Los Alamos National Laboratory (SULI)

Hi! I’m Andrew. I interned at the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a part of the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) program this past summer before my junior year. (That picture is me in New Mexico!) As a biology major, having the opportunity to take part in research at a world-renowned laboratory has definitely influenced me to consider graduate school and further biological research in the future.

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How did you find out about your internship?

I found out about the SULI through flyers posted around Rieke, as well as announcements in my science classes. I researched the internship online and spoke with my academic advisor, and she thought I would be a strong candidate.

What did you do at your internship? suli 2

I worked in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.  The overall research conducted in my division was on tree mortality due to climate change.  My project focused on how climate change affects stomatal conductance, the rate of CO2 and H2O exchange at the stomata of tree foliage.  The two tree species I studied were piñon pine and one-seed juniper.  My work over the summer consisted of working in three settings: out in the field where I gathered data, a laboratory where I made further measurements on tree foliage samples, and an office where I entered data into a computer and created graphs that analyzed relationships between various aspects of tree foliage.  A neat opportunity for me was to compile all my research into a poster and present it at a poster symposium near the end of my internship; this opportunity definitely provided me with a feeling that I accomplished quite a bit in one summer.

What helped make your internship a success?

My mentor at the laboratory was certainly a key component in making this internship a success.  He introduced me to the rest of the research team, taught me to use the scientific instrumentation, and broadened my scientific research knowledge in tree physiology.  The other staff members provided me with information about scientific research and introduced another possible career path.  Working with the staff members allowed me to observe first-hand what it is like to be a scientific researcher at a national laboratory.

What did you learn from your internship, academically?

I gained experience in field research and learned various methods and techniques when gathering and analyzing data.  This summer’s research exposed me to meaningful research in tree physiology and field and laboratory techniques. This internship reinforced the fact that the classes I am taking now and the time I am devoting to my studies are preparing me for a meaningful career.  I know my classes are rigorous, but the knowledge I take away from them is so valuable and will be very useful when I start my career.

Did you take this internship for credit?

I took this internship for biology credit.  To earn this credit, I wrote weekly reports throughout my internship documenting all my experiences while working, I wrote a final scientific report that included all my data and analysis, and I wrote a final reflective report of what I learned from my internship and how it influenced me for the future.

What advice would you give students wanting to intern with SULI?

Do not be intimidated by the fact that SULI is a national internship.  The classes and experiences I participated in at PLU prior to the internship prepared me well as I filled out the application.  I had no previous research experience before this internship, but I believe the laboratory experiences at PLU and my letters of recommendation were strong factors in obtaining my internship.  It is very important to establish meaningful relationships with professors in order to receive strong letters of recommendation.  Also, before choosing laboratories on the application, look on the laboratory websites make sure research you are interested in is available.