Meet Omer! He is a senior studying biology and he is interning with Southwestern Medical Center.
Q: Tell us about your internship.
A: I am an undergraduate Intern at the Psychosocial Research and Depression Clinic within the Department of Psychiatry at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. This clinical trials research lab is directed by Dr. Robin Jarrett, Ph.D., who is a Professor of Psychiatry and Elizabeth H. Penn Professor in Clinical Psychology. The current study that we are focusing on is called PRE-D, short for “Preventing Prenatal Depression.” The goal of this study is to help women who are attempting to get pregnant, or are already pregnant, and have a history of depression. PRE-D is a very important study because women with a history of depression have an increased chance of future diagnosis, particularly during pregnancy. As an intern, I work primarily with a research data management tool known as REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture). REDCap allows us to build and manage online assessments which are used in the PRE-D clinical trial. Converting the assessments into an electronic version and then being able to send it to patients through secure email, relieves the patient from weekly visits, an aspect that might be of inconvenience for women who are pregnant.
Q: How did you find out about this opportunity?
A: I acquired this internship in a pretty non-traditional manner. I did a similar internship with another clinical trials research group in summer of 2012 and had an amazing learning experience. I have been looking for a chance to build on that experience ever since and so I decided to do a little research on different clinical trials group at UT Southwestern and I came across Dr. Jarrett’s lab. I was intrigued by Dr. Jarrett’s research interests and her previous studies so I decided to contact the lab for a possible internship position. Thankfully, I was given an interview a few weeks later.
Q: What was the interview process like?
A: The overall application process is pretty long but thankfully I was already in the system as an employee and so we were able to expedite the process and have the paperwork done within a week. The interview was relaxed yet professional. I was asked about my interest in clinical trials research and my previous experience working at a clinical trials lab. The interviewer, who is a Research Assistant in the lab, gave me a little synopsis of the current study and the different assessments that are used, some of which I recognized from my previous internship.
Q: What is the best part about your internship?
A: Working for Dr. Jarrett has to be the best part of my internship. Dr. Jarrett is an internationally known clinical investigator and has directed multiple studies. Her recent publication, which spanned eleven years, was published on November of 2013. In the lab, she encourages asking questions and learning more about the study, an aspect that I really enjoy. Although Dr. Jarrett is extremely busy, she takes the time to come and speak to me personally, something you won’t find in every lab. Even though I am the only undergrad intern in the lab, I feel like I’m part of the team and that’s something I really admire about this internship.
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up? Did this experience confirm your career goal, or have you changed your mind?
A: I wish to seek a medical degree after graduation. Pursuing research has always been an option for me but at the same time I realize the immense commitment that is needed for anyone seeking research, especially with a combined medical degree. As of yet, I cannot make a mature decision because a lot of it has to do with future circumstances. But as an intern, I now have a much deeper appreciation of the role clinical trials research plays in medical discoveries. I am so grateful for this internship because it not only provided me with an avenue to ask questions and learn more about current studies, but it also gave me the chance to learn the intricate details of what goes on in a clinical trials group.
Q: What advice do you have for other job seekers?
A) I highly encourage everyone to try and gain some sort of “real world” experience pertaining to their studies. Whether it be a part-time position, internship, or even a volunteering position, gaining personal experience in your respective field is something that you cannot learn from a textbook.
B) Job seeking can be a very tedious process but I would urge students to persevere through it because the outcome is always worth it.
C) Never be intimidated! This is especially true for pre-med students. There aren’t as many entry-level job opportunities for pre-meds as compared to non-science majors. However, I would still encourage pre-med students to continue their search. Never hesitate on contacting someone for a possible work or internship position.
D) It goes without saying, but always arrive early to your interview. Just like our weather, Texas traffic is also unpredictable, so give yourself enough time to ensure you arrive early at your interview.
Q: Any other comments to share?
A: The Career Center is there to help you! Everyone at the Career Center has done an amazing job in giving students an opportunity to gain field experience and I would urge everyone to take full advantage of it. I personally have used the CareerWorks (now called CometCareers) website for multiple job and internship opportunities and I am so glad I did. Gaining valuable field experience gives you that extra motivation to continue persevering through your undergraduate years because you see the end result. As cliché as it may sound, hard work definitely pays off!