Internship at BASF “The Chemical Company”
by Ellen R. Conti
This blog post is a reflection on my summer internship at Badische Anilin- & Soda-Fabrik (BASF) Dispersions, Charlotte, North Carolina. It is directed at peers and underclassmen who are going off on their first internship, as I was last summer. It highlights some of the high and low points of being away all summer in a new and professional setting.
Overall I had a positive experience and I am very glad to be returning to Charlotte next summer for another internship. There was a diverse group of people who were all friendly, eager to integrate me into the lab community, and happy to answer my hundreds of questions. The people at the lab were also very social, Maintenance workers to executives were always inviting Katie (my roommate and fellow intern) and me out to lunch or to join when a group was going out river rafting, kayaking, or to movies. In conjunction with enjoying the social aspects I learned a lot about being independent. Much of the time I spent of the lab I was working on my own.
After running me through all the tests, I was set loose to complete thousands of trials, figure out a way to organize my samples, create data sheets, and analyze the data. Everyone was always very busy, meaning it was important to try and figure as much out on my own as possible and use my judgments. This is not to say that if there was anything I was really unsure about or wasn’t sure how to do safely there wasn’t always someone around to ask. Charles, my supervisor, commented that part of the reason he liked having me as an intern is I didn’t wait around doing nothing when I wasn’t sure what to do. On the rare occasion when I couldn’t find someone to answer my questions, I’d trust my judgment or find another productive task to work on.
Being in a state where I didn’t really know anyone I also had a lot of free time. I went on a few solo overnight hikes including the Blue Ridge Mountains where Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi, and Mt. Craig the second highest, can be found. I learned time management both in and out of the lab. In the lab I had to manage a long term project and on adventures-like hikes I needed to plan the day to make sure I was to an adequate camping place by nightfall with enough food and water.
In the process of all my planning I found myself time and time again seeking advice from the people around me. Whether I was wondering how Linda recommended setting up a spread sheet for a certain test or if Ron knew the best way to drive to Grandfather Mountain, the results were always better with collective inputs. In other words, I experienced the importance of being a strong individual and a strong team player; getting one’s own work done, helping others, being open to constructive criticism, and taking advice from the people around one’s self.
Ellen R. Conti is a Bioprocess Engineering Major; Mathematics, Renewable Energy, and Chemistry Minor. She expects to graduate in 2016. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.