Jobs & Internships: McKayla Widener (12)

Marina Kazarian and Hannah Hornfeld

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Catherine Zhang (11) interned for a month this summer at the Biomaterials and Interface Tissue Engineering Laboratory (BITEL) at Columbia University.

At the lab, Zhang worked with human samples to study mineral content and other factors that affect healthy tissues, specifically the ACL, a ligament in the middle of the knee.

“I have always liked biology and chemistry, and I think it’s interesting to connect science to the real world,” Zhang said.

Zhang suffered a minor femoral tear in her knee earlier in the year due to overuse, so it was fascinating to see what scientific research is being done to help with issues I’ve had to deal with in my life, she said.

The laboratory workspace was run by five Columbia undergraduate and graduate students, and Zhang was one of four high school interns who were aides in the lab, she said.

“One great thing about this internship is that it was very flexible; I could choose when to come to the lab, and the graduate students would just tell us what they needed,” Zhang said.

In addition to helping the graduate students test human samples and extract data, Zhang read articles on more than 15 types of new technology in the biomedical field in order to concoct new experiments, attended seminars hosted by the university, and performed complex labwork such as dissecting human joints, she said.

“This was a great opportunity for me to learn new information that I would never have known from just sitting in a classroom,” Zhang said.

“Going to the lab every day was really fun and the group was very racially and socioeconomically diverse,” Zhang said. “By the end of the internship, I gained so much knowledge and met so many interesting people from different backgrounds.”