On Tuesday, Nov. 14, Wellesley College hosted the annual Tanner Conference where students have the opportunity to present and reflect upon their experiences gained from internships, civic engagement, study abroad, and other opportunities completed in the summer. Below, three students share a bit about their summer STEM experiences, which they presented on during the conference.
Constructing a Hododscope for the MilliQan Experiment: Searching for Dark Matter
Natalie McGee ’26 participated in a ten-week-long physics Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB).
“The research I was doing was in high-energy experimental particle physics. We were looking for dark matter as part of the milliQan experiment. Specifically, looking for these theoretical dark matter particles with a really really small electric charge … I designed, built, and tested components of a new detector in the Large Hadron Collider, which will search for millicharged dark matter particles using scintillation. Specifically, I worked on the hodoscope, an auxiliary device that tracks muons to align the detectors. I gained many practical research skills, including experience with new programming languages, 3D design and printing, circuit board design, and more,” McGee said.
Throughout McGee’s time at UCSB she was able to develop lasting friendships with her fellow peers and gain insight into similar research labs.
“In general, it was a really great experience – I learned so much in a lot of different areas. Obviously in particle physics and experimental physics, but also just learning how to do research as a 9-5 job along with the experience of applying to grad school. The people there were all very supportive. I had a great advisor. The other students in the REU, eight of us, had two apartments that were next to each other and so we did a lot of activities together. We were all really close by the end of it.”
The Regeneron Experience: A Look into the Pharmaceutical Industry
Ylliah Jin ’25 had the opportunity to explore scientific research within an industry environment at Regeneron on the Tarrytown main campus in New York.
“I was assigned to the Protein Biochemistry department. The primary focus of my work centered around the development and optimization of protocols for host cell protein purifications, utilizing the AKTA, a machine employing affinity-based column chromatography,” Jin explained. “Additionally, I dedicated time to assessing the capabilities of a new commercially available machine, which claimed to significantly reduce the duration of sample dialysis to a few hours compared to the conventional method, which typically takes a day.”
During her time at Regeneron, Jin was exposed to a diverse range of professionals and was able to develop new research skills, deepening her understanding of biochemistry.
“Prior to this experience, my research background primarily involved working with mice and DNA techniques, so delving into the realm of protein work was a novel and enriching endeavor. These newfound skills not only contributed to my proficiency in the biochemistry major at Wellesley but also broadened my understanding of the subject. Beyond the technical aspects, one of the most valuable aspects of my time at Regeneron was the opportunity to interact with a diverse range of professionals whose career paths diverged significantly from mine. This exposure is somewhat limited in an academic setting, where one often feels confined to their specific department,” Jin said. “This exposure not only broadened my perspectives but also underscored the importance of cultivating networking skills in any professional setting.”
The Heart of Medicine: Lessons Learned in a Pediatric Hospital
Gracie Evans ’24 spent her summer interning at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. Throughout her eight-week-long internship, she rotated through subspecialities of the Heart Center, including Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU), electrophysiology, clinics, cath lab, inpatient service, echocardiograms/fetal echos/MRI.
“We spent the typical workday throughout the week mainly with one physician who we were paired up with, but there was also a lot of flexibility to shadow other people if the physicians were busy doing more office-type work like charting. The coolest experience was in my elective week in Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM), which was high-risk OB care that Riley offered in their maternity tower … I got to spend a day on the labor and delivery floor. Within 30 minutes on the floor at seven in the morning, I was able to see and assist with a vaginal delivery, which was so amazing. I was also able to scrub in and assist on two C-sections. I wasn’t doing anything too crazy and was mostly just holding equipment for physicians, but being able to have even a small role in a milestone that’s so important in someone’s life was incredibly humbling and just a really amazing experience.”
Evans was drawn to Riley Hospital due to her own experience as a patient there. This opportunity helped Evans confirm her passion for medicine and allowed her the invaluable opportunity to connect with patients and families.
“The internship overall was undoubtedly the most valuable experience I’ve had in my experience as a pre-med student so far. It was so amazing to have such an immersive experience in a clinical setting, and really get to see the relationships and interactions between patients and physicians. I knew I wanted to go home for the summer, and was really hoping to find clinical programs in pediatrics … this program is such a unique opportunity to get an immersive experience in healthcare. It’s hard enough to find shadowing experience as is, but being able to have funding to support you while doing an immersive clinical experience like this is really so unique and valuable.”