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A Reflection on My Time As a RockEDU Intern

By Ivan Peña

Working at RockEDU has opened my eyes to the many possibilities that are available in the science field.

My name is Ivan Peña and I am currently a Sophomore attending Lehman College through the Macaulay Honors Program. I am majoring in Biology and I used to think that the only viable career option was to go to medical school and become a doctor. While that isn’t a bad proposition, it isn’t the only way to go. At Rockefeller I have learned that there are numerous disciplines within science that one can pursue. Giving back to the youth of New York City and inspiring them to pursue their goals has been a wonderful experience. 

Initially, when I began my RockEDU internship, I expected to do some simple lab work and to help out with the LAB experiences—a program geared towards providing educational, research and laboratory opportunities to the undeserved communities of New York City—but what I gained was so much more.

Right off the bat, everyone was excited and passionate about their work, which made the atmosphere of the place so much more welcoming. Rockefeller is a prestigious institution with prominent history, and I expected people to be somewhat unapproachable or intimidating. However, the engaging environment that I encountered made me feel comfortable and welcomed.

Working on experimental protocols in the RockEDU lab, alongside co-intern, Latt.

When helping out in the LAB Experiences, I was able to help young students that looked like me, and, that often came from the same background as me. It was a wonderful feeling knowing that some of them would follow a similar path because of the knowledge we provided. Along the way, I even met some students who credited me for inspiring them to work towards their dreams. I was also able to expand my network of mentors and colleagues from a diverse array of fields and career paths. Getting to know people from different backgrounds was a wonderful opportunity that provided unique insight and clarity into best navigating my professional development. Due to their diverse backgrounds, I found that I was able to utilize their perspective and training to grow professionally and personally. 

I now plan to go into the biomedical research field and to carry with me the same passion and excitement that so many around me at Rockefeller have. I know that my experiences here, working in a lab setting and helping teach science to the youth will help me in the long run, since science communication and science literacy are key skills in today’s society—especially due to the large volumes of circulating information and associated difficulties in digesting the knowledge. Ultimately, I am grateful for what I have learned at RockEDU and I am excited to see what comes next.

Running gels for our PCR LAB Experiences is always an exciting moment for our high schoolers!

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