Intern Anniversary Series: Cristina Zambrana-Echevarria
2011 intern in Dan Klessig’s laboratory while a senior at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez.
Now: Zambrana-Echevarria is about to defend her masters degree at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, on genetic diversity in papaya ringspot virus on the island, and deciding between Ph.D. programs at U.S. universities for enrollment in the fall.
How did your experience at BTI affect your career path and what is your current position?
My experience at BTI inspired me to continue to do research and apply to other internships. It was a great experience in a wonderful workplace. During my time there, I always dreamed of coming back to BTI after my Ph.D. There was a map in one of the hallways with labels on the countries from which the scientists working at BTI came from. I wanted that map to have a label on Puerto Rico.
Can you share any fond memories, learning experiences or challenges from your time at BTI?
PGRP was my first experience outside of my institution and my first time being in the United States by myself. Even though I am bilingual and Puerto Rico has a longstanding relationship with the U.S., my native language and the culture I was used to was different. The challenge for me was to get used to a different culture than mine and to communicate effectively in my secondary language. Nevertheless, I have very fond memories of my time in Ithaca and my other fellow interns, like kayaking with them on Cayuga Lake and seeing the Cornell campus from there. They made my time in Ithaca even more enjoyable.
Would you recommend this experience to others and why?
I would definitely recommend participating in PGRP to everyone. I have already done so with other students of my department and my lab; they are now alumni too. What I loved about BTI was its research environment. I felt very comfortable and there was a lot of space for sharing and learning. I also liked the social activities the institute had (like the ice cream day). It showed an effort to integrate everybody in the institute.
More information on the Plant Genome Research Program summer internship and its history is available here.