San Diego is a pretty big biotech hotspot and UCSD is home to the father of bioengineering, among other world class researchers; this is the place to be as a bioengineer. Despite these resources, I have not taken advantage of this environment in the slightest. I suppose the biggest obstacle in my decision making is whether I want to do research or industry in the future. It’s the question I get asked most, and honestly, I still have no idea, although I’m beginning to lean towards industry. Anyway, every internship I’ve heard about from many people involves nothing but positive remarks and recommendations. An internship gets you hands-on experience in an actual company/lab, teaches you important communication and teamwork skills, nets you critical connections to the working world, and looks awesome on your resume. I figured it was about time I stopped being lazy and indecisive and get me one of these nifty things. While I was researching what kind of summer internships were available to me, despairing at my lack of any kind of experience and empty resume (with the exception of a very impressive number…), I discovered the Pacific Rim Undergraduate Experience, or PRIME.
For a quick summary, PRIME is a UCSD program that sends students (hey that’s me!) to different institutions in different countries along the Pacific Rim for engineering and science internships. It’s a 9 week program during the summer where the students work on some kind of research project. You work together with a mentor from UCSD and one from the host institution as a connection between the 2 countries. The internship itself is nothing particularly special, although you are definitely working on things that will have an impact on the real world. Furthermore, since this is an international program, a part of the internship involves immersing yourself in the country’s culture. On top of all that, you get a very generous stipend considering a normal internship gives you nothing. All around, it’s a pretty amazing opportunity regardless of what one’s dreams or goals are. This program includes bioengineering. This also includes Japan. Nana is doing a Japan tour this summer. You can see where this is going. Suffice to say, this is perfect for me.
I recently went to an info session about applying which slightly doused my hopes of getting it but at the same time, I only grew even more excited. I’m going to go on a tangent a bit but I’ll come back soon enough. Two and half years into university, and I still sometimes I feel like I should have just done CS. As far as jobs goes, it seems like CS is a very good option right now; it’s at least far better than lol bioengineering. And it’s not like I’m bad or dislike programming. In high school, I was seriously considering doing CS as I had messed around with very simple coding and enjoyed it. I even programmed a horrid Starcraft RPG and played it by myself over and over to look for bugs or see if it was as “difficult” as I wanted it to be, etc. For the actual programmers out there, it was Visual Basic, such a joke program. My programming skills are nothing impressive, though I suppose they would be if I had gone down that path. Despite this, I concluded programming is something I enjoy but not something I could spend the rest of my life doing, so I opted for something that’s even worse: bioengineering, the field where no one actually knows what’s going on. Clearly, I am a genius. Nevertheless, within this field, programming is useful ability. Modeling systems or proteins and theorizing how certain external forces may cause the system to change is important, for example; however, it is not a necessity for every job. My whole point being: it would be great if I could get some kind of programming on my resume. “Btw, there’s this one project in Japan that will put to use some programming.” WOAH wait what? Sign me up now! Okay, I lied; I didn’t actually say that. At the time, I was still in the process of deluding myself that wet lab work, such as running seventy-two billion different samples and analyzing the results like the slave I would be, was the best place for me. After I had some time to think about it, I then came to the above conclusion.
The application process is actually relatively rigorous for an internship. I have to choose which project I want to do (done!). Then write my own proposal regarding the project plus fill out a bunch of paperwork which really isn’t that bad. They make some cuts, do some interviews (my interview skills, or rather my social skills, are abysmal) and then make the decisions in March. After that, you have to do a ton of prep work before embarking on the wondrous journey. Unlike usual internships where you learn on the job, here, you learn prior to starting. This includes not just how everything works in the lab/computer/whatever you will be using, but also a strong grasp of understanding the concepts you will be working with. Simple questions will not be tolerated (not really, but it would look quite bad). The biggest problem comes from the competition. Now, theoretically, competition is not a very big factor. With around 12 places each offering 3-4 spots and a total of maybe 100 applicants (at least it appears that way based on how many attended the info session), you have roughly a 50% chance to get in. Granted, there is no guarantee you will get the place you want, but as I previously noted, this program is pretty amazing opportunity to begin with. The real problem is how many are applying for what. Of the 100, roughly 5% are CS and 5% are biology students. This means they are essentially guaranteed the CS/bio spots. Approximately 60% are bioengineering. Chances for me are…a lot less, especially if everyone goes for the one I want, which is likely since it was highlighted in the info session.
So that’s where I stand right now. A bioengineering internship that will include some programming in Japan this summer and will highly likely overlap with part of Nana’s summer tour: I want this so bad. I don’t think so many things have ever lined up so perfectly for me before; if they have, something went wrong. I have my worries: partly due to competition, partly due to a habit of running into unforeseeable misfortune. I can already predict some atrocious twist of fate that prevents me from laying eyes upon the goddess, even assuming I do manage to get this. But for now, I can’t waste time worrying about such things. For now, I will do what I need to do to apply and show I am the best candidate for the job. If I get this, it will easily be the greatest thing I’ve ever done with my life. Without a doubt, this would be a life-changing experience that will mark the beginning of my future. I am so excited already; failing to get this would be so depressing. Honestly though, I do have a good chance, so it’s not too ridiculous to get my hopes up. Right, Nana? Hello? Nana-sama…
Oh, she’s celebrating her birthday! January 21, 1980: the day a goddess was born into this world! HAPPY BIRTHDAY NANA HIME SAMA! May your angelic voice be heard and praised around the world this year! <3