Intern Anniversary Series: Gwendolyn Beacham
2013 intern in the David Stern’s lab while a freshman at the University of Maine, Orono
Now: Currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology at Cornell University after being awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship in 2014 and NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2015.
Briefly describe your internship at BTI and share any fond memories, learning experiences or challenges.
I was an intern at BTI during the summer of 2013 in Dr. David Stern’s lab. I worked on a project geared toward engineering the microalgae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii with the ability to produce hydrocarbons called botryococcenes, which can be converted into transport fuels through a process called hydrocracking. My summer at BTI was memorable for me because I learned many new techniques and gained confidence in my ability to perform research. Additionally, BTI was a friendly and welcoming place to work and I became good friends with the other interns. I am still in touch with many of them today. I also enjoyed being at Cornell and living in Ithaca, and in fact I decided to return to Cornell for graduate school.
Who was your mentor and how did the person shape your experience at BTI?
My mentor was Shih-Chi Hsu, a postdoc in the Stern lab. Shih-Chi was a fantastic mentor. She provided me with careful instruction in lab but also gave me independence, something that I feel was very helpful for my scientific development. It has been fun to see Shih-Chi around Cornell since I have returned for graduate school!
What are you most proud of in your career thus far, and what are your plans for the future?
While I am very proud of the academic awards I have received, what I am most proud of are the critical thinking skills I have developed throughout my various research experiences and courses. I know I will continuously be developing these skills my entire life, but I am proud of how far I have come since my first days in a lab in terms of interpreting data, generating hypotheses, and recognizing what controls need to be done and what experiments can be done next. My first goal is to complete my Ph.D. at Cornell. I hope to continue to an academic postdoc position and eventually have a career in academia. I am not only passionate about research but also about science education and policy, and I know that a career in academia would allow me to combine these interests.
More information on the Plant Genome Research Program summer internship and its history is available here.