Each summer, hundreds of students from colleges around the world embark upon summer internships and jobs—opportunities to learn how to take knowledge gained in the classroom out into the real world. But for some, these summer experiences allow students to add new tools to their kit, and learn what isn’t practically taught in school.
I’m one of the students from the second batch. I’m a student in the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, and I joined the program with seven other writers from around the world to learn how to write about science in a way that is accessible to and empowering for all audiences. In my program, which covers a broad range of topics from news writing to data visualization to documentary-making, I learned a great deal: it was, in fact, my introduction to journalism and professional writing.
Three months before the program began, I was an undergraduate student and bona fide lab rat studying how to reconstruct Earth’s ancient climates at Brown University. Now, I’m focused on constructing the narratives in modern-day science, engineering, and technology. I do this through my jobs and internships.
A few days I week, I work at NOVA, a documentary series hosted by PBS, where I cover science news in short digital videos that bring viewers up to speed on the science behind current news. It’s hard to learn how to compellingly condense years or even decades of research into a two-minute format—especially if you’ve spent years in classes learning about the seemingly endless nuances in science.
When I’m not at NOVA, I work in the Summons Lab in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) as a lab technician and science writer. In between working on extracting tiny fat molecules that record history in ancient sediments or slowly dripping hydrochloric acid into shattered carbonate-rich rocks, I write about lab news and visit science classrooms around New England to do astrobiology demos with young students. On the weekends, I write undergraduate and graduate profiles for MIT News, highlighting students’ cool research and life experiences for readers both inside and outside of the Institute.
Admittedly, it’s sometimes hard to wear so many hats. But it’s also much easier to switch them back and forth when you know you’re gaining meaningful skills and knowledge you simply can’t find elsewhere. These types of experiences aren’t an extension of my education; they’re a vital part of it. At NOVA, I’ve learned how to cover breaking news and how to work in an environment in which you have to ride the waves of the new cycle. In the lab, I’ve learned how we can use stable isotopes to infer how some of Earth’s climates changed over millions of years. At MIT News, I’ve learned how to connect with students from all sorts of science disciplines through interviews—and that each student has meaningful experiences that inform their education.
Without these experiences that help us engineer the bridge between our classes and the world outside, we risk making our education inaccessible to others, and fostering exclusivity in STEM. So, next time you’re given an opportunity to take a job or internship that uses skills you haven’t studied before, I encourage you to take it. It’s that first step outside that can make all the difference.
Grad Life blog posts offer insights from current MIT graduate students twice a month on Slice of MIT.