Concord Student Active in Alzheimer’s Disease Research at Summer Internship
Students need more than a college degree to get into the work force these days. Employers are not just looking for classroom studies--they want experience. The problem is, to get experience, students need a job.
The solution is interning. Employers who ‘hire’ interns don’t expect experience, so students can get into these positions easier. Still, it is hard work, as Petya Demireva, a Concord student from Varna, Bulgaria, found out this summer.
“This was my first choice. It was not easy to set up but it was worth it!” Demireva said. She had an internship last summer with The Institute of Living in Connecticut. She worked in the research facility, finding new ways to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease using virtual reality.
Though not all careers involve such demanding initiative, Demireva found that the atmosphere of her internship fit her goals perfectly.
“I was at their research facility–-the Olin Neuropsychology Research Center (ONRC), whose faculty are mainly from Yale University. The project I worked on was extremely intriguing to me–-a new way for diagnosing Alzheimer’s early on using virtual reality technology–-it was fascinating,” she said of the experience.
Students going into a working environment for the first time may be frightened of not being ready, but usually the other workers, even those well accustomed to the routine, take in interns with no trouble at all.
“At the IOL everyone worked on one or two projects and for the larger ones, people would pair up, so I was pretty much like one of the RAs (research assistants). I did not have the time to undergo as much training as everyone else, so I was not familiar with some of the neuropsych measures the others used. My supervisor, Dr. Robert Astur, and the rest of the RAs there were extremely accommodating and helpful--I also made some friends,” Demireva said.
Many students encounter financial problems with internships, but these can usually be overcome. Many institutions offer paid internships, and those that don’t may offer a stipend or pay for costs of travel, housing and materials.
“The plane ticket and housing amounted to something like $910 but those were covered by the IOL. Moreover I had free lunch on work days,” Demireva noted of her internship. The school, too, will sometimes pay part of the cost, as they did for Demireva’s internship.
“Concord provided me with a $1500 stipend on top of my paycheck,” she said, but went on to explain that the two together barely covered her cost of living for the summer.
“Life in Hartford is much more expensive then in Princeton. The prices of groceries were often double so I still ended up spending quite a lot. One thing I had not taken into account was professional attire, so I ended up buying some clothes to go to work in. They had a no-jeans policy,” she said.
The costs, however, are far outweighed by the ability to go directly into a better job after graduation.
Demireva said, “I gained a lot of practical experience, which would hopefully help me further in my career. I want to do psychotherapy and hopefully, one day, to have my own practice. I also wouldn’t mind teaching at the undergraduate level further down the road.”
First, though, she would like to go to graduate school herself--almost a requirement for a job in the psychology field. Here, too, an internship can help.
“Having this kind of experience is something graduate schools look for in a candidate. Hopefully this would give me an advantage before the other applicants.”
Although internships are a powerful learning tool, they cannot replace a university education. Most internships require at least a few upper-level courses.
Demireva said her internship required the candidates to “have had some advanced psychology courses. They also need to have a good psychology G.P.A. and be a good fit for Dr. Astur’s lab, which he would determine once he meets with them. Other than that and good work ethics, they just need to give it a try.”
In fact, that’s her advice to all students looking at internships. Would she recommend it to other students?
“Absolutely! I would even go back myself if I could. It was not easy to set up but it was worth it!”
Demireva would not have had this great opportunity without the support of Concord University’s dedicated faculty and staff. She said that without the support of Dr. Karen Griffee and Dr. Rodney Klein, assistant professors of psychology, and Michael Curry, vice president of admissions and financial aid, “[my] internship would have been impossible.”
“The professor I worked with there, Dr. Astur, received his graduate degree from the same university as Dr. Klein and Dr. Griffee, and they were the ones who introduced me to him and communicated with him to set up the whole thing. Dr. Griffee also helped a lot with the funding, and so did Michael Curry. Dr Rodney Klein is my faculty advisor and has always been very helpful and supportive of everything I have done.”
For information on attending Concord, call 1-888-384-5249 or 1-304-384-5248 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mandy Garnes and Mandy Sole, writers for the “Concordian,” the University’s student newspaper, contributed this report. Their hometowns are South Charleston, W.Va., and Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., respectively.