The Chemical Society of Washington (CSW) participates in Project SEED, a summer research program for economically disadvantaged high school students to experience what it’s like to be a chemist. Participants are asked to share with CSW members something from their experience that has impacted their perspective as a chemist.
By Mesgana Dagnachew
After walking into my Chemistry classroom, my teacher made an announcement about a, “great summer internship opportunity”, Project SEED. Those who were interested stayed after class. I was one of them. As she told us about the program, I stood there with excitement thinking “When I can apply?” The part that interested me was having a summer internship where I can do something that relates to the career I am interested in: science.
My first day at the lab was overwhelming. I was surrounded by college students using new vocabularies that I hadn’t heard of and didn’t comprehend . I thought to myself, “How am I going to memorize all these words?” I didn’t know anything about what we were doing and why we were doing it.
Initial anxiety aside, my worries soon started to dissipate. Knowing that I had my mentors and my colleagues by my side made me realize that I was not alone. I had people who cared about my education and what I got out of the program. The lab gave me a chance to apply the knowledge I already had and I got to learn even more. We had practice presentations every week and that helped me recognize my weaknesses and strengths and improve upon them.
I see my research experience as a seed that needs to be nurtured in order to grow. When I started my research project, I had no idea what was going to happen or come out of it but then as I went on, I discovered new things and new ideas just started to bloom. One thing I learned in working in this lab is in order to do research you have to have curiosity and persistence where you try something until you solve your question and see your growth.
Before, I always wondered how people work in research labs for the rest of their careers because I thought that research would stop once you discovered what you were looking for. I found the exact opposite to be true: when you discover something new, that leads us to ask more questions and look deeper into our new discovery. I agree with my mentor, Dr. Massiah when he said, “Once you discover something, you want to know more.”
That is my take away from the lab. There are a lot of opportunities out there; you just have to push yourself to explore them. If I did not make the decision to apply to this program, I would not have the chance to learn how to get out of my comfort zone and be a part of this life changing experience. I have had a phenomenal experience and I am grateful that I got to be a part of this.