Summer Internship Program Tells Various Students: ‘You Should Go to Graduate School’ | VTX

According to Hunter, what sets the MAOP program apart is its emphasis on community development. “They’re in the lab, but they also live together,” she said, “and they create these lifelong friendships and networks. I had participants who ended up getting married.

On a sweltering Wednesday in July, MAOP students ran the Venture Out high ropes challenge course at the edge of campus as part of a team-building activity. Cole Simon, a senior biology student at Hampton University, made his way through some very unsteady steps and then spun around on the platform to cheer on the intern behind him. “Let go and let God!” He told him.

The ropes course’s sheer hard effort, problem-solving, downfalls, and flurries of success, offered a useful metaphor for his research internship in the lab of Richard Helm, associate professor of biochemistry. “You have to have the patience to fail, get back up, fail, and then get it right,” Simon said. It’s putting the “re” in the search.

Simon’s internship on the structures of a particular microbe was similar to work he had done in a lab at Hampton University, an HBCU, with one major difference: Helm’s lab is “much improved,” said said Simon. Some equipment, like the mass spectrometer, which he had never used before. “If anything, this will teach me to be more resourceful at Hampton and use everything I have to make the most of it.”

This positive attitude makes Simon the kind of student likely to succeed in graduate school, at Virginia Tech or elsewhere, said his mentor, Helm. “Cole has an innate curiosity. He just wants to know, he wants to learn.

Helm pointed to a puzzle on one of Steger Hall’s work tables. “Cole did this one,” he said, adding, “Solving a puzzle would be a good test for new assistants coming into the lab, because research is like solving a puzzle , but in a slightly different way.”

After solving the lab puzzle, as well as the puzzle of how to climb the 6-foot-tall letters spelling “HOKIES” on the Venture Out Challenge course, MAOP interns presented their research at the Symposium of Virginia Tech undergraduate research on July 28. Then they returned home to prepare for the fall semester at their home universities.

Simon is working on a third puzzle: what to do after graduating from Hampton University in the spring of 2023. Maybe graduate school, maybe medical school, but probably some form of higher education. Grayson encourages him.

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