My Summer as a Research Scientist

CPE college student, Bianca Okhaifor, was awarded a $4500 CPE internship stipend over the summer. The stipend is offered to a small group of college students who secure low or unpaid internships to cover living, travel, and school expenses while interning. We believe that internships and other research and job shadowing opportunities help students build skills and connections needed for their career after college. Read about Bianca’s summer internship experience below.

Okhuwedẹ. I had recently been accepted into the short-term Research Education Program to increase diversity in health-related research (STRIDE) and that was the first word that came to mind. Okhuwedẹ is a word in my family’s Nigerian native language that means journey. Anyone who knows me can attest to my desire to become a doctor as I’ve wanted to be one for as long as I can remember. As I sat at my computer reading my acceptance letter, I couldn’t help but think that I was finally and officially beginning the journey to MD. I worked hard and felt my efforts were finally starting to pay off.

The start of the summer was bittersweet. I was ready to begin my research project as a fellow but I was also miles away from my home, Washington D.C. Because I am an out of state student, my summers had always been reserved for coming home and spending time with my family and friends. I found myself in an unfamiliar work environment at my university. Doing research requires a different level of work ethic I wasn’t necessarily used to. I felt out of place and that I didn’t belong; but like every challenge I was faced with, I kept going. I soon began to understand the art and techniques behind dissecting the brainstem out of the bullfrog. I learned the language of the electrical nerve recordings of the brainstem. It was all starting to make sense. Sure there were bad days. Sometimes I was tired, sometimes I was confused, and other days I made mistakes; but every day, I showed up. An internship is not just about what you are doing but what you have learned.

I like to think of my fellowship as not just another summer experience to include within my resume but as a first step toward a vision, a vision that requires me to experience. Growing up as a first-generation pre-medical student includes many new and unfamiliar experiences that I have to navigate. This fellowship gives me the opportunity to use my lessons, trials, and errors as advice for others who may look up to me.

When I become a doctor, I plan to give back to pre-medical female minority students through mentorship and sponsorship. I plan to mentor students just like me and I need these experiences to be able to relate and teach what it takes to become a first-generation doctor. I’ve made numerous steps to achieve this vision, for example starting an Instagram page (@brownwomeninstem) that promotes more women like me to motivate others.

In the future, I would like to start an organization that provides minority students with the means and resources to become a doctor. I also plan to give back to a program that has put me into a position to make my dreams and goals a reality: Capital Partners for Education (CPE). CPE is an organization that has provided me with a mentor and supported me through high school and college. If I can leave a reader with one thing it is that an internship is more than just an opportunity, it is one of many life experiences that serve as a stepping stone toward a dynamic career.