When summer rolls around, junior biochemistry major Kiera Malone will be interning at her “top choice” in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Each year, the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, in conjunction with the Chem Club, tours a working chemical laboratory. Past sites have included the Dr. Pepper/Snapple Research and Develop Laboratories, the Ford Research Laboratories, and the Argonne National Laboratory. “We are always looking for exciting places to take students to spark their interest in chemistry,” said Dr. Nate Beres, assistant professor of chemistry. The trips are all made possible by the Joe and Brenda Stearns Chemistry Conference Endowment.
In 2016, the group, including Kiera, toured the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Located less than 30 miles west of Knoxville, the “Atomic City,” as Oak Ridge is often referred to, was created in 1942 as a production site for the Manhattan Project.
After the trip, the thought of applying at Oak Ridge came up for Kiera, who is Dr. Beres’ teacher’s assistant for biochemistry. “Why not apply and see what happens?” Kiera said. “I have much more confidence in my abilities and experiences with the help of the professors here.”
Through the DOE, Kiera started the application process and listed Oak Ridge as her first choice. It wasn’t long after that she received a call wanting to know more about her and her experiences.
“We talked about some things I had listed in my application like the Diabetic Research Facility, though it’s no longer there, and how I’m a Type-1 diabetic,” she said. “I was even asked if I knew how to pour agar plates. It was cool to be able to say, ‘Yep! We’re learning to do that right now.’” Kiera was offered the opportunity to work at the lab as an intern in the summer of 2018.
She will get the opportunity at a national laboratory to study how methylmercury interacts with proteins. The Department of Energy describes Kiera’s unique opportunity as being involved in “a highly competitive program that will allow (her) to do research with some of the most talented scientists in the world.”
Dr. Beres notes that Kiera has taken advantage of every opportunity presented by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Still unsure of her career path, Kiera one day hopes to get her doctorate in chemistry or attend medical school. “When they ask in future interviews what kind of experience I have, it’ll be great to be able to detail the work I’ve done here at Heidelberg and now that work that I’ll be doing at Oak Ridge.”