades practicing a great variety of laboratory techniques, and they too are constantly learning from colleagues and improving from their own in-success. From this, I learned that each and every skill that can be used in science takes hard work and dedication to reach a level of expertise. There are no short cuts or quick routes to an easy success.

This summer, I did learn a great deal about the basics of immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy, and I practiced these skills to the point where I have laid a significant layer of groundwork to build off of in my future endeavors in the laboratory. By the end of my time on the job I had a compiled a box full of slides that I had prepared using immunohistochemistry of which I would view under the confocal microscope.

I managed to achieve a level of independence, of which I am quite proud, where I was allowed to, and comfortably did, adjust various steps in the procedures and protocols. My work was always taken seriously, and by the end of the summer, researchers, with years of experience, with whom I worked closely would even consult me about the procedures that I had spent time fine-tuning if they were about to start a new project using a similar technique. The one other undergraduate, aside from myself, who spent the summer as an intern with the same lab group became a great colleague, as she and I would frequently teach other the techniques and skills we had learned from our separate mentors, effectively learning from one another.

In fact, this was something I truly found amazing about the nature of the work experience in a research laboratory environment. There exists such a high level of collaboration amongst lab members that everyone, regardless of experience or age, is treated and treats one another with the utmost respect. Rather than striving to compete with co-workers, this lab experience showed me the extraordinary benefits of working along side and aiding them, so that everyone becomes invested in each other’s success rather achieving success through the failure of those around them.

There are a few words of advice that I would want to give a student interested in pursuing this kind of internship. In my opinion, one of the most essential components of achieving a sense of satisfaction from the internship experience is to ask any and all questions that come to mind. As an intern, a student is there to learn through real-world experience in that field while simultaneously performing a service of some kind to their host organization. In my experience this summer, I found that just about everyone is more than happy to help out the intern. Sometimes the other people working here can even learn a thing or two within their own field of expertise through a thought provoking question. It can: inspire the expert to look at something in a new way, cause the student to appear engaged and intellectually curious about their job, and also give the student-intern an answer to their question. Another piece of advice I would add is remember that nothing is black-and-white with a strict right or wrong answer, not even science. Pretty much everything is open to interpretation, including both new results/findings as well as currently accepted theories. Never be afraid to criticize/question someone else’s opinion(that is, as long as you aren’t ever rude/condescending about it), as such criticisms will typically be appreciated and usually help to build stronger support for the researcher’s argument. One thing to be wary of is the potential to over-criticize. I noticed this summer, during some of the lab meetings which I attended weekly, that some people could get carried away with criticism, perhaps in an attempt to show off or maybe out of spite. Either way, it becomes fairly obvious when someone ceases to criticize for the purpose of improvement/scientific progress and begins to do so for more selfish reasons.

Another important thing to remember as a summer intern is to make friends with coworkers and maintain these relationships. It is a great way to network and you never know who you might end up working with in the future. Having a good relationship with coworkers is also a necessity in laying the foundation for establishing an environment conducive to the high level of collaboration discussed above. Most simply, being friends with your coworkers will make your summer internship far more enjoyable. It is also vital to remember that just as the people you’re working with will typically be more than happy to help you out and answer your questions, it is important for you to be just as willing to help them. Whether it be through a skill that you have been practicing throughout your internship or just through a more broad knowledge base due to being a current student at a university while they might have a more focused yet narrow knowledge base, don’t forget that being a summer intern near the bottom of the totem pole does not mean that you are useless to those that you’re working with.

A truly amazing learning experience for me, this summer internship provided more for me than I could have imagined possible over the extent of a couple months. The skills that I was taught and honed are some which I can apply to many different experiments in my field throughout my future in the world of science. Regarding purely skill based learning, in addition to immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy, I received certification in live mouse handling. Due to the highly sensitive nature of live animal use in laboratories, this process was extraordinarily thorough requiring rigorous learning, training, and testing. The process eventually resulted in my acquisition of these certificates:

More so than the various skills I learned this summer however, the greatest aspect of my summer learning entails the ability to now apply this experience and the lessons I’ve learned to the working world. This internship also provided me with a much needed experience, in that it provided me with the experience as to what a career in the laboratory science actually entails. Before this summer, my plans for a future career were based upon an amalgamation of ideas that I had assembled within my own mind. Now I have a much more accurate and realistic expectation of just what exactly working in a neuroscience research laboratory really means. My mentor also helped to guide me, beyond the capacity of anyone who has not directly gone through the process, toward taking the best possible steps to following the path of professional neuroscience laboratory research.

As of right now, I still plan on pursuing a career in research but with a newly improved perspective on the actual means of getting there along with the actual nature of the job. In the more short term future, I have just been hired to work at a laboratory position on campus. It is in the slightly different field of cellular and molecular biology which will entail research on a more broad level than just the brain. I will be able to apply the skills and practices that I learned over the summer to this job. During which I hope to learn new skills as well as broadening my own perspective toward the field of research. This is something that my mentor this summer highly stressed, the importance of training under multiple teachers to learn how to think about and approach a problem from more than one way. Another goal which I still plan on pursuing during my time as an undergraduate is the completion of an independent research project. During my time spent at Columbia this summer, I definitely learned a good deal about the pre-experiment process. This entails performing a seemingly excessive amount of research within databases to read as much as possible in all major and many minor publications, so that before the brainstorming process even begins the researcher will have gained a substantial foundation of knowledge from classic experiments to the newest, most recently published data. It is in this way that the scientific community truly flourishes, when scientists build off of the findings of both their contemporaries and historic researchers.