Despite COVID-19, Summer Internship Awardees Thrive

Illustration by Mychal Miller

Illustration by Mychal Miller

As summer plans fell through the cracks, the Center for Life Beyond Reed (CLBR) was there to help students pick themselves back up. Roughly 40 students received the Summer Internship Award (SIA) to fund unpaid and underpaid internships this summer. Although CLBR initially expected the number of applicants to drop significantly due to the pandemic and the new requirement that all internships be remote, the number of applicants was similar to past years as students’ original summer plans were cancelled. The Quest asked three SIA recipients to describe their experiences and biggest takeaways from their summer internships.

Maxwell VanLandschoot ‘23 (he/him) 

This last summer, the CLBR and the SIA allowed me the invaluable opportunity to do economic research on COVID-19 on behalf of the Economic Development Council of the City of Covington, Washington. The SIA was integral to my internship as, without it, the city did not have the capacity to support an intern or outside researcher. My specific responsibilities entailed creating a business census, crafting and distributing a survey, and presenting the data I collected. Sparing you all the boring minushia of economics research, I will instead skip ahead to the most interesting conclusions that I was able to draw from the data. Namely, COVID-19 disproportionately affected different types of businesses and did not exclusively benefit the mega-corporations like Amazon and Microsoft. Some small businesses, especially take-out restaurants and medical clinics, reported a significant increase in orders and clientele throughout the pandemic. Likewise, most of the job loss experienced by the city was recuperated by mid-September. My results, however, are not to say that this pandemic was “good” for the businesses and people of the city, as, in aggregate, all of the metrics I surveyed have somewhat deteriorated in the past few months. This research, I believe, is an important reminder that the effects of COVID-19 are not easily quantifiable, and that we must use care before painting broad generalizations which might lead to the detrimental misallocation of limited government aid. 

Marielle Czerniecki ‘22 (she/her)

As a recipient of the SIA, I was able to return to Portland this past summer and work as a remote intern for a local non-profit. For starters, I was so grateful for this funding because it allowed me to leave my parents’ house in New Jersey and spend my summer in Portland, which was amazing. The organization I worked for, Immigration and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), is home to a Slavic Center. Since I am a Russian major, this internship couldn’t have been more appropriate for me. I had the chance to work with Russian speakers from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the former USSR. I built relationships with some of IRCO’s Russian-speaking clients over the summer, most of whom were older people who were very fun to talk to and incredibly nice to me and patient with my Russian skills. We got to do a lot of COVID-related support, including running an incredible program that gave local Slavic families money to grocery shop at Fred Meyer and a European food market. People were so incredibly sweet and happy to be working with us, and being able to support people in a concrete way during a time like this was an incredible feeling. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to work in immigration services this past summer; the experience taught me a lot about the nonprofit world, which is incredibly interesting and valuable.

Priya Narain ’23 (she/her) 

This summer, thanks to the SIA funded by the CLBR and alumni donors, I worked at the Beatty Lab at Oregon Health & Science University, a chemical biology lab, as a part-time volunteer and intern, doing mainly computational work. The Beatty Lab uses computational and chemical tools to model versatile interacting peptide tags (similar to green fluorescent proteins). The lab’s research is centered around proteins, which are mapped using light and electron microscopy, and enzyme activity. I worked on a project for the Beatty Lab to design versatile interacting peptide tags that bind synthetic fluorophore ligands and to create helical wheel diagrams. I cultivated stronger research and computational skills, which is something I feel is necessary for every academic field. While this experience was phenomenal, I realized my major and career trajectory has shifted. I came to Reed as a neuroscience major going down the pre-med track. All my life I dreamt of being a doctor, and I was super excited to get research experience during the summer. However, I realized the biological sciences are not for me (at least for the time being) and that I actually really want to go to law school. I’m currently in the process of exploring different majors, so I’ll have an answer for what will be my major in six months! I am extremely grateful to the mentors that I found through the lab and at Reed for guiding me through this process, and to CLBR and alumni donors who graciously funded my research internship. Maybe in the future, my plans will change and I will decide that I want to be a biochemistry major or something very STEM heavy. But for now, I am content with my decision and would not have come to this conclusion had it not been for this learning experience. 

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