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Academics

Summer Internship Spotlight: Christian Guillen

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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Christian Guillen, a junior biophysics major, discusses his summer internship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

What’s your internship?

I'm interning with physicist Charles C. Havener at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. My job title is research assistant—at least, I would assume so. It's so informal that I'm not entirely sure what my official title is. Maybe research intern would be the most apt title.

What does an average day at your internship consist of?

An average day at the physics lab consists of performing experiments in high-end physics. I'm not at liberty to discuss what it is we do there, exactly. Something about top-secret government facilities that makes them paranoid, I guess. I can tell you that the food is outstanding, though.

What makes this internship fun or interesting?

It should be fairly easy to deduce why the internship is interesting to me—I am at one of the world's top experimental physics laboratories, working on post-doctorate level research, with my travel paid for by NASA. Which part would not be interesting to me? Also—and this may be my favorite part—I get to say the coolest line in history: "I'm sorry, I can't discuss it. It's top secret."

Something that makes the experience better is that Shalynn Romano, another PUC biophysics major, is at Oak Ridge, as well. It's comforting to know someone in a situation like this. If nothing else, it's someone to sit with at lunch. It helps that she's a great research partner; when you're stuck in a lab all day, it's nice to be stuck with someone you get along with.

What's the most challenging part?

The most challenging part of this internship has to be trying to keep up with the overwhelming amount of knowledge thrown at me. I'm expected to understand the work we're doing and run experimental apparatuses worth a lot of money. I'm also required to understand what we're doing well enough to inform other researchers of it and answer most questions. It's so far above my knowledge in physics that it makes me feel like a complete moron compared to my co-workers.

What knowledge and skills are you learning from the internship?

I am learning a lot of patience and the importance of paying attention in class, especially to the small details that one might think are insignificant.