Name: Valerie Lee
Internship, Co-op or Research Site: The National Aquarium in Baltimore
Position Title: Aquarist Intern
Major(s)/Minor(s): Biological Sciences
Current Class Level: Senior
Work Term: Summer 2019
Tell us about your internship, co-op, or research opportunity, including your day-to-day responsibilities.
At the National Aquarium, I was responsible for the day-to-day tasks of maintaining 4 exhibit tanks and several backup tanks. These tasks included taking parameters of all tanks every morning, cleaning tanks, performing water changes, performing backwashes on filters, and preparing diets for my animals. I would also assist with small procedures on animals, such as debridement of a wound on one of the turtles. This is a procedure where essentially I would capture and hold her while the vets cleaned the wound.
Describe the process of obtaining your position. When did you hear of the position and submit your application?
I heard from the Career Center that the National Aquarium was looking for UMBC students to hire. So, I had my resume reviewed and learned how to write a cover letter for my application. After doing that, I submitted my application and did a phone interview before being offered a position.
What have you enjoyed the most about your position or organization?
I loved learning about the animals I was working with and how the systems they lived in functioned. Even the most mundane task was enjoyable for me. I'm actually still there as a volunteer currently and I'm looking at becoming an aquarist post-graduation. I'm about to take a class in the biology department on the physiology of marine animals to gain more insight into marine and estuarine animals to help with my career search.
How do you believe you have made an impact through your work?
I helped to maintain the exhibits that hundreds of visitors come to and appreciate every day. By doing this, I know that I was part of the public learning and appreciating our natural world as well as what animals need our help.
What advice would you give to another student who is seeking an internship or similar experience?
Even if it's scary, go for it. I applied to the National Aquarium last summer and I wasn't offered a position, but I still applied this year. Because I took the chance, I was offered the position of a lifetime and a new career focus.
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