It was the summer before my senior year in college and I still had no idea what my future would look like after graduating. I had always been passionate about school, but I was also so singularly focused on my studies that I hadn’t spent much time thinking about what I would do once I got out of the classroom. What I did know was that I wanted to work in the science field. I was working towards my Bachelor of Science in Biology after all! However, I felt drawn to almost all things science-related so I was indecisive about choosing a career path. Any job or internship where I could get paid to do something I loved seemed equally attractive. Unfortunately, this indecisiveness had led me to the point where I hadn’t prepared for post grad life. I assumed that despite my good grades, I might end up working as a very over-qualified waitress until I made up my mind about my future.
A (Paid) Internship Opportunity Perfect for Me
Luckily, I got a blessing in disguise in the form of an email sent from the UNC Asheville Biology Department. It was information about an internship program with Sanesco International, Inc., a neurotransmitter lab and health company right down the road from my school. The internship would primarily involve clinical writing—interpreting lab results in terms of patients’ health concerns and clinical history. I would also get to do research and write blogs on health-related topics and neuroscience. I had just completed a physiology course the previous semester, which was my first introduction to neurons and neural function; It was one of my favorite classes. This internship seemed perfect for me—and it was paid! This is unheard of for undergraduate students. After my interview, I was thrilled to hear that I had been selected for the position.
The Internship Curriculum
Over the course of my internship, I essentially took an intensive class in neurobiology to educate me on Sanesco’s clinical model and prepare me for writing lab reports. I read research articles and monographs written by clinicians. I also watched interesting webinars, Ted Talks, and recorded lectures. I learned all about the main neurotransmitters of the central nervous system: serotonin, GABA, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and glutamate. I read about how they are synthesized, where they are found in the body and brain, and what their effects are. I even gained clinical knowledge about what typically happens when people have deficient or excess levels of these neurotransmitters. I also learned about functional nutrition, the importance of essential fatty acids, and how critical healthy lifestyle is for physical and mental health. It was much more in depth than any of my biology courses and it was so interesting!
Internship Experience with Clinical Research and Technical Writing
I got a lot of practice doing technical writing by learning how to create Sanesco’s Correlation Analysis Report, which explains a patient’s lab results in depth for their practitioner. However, I also did a lot of blog writing for both a practitioner and patient audience. I produced content for Sanesco’s blog that ranged from neurotransmitters involved in ADHD to the use of inositol for panic disorder. To write these blogs I did scholarly research about my topic and then translated my findings into language that laypeople could understand easily. In school, I was not very confident in my writing abilities, but during my internship my written communication improved greatly.
Training and Mentorship during my Internship
All my training was under the guidance of Sanesco’s education director, our naturopathic doctor on staff, our chief medical officer, and the whole clinical department team. I was learning so much new information that it could have been overwhelming, but I felt supported the whole time.
Over the course of my internship, not only did I gain a wealth of technical knowledge, I also learned etiquette for working in an office environment, practiced communicating effectively with co-workers and managers, and learned the time management involved in working 40 hours a week. I gained a lot of confidence and comfort being in a professional work environment.
My Internship Success Story: From a Directionless College Senior to Getting Paid to Do what I Love
The most important thing I got from my internship at Sanesco was learning that I want to be involved in integrative medicine for my career. I never thought working in healthcare was for me, but being at Sanesco showed me how gratifying it is to use my love of biology to help people have a better quality of life. And luckily, that’s what I’m doing now. After my internship ended, I was hired full-time as a member of Sanesco’s clinical support department. I’m grateful that my internship has not only led to a wonderful job, but also to a new sense of direction and purpose. My happy ending is that the directionless college senior has become someone who really is getting paid to do something they love!