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Stories of a busy, productive summer highlight Summer Opportunities Student Panel

Crissey Spicher, Bekah Webster and Laken Cooper share their summer internship experiences with fellow undergraduates at the Summer Opportunities Student Panel in Floyd Hall on Wednesday

RU seniors Crissey Spicher, Bekah Webster and Laken Cooper share their summer internship experiences with fellow undergraduates at the Summer Opportunities Student Panel in Floyd Hall on Nov. 13.

A summer spent pursuing career aspirations and learning from professionals is time well-spent - and fun, according to three Radford University seniors who were panelists at the Summer Opportunities Student Panel in Floyd Hall on Nov. 13.

Crissey Spicher, a senior chemistry major; Bekah Webster, a senior chemistry major; and Laken Cooper, a senior biology major;  briefed RU students on their internship search and  experiences this past summer in Kenya, New York City and Washington, D.C. Spicher was an intern at the Naval Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS).  Webster was a conservation and restoration intern at the New York Metropolitan Museum and Cooper did ecophysiology fieldwork.

"I was in the museum all day and in New York City at night. I loved it," said Webster, who spent six weeks learning, observing and assisting in the effort to protect and restore pieces of art like the fallen Tullio Lombardo "Adam" and a cylinder with a proclamation or decree from King Cyrus dating back to 600 B.C.

For Spicher, one of only 10 NCIS interns selected nationally, the three-month immersion into the world of criminal investigation was a diverse look into forensic chemistry, her chosen field. "By the end of the summer, I was really busy.  Once they trusted me, they gave me plenty to do," she said. Spicher added that the real NCIS was nothing like the television version and that as a shadow to special agents, she was exposed to fraud, sexual assault and drug investigations and she even got some basic weapons training.

Cooper, for whom the Kenya project on invasive species was a second summer research project, was buoyed by the opportunity to do real lab work and scientific research with professional colleagues and graduate students.

"I felt competent and confident in the field and lab because of the unique experiences I had as an undergraduate here at RU."

All three said that their experiences proved that opportunities were out there, but they advised that landing them required initiative and determination.  Online research and faculty connections were key to finding their unique opportunities, they said, and the value of the experiences went far beyond merely checking off a thing to do on the graduation requirement list.

"The impact and significance of doing undergraduate research cannot be overestimated," said Joe King, director of the Honors Academy, a co-sponsor of the panel. "Undergraduate scholarship or research with a faculty mentor opens doors a student cannot imagine."

Joe Wirgau, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS) and co-sponsor, said, "Now is the time to explore the opportunities and organizations that make these experiences available, complete the applications and make the contacts necessary to gain the experience and confidence that these undergraduates talked about."

He encouraged all students who are interested in enhancing their academic experience with a summer internship, research or scholarship experience to contact the OURS office (ours@radford.edu) for assistance and to reach out to a faculty mentor for guidance.  He added that the office of Career Services is another valuable resource for those looking to discover internship opportunities.

Nov 18, 2013