At the 9th Annual RTI Internship Showcase, summer interns from research units and areas across the institute presented their work to RTI staff, area community members and other event attendees.
Featured work ranged from cancer therapeutics research to HIV prevention efforts in Africa to evaluations of the cost and care of certified registered nurse anesthetists in the United States – and much more.
The showcase served, in part, as an opportunity for interns to learn to communicate their work to a broad and diverse audience in a professional setting. For Kampala, Uganda, office intern Sonia Torres, a rising junior and Loewenstern Fellow in the Center for Civic Leadership at Rice University, the showcase became more than that.
"When I envisioned the poster session, I thought the interns would receive feedback from researchers, which we did, but that would be the extent of the experience," Torres said. "As I engaged with people about my project, I realized that the poster presentation wasn't about my work. Instead, it was about the input I was getting from RTI researchers across sectors. The posters were a tool for starting conversations about other areas of research and new ways of thinking about our research."
Twenty-five of 90 summer interns presented at the showcase. In addition to Torres, who traveled the farthest distance from an internship location, interns traveled from RTI regional offices in San Francisco, Waltham and Washington, D.C., to present their work. While interns from India and El Salvador were unable to attend in person, they did prepare posters, which were displayed at the showcase, about their research.
Among the key themes of the event – and of the 2017 RTI Internship Program – was diversity, in all its forms.
"In addition to strong representation from North Carolina colleges and universities among our 2017 interns, we also hosted interns from institutions across the United States," noted Amy Vargas-Tonsi, program manager in the UCO. "We had a spectrum of students as young as high school to doctoral and post-doctoral levels, and these diverse educational and career backgrounds enrich the interns' experiences at RTI and the experiences of RTI staff who work with them."
The RTI Internship Program's partners helped to make such diversity possible. Interns came from Versatile Humanists at Duke, which provided a humanities perspective to the Innovation-Led Economic Growth (ILEG) team; the V Foundation's Cancer Therapeutics Training Scholars Program; the Ron Brown Scholars Program and the North Carolina Governor's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Program, among other partners for the RTI program.
In addition to the poster session, this year's showcase included lightning presentations, in which interns took to the Dreyfus stage to explain their projects in no more than three minutes.
Karen Davis, vice president of the Research Computing Division in Social, Statistical & Environmental Sciences (SSES), delivered the keynote address to the interns. During her speech, Karen shared details of her nonlinear career path, which helped her understand what's important to her and which illuminated her advice to the 2017 interns.
"Once you know what matters to you in a career, find a path that makes it real for you," Davis said. "For me, what matters is making a difference, whether as part of a nonprofit mission or in my corner of the world where I work. Don't let others tell you what's important to you – that's your decision. Continue to pursue what makes you feel like you're making a difference."
Outstanding Mentor Awards
For the 2017 Outstanding Mentor Awards, RTI summer interns nominated mentors who guided, motivated and inspired them. The selection process considered dynamics of the working relationship, guidance and direction, impact, professional development opportunities and character.
- Kevin Boggs, Senior Innovation Advisor, Discovery, Science & Technology (DST), nominated by Emerging Technologies and Commercialization Interns Chiragg Devani (Duke) and Jennifer Taylor (University of California Davis)
- Jon Poehlman, Senior Manager, Public Health, SSES, nominated by Global Health and Health Communications intern John Edmond Baron (Oregon State)