August 17, 2015

Summer Internship at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science

By Jacob Strock ’17

When my career counselor Erin Evans introduced me to alumnus Dr. Richard Brill, I knew his type of research was exactly what I wanted to be doing, or at least try out. Since earlier than memory, I had an interest in fish. Dr. Brill, being both a NOAA employee and professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, was probably the most valuable resource I could talk to or work with.  Given the chance to speak to Dr. Brill, I knew I at least needed to ask and see if an internship could be a possibility.

Electronic lab equipment

He accepted me for his summer research at the Eastern Shore Lab of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. I would be working with himself, Dr. Peter Bushnell of Indiana State University, and Dr. Ryan Dombkowski of Trine University.

They could not offer me funding, but I was not deterred. I knew there are scholarships offered by Lafayette for students at unpaid internships. While they are limited, they make this type of opportunity possible for Lafayette students. Ultimately, I received the Robert Beane Intern Scholarship in the scientific category.  The scholarship allowed me a stipend to help pay for expenses, and provided me with a mentor: Dr. Janet Duffy-Anderson, an alumna in the fishery management field who would offer me her expert advice as I look to my future.

I could not have asked for a better or more immersive opportunity. The lab is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, in the small town of Wachapreague. Being in such a rural area, and living within a hundred yards of the laboratory, allowed me to be almost entirely devoted and committed to the project. I got to be a part of it all. I was involved in catching specimens of shark, skate, and dogfish; dissection; experimentation; and continuing data analysis. It gave me a chance to see what the research life was really like.

Blogger Jacob Strock dips his net into the water to bring a fish onto the boat while a man holds a rod and reel, apparently having hooked the fish.

It was days that I found myself still working in the lab late at night that I knew this must truly be what I want to do. As I am currently investigating and considering graduate programs, Dr. Brill gave me a piece of simple yet profound advice, “Whatever you decide to do should pass the morning test. That is, it should be the first thing you want to do when you wake up in the morning.” As my time at Lafayette is quickly fading away, I know this is very important for me as I decide what I will perhaps spend the rest of my life pursuing. It also made me thankful that I could try out such a morning test on my own aspirations.

Laptop computers and other equipment on a laboratory table

In total, the experience made me proud to be a Lafayette student because it was all made possible by the resources at Lafayette, and the benevolent alumni who were determined to see their alma mater succeed.  I cannot thank enough my career counselor Erin Evans, Dr. Richard Brill for the opportunity, Dr. Janet Duffy-Anderson for her continuing support and guidance, and Robert Beane for making internship scholarships a possibility for Lafayette students.

posted in Contributors

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