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Fall/Winter 2004 Vol. 4 No. 3

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Anderson Interns at the National Academies Anderson Interns Bring a Fresh View to the National Academies

"When I walked into the building, I felt a scientific vibe, which probably derived from the many science-related images on the walls of the main lobby here at the Academies' new building," said Dexter Mackie upon entering the Keck Center on his first day. "I didn't necessarily feel like Albert Einstein, but I was enthused by the employees here, who seem to be deeply interested in their specialties."

On June 14, six recent graduates from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C., stepped through the doors of the National Academies, excited to embark on a 10-week journey into the work world. My fellow interns and I made our way to the Marian Koshland Science Museum after an employee orientation. Newly graduated and now starting my first term as an Anderson Intern in the Office of News and Public Information, I was amazed by the museum's DNA exhibit, which explains various uses of forensic science -- a subject I intend to major in at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Anderson Interns at the National Academies, photo by Fateema Blackwell

Each intern is placed in a particular unit of the National Academies based on his or her interests and skills. Intern Johnny Hernandez said, "The way they place interns is strategic not only for them but also for us, because even if we were not placed according to our specific science career interests, we still learn a skill important to science and can apply it to our upcoming college year."

Our group, along with five returning interns, all have a vested interest in science, though each steering us in a different direction. Zainep Mahmoud, who interned in the Division on Policy and Global Affairs, wants to know and understand the connections between science and law and apply it to her studies in economics at Dartmouth College in the fall. Zainep desires to make a positive change in the restrictions placed on scientists by the law.

Anderson Interns at the National Academies, photo by Fateema Blackwell

The Anderson Interns contributed to various projects this summer, including helping produce a four-page report brief for high school students, and working on studies about retaining and recruiting minorities in the sciences at the undergraduate level, environmental policies of pharmaceutical companies, and much more.

For some of the interns, working at the Academies sparked new interests in areas of science. Rahel Menghestab, a second-year intern in the Division on Earth and Life Sciences, said that working at the Academies last summer sealed her decision to study environmental science.

Anderson Interns at the National Academies, photo by Fateema Blackwell

The interns agree that working at the National Academies is a learning experience. They gained knowledge in different areas through reading, editing, and producing reports, attending meetings, and even traveling. Danielle Green, a returning intern in the Board on Radiation Effects Research, attended a meeting in Salt Lake City to hear the testimony of concerned citizens who were potentially exposed to radiation from fallout of nuclear weapons testing during the 1950s and '60s. Back then, they had no knowledge that radiation exposure could cause health problems. She was saddened yet impressed at how these individuals still fight for their lives.

The interns' mentors also enjoyed being a part of the Anderson Intern program. They felt that the interns' ideas and work brought a fresh perspective to the National Academies. Employee Lauren Alexander supports this program because it opens a door for minorities to enter the science field.

It is important for the National Academies to continue this program because of its effect on the participants. "I think the internship is a wonderful experience that fosters interaction with talented people and various aspects of science," concluded third-year Anderson Intern LaTeya Foxx.   -- Fateema Blackwell, Anderson Intern

Each year, Banneker faculty nominate and select four graduating seniors for the Anderson internships. These paid summer positions are offered to students who want to pursue careers in science, engineering, or medicine. The interns begin work after graduation and may be invited to return for up to three successive summers during their college studies. The internships are funded in part by a grant from the Rose-Marie and Jack R. Anderson Foundation in Dallas.

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Copyright 2004 by the National Academy of Sciences