Funding Source: CCPA’s Liberal Arts in the Workplace Grant
My name is Tala Qaraqe, and I’m from Palestine. I am a rising sophomore and I’m thinking about majoring in biology/molecular biology. I’m interning at the Ministry of Health Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL), which has a national ISO GUIDE (17025) and is in the process of getting international accreditation. CPHL’s mission is to identify and control all causative agents that might affect human health. This is achieved through monitoring, laboratory analysis, surveys, and research. The results help epidemiologists and field investigators identify the route and determine the degree of contamination, and the source of the causative agents.
In the lab, I work in the Molecular Diagnostics Division, which is responsible for the performance of genotyping tests on different diseases using advanced and sensitive diagnostic techniques. In this division, I shadow lab technicians as they draw blood and tissues from patients and perform molecular diagnostic tests for nucleic acid targets found in various clinical, environmental, and food samples. I also help the technicians organize samples and prepare them for DNA/RNA extraction using advanced technologies like Kingfisher Flex and Maxwell RSC. I do some paperwork where I fill out Patient Information Sheets in case positive samples for different diseases are found.
I was interested in participating in this internship because I wanted to explore the molecular biology major and at the same time enhance my practical knowledge in this field. I also wanted to practice basic lab skills such as micro-pipetting and preparing reagents. In addition to learning the important lab techniques, I wanted to be introduced to the different machines and types of equipment used in extracting and analyzing DNA/RNA, which I was most interested in due to its importance in finding solutions for existing genetic problems. This internship provided me with new scientific concepts that I wasn’t aware of and at the same time, it motivated me to read articles about multiple genetic diseases. It also helped me to develop a good understanding of the laboratory work environment and technicians’ responsibilities. This internship acted as career insurance that showed me that pursuing a career in molecular biology is a perfect fit for me. Now, I can more clearly see myself in the research field where I get to explore different genetic diseases and find solutions for them.
However, it was not only the internship environment that contributed to my growth, but also the lab technicians themselves helped me a lot. They gave me good feedback about the molecular biology major and even introduced me to different concentrations that are highly needed in this field. They showed me around different lab divisions and allowed me to watch closely what each division works on to see which one I was most interested in. They also included me in their meetings with the lab head as if I was a real member of the team. In this summer internship, I didn’t just get familiar with the lab technician career path, but I also made new friends who left a great impression on the lab environment, which was cooperative and supportive, more than competitive.