Post #1: Opportunities and Challenges

For our first blog posts, we have a relatively small list of prompts to choose from. Why we chose this internship, a day in the life, etc. However, the one that really caught my attention asks about what kind of opportunities, as well as challenges, that this internship may lead to.

I was fortunate enough to secure an internship in a research lab, working on a project that I had begun working on during the 2016-2017 school year. It’s a modeling project – by coupling an agent-based model of farmers’ irrigation behavior (which we create) with a physical model of the groundwater table in a specific area (which we definitely did not create ourselves!), we hope to get insight into what kind of water use levels or habits are required to keep groundwater use within sustainable ranges. This, while keeping crop production as high (or unimpeded) as possible – the farmers have to make a living, and we have to eat, after all!

Fortunately, there are very few challenges with the actual project itself – my supervisor/mentor is patient, extremely knowledgeable about the kind of modeling that we are doing, and very willing to share what he knows wherever it can be of benefit. The model itself has been coming along pretty well, and we are on target to have our entire project finished by the end of the summer!

The challenges that do exist, are more personal for myself. I’m an undergraduate that, despite hoping to work in a research capacity after completing my education, didn’t begin college until 8 years after graduating high school. And I wasn’t exactly traveling the world and acquiring all sorts of scholarly knowledge during that time, either – I studied, and continued learning things, but largely I spent my time becoming a factory worker. So having come from that place, and gotten this far, questions naturally arise. Questions such as “is this project good enough to get published”, “am I <insert adjective related to capability here> enough to make it in this “world”.” And of course, more practically, I’ve never written a scientific paper before. What is the peer review process like?

With all the wondering, concern, and worry about the future, there are a few positive things that I can look to for hope. Working on a project that could get published is an amazing opportunity that, 10 years ago, I never thought I’d encounter in a million years. It could help me get into graduate school, and could make starting a career (or new research opportunity) more successful as well! This is an opportunity to invest in my own future and develop the skills I need in order to do work that I am passionate about.

I believe that the modeling skills I’m developing now can be applied much more broadly to areas other than the environment that will have social impact. These areas include exploring what sorts of public policy, business conduct, community efforts, etc. will help the most in creating more just and equitable circumstances in our society. This is a goal which I hope to be able to contribute to in my lifetime – and when I really stop to think about it, any worries I have about myself or the future should be far outweighed by the opportunity to get one step closer to that goal.

So yeah, I’d say things are going alright so far!

One thought on “Post #1: Opportunities and Challenges

  • May 16, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Thank you Steve for your honesty about the personal challenges you might face during this internship. Regardless of our backgrounds, many of us struggle with the same questions as we venture into a new professional opportunity. I look forward to hearing how this experience continues to impact your personal and professional journey!


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