Senior iCons student Deanna Kenyon was one of two people selected for the Waters internship for Summer 2019. And not only did this internship provide her with opportunity, it also helped her develop personal career goals and professional self-confidence.
Kenyon transferred to UMass her sophomore year as an environmental science major after previously studying nutrition at Framingham State University.
“As a transfer student at UMass I was actually really lost,” Kenyon said, “And I knew that Framingham wasn’t the right school for me and I had applied to UMass for environmental science because I was looking for a more interdisciplinary field.”
During her first semester at UMass, Kenyon joined an aquatic ecology lab, but couldn’t see herself making a career out of field work research. She then joined the iCons program, and applied to the Waters internship.
“I didn’t think I was going to be qualified for the internship what-so-ever because like here I would be applying to a very technical position with a background in aquatic ecology,” Kenyon explained.
Despite that, she gave it a try and was selected for an interview two days later.
Kenyon was accepted. The internship would call for using different chromatography and analysis techniques to look at different scientific systems to make them more efficient.
Along with her research in a laboratory setting, she attended weekly meetings with supervisors, presented results alongside her team to a panel of scientists in less than ten minutes, and worked in a laboratory setting. The experience working on this project helped her discover passion for analytical technology and environmental applications, a passion that has since driven her to take on a position in an analytical lab, looking at nanoparticles and toxicity.
She also realized why iCons uses such a specific format.
Kenyon said, “when you’re in iCons, you think ‘I’m doing this for fun’ or ‘this is a really cool project,’ but when you are in the corporate culture and you’re doing it you’re like ‘Oh my God, these are the skills real employers are going to want one day!”
She especially saw parallels to iCons two and three, with the presentations she gave and the focus on team-driven work.
The Waters internship also focused on learning from failure through trial and error. And because the failure was expected, it helped Kenyon develop self-confidence in her ability to overcome adversity in the workplace and take charge of her own experience.
“You have to go in like ‘alright, I’m going to fail! But I’m going to learn from it,” she explained.
Since the internship, Kenyon has found a passion for projects that focus on environmental applications and analytical technique. But direction was not the only thing Kenyon learned from this internship: she saw first-hand that success is not linear. Many of the scientists and engineers she worked with emulated this, typically finding their career path later in life.
“Sometimes in college you think you have to know everything or the exact path you want to go on,” she said, “and then all of a sudden, things change once you find your direction.”
Her advice for a student unsure of the path they want to take is simple: don’t question your passion.
Kenyon said with a smile, “if you’re excited about something and it gives you energy and vitality, then you might as well go for it!”