BIO5 Ambassador Interns to Learn the Business Side of Science

Female student giving tour to a group of people in BIO5 - Keating lobby.
Three University of Arizona undergraduate students were competitively chosen to work virtually alongside BIO5 Institute administrative staff to enhance their personal and professional skills.
Brittany Uhlorn, BIO5 Institute

The BIO5 Ambassadors Internship is a year-long program that engages students in the business and marketing aspects of a research institution through mentorship and weekly professional development workshops led by staff working in administrative and operations roles within the University of Arizona’s BIO5 Institute.

Jorey Cohen, Anish Raju and Jennifer Scott were chosen from a competitive pool of 24 applicants to be part of this unique take on science not taught in their coursework. The three students will bring their diverse interests including neuroscience, cellular biology, bioinformatics, business administration and public health to their active participation on the BIO5 administrative team this academic year.

“As a STEM student, I have noticed that science majors do not offer many opportunities to learn about business. I’m eager to explore the intersection of business and science through this internship, especially given that this combination will allow me to implement and expand my creative skills, critical thinking abilities, and organizational skills in a future career,” Cohen said.

From a club to a holistic internship 
The program initially launched in 2012 as a club geared towards science outreach events and tours. In 2017, then undergraduate student and BIO5 Ambassadors secretary Gina Coniglario had a vision to transform the club into an internship that would have a larger impact on the students while at the same time contribute to the mission of the BIO5 Institute. 

Today, interns are selected to work with BIO5 staff on projects including digital marketing, event planning and science communication, allowing them to explore an interest and personalize a learning experience in an area related to their career goals. Previous projects have included the Inspiring Women in STEM event, the Science Making Humanity Better panel, and posters for environmentally friendly practices in the labs and offices. 

“I hope to work in hospital management in the future, and this internship will give me a phenomenal foundation in understanding the overlap between science and business. As an intern, I’ll be interacting with scientists, doctors, and law and business professionals, so having a solid foundation in communication will allow me to prevent miscommunication consequences in my career. I also hope to enhance my public speaking, marketing, and general business etiquette. Developing these skills through this program will give me a level of credibility, as well as expand my business and science networking skills,” Scott said.  

In addition to benefiting from mentorship on marketing and communications-related projects, current interns will participate in biweekly professional development workshops in additional areas related to the administration of a large research institute including finance, technology support, and project management. By fostering and polishing their skills, these interns will stand apart from their competition as they pursue further education, internships and jobs. 

“In today’s world, professional development skills are invaluable tools for equipping people of all backgrounds with the ability to design and bring to fruition promising projects. While I’ve participated in a variety of advanced research over the past few years, it became evident that the business side of research, whether it be in the form of marketing or networking, was essential for making many achievements and discoveries possible. The BIO5 Ambassador Internship offers a unique opportunity to engage first-hand in the intersection of business and research, and serving as a BIO5 Ambassador will give me the tools and experience I need to take the next step in transforming my career goals from abstraction to reality,” Raju said. 

Students are expected to dedicate 40 hours to the program each semester, earning internship credit in return for their work. Successful past interns have also been hired as student employees with the BIO5 Institute, including 2019-2020 ambassador Lisbeth Haaheim

Student co-facilitators lead program with an affinity for the interns
Today, the program is run by two current UArizona undergraduate students – Lily Andress and Jordan Pilch. In addition to this role, Andress and Pilch are employed as student assistants on the BIO5 Public Affairs team. 

Amy Randall-Barber, manager of marketing and events for BIO5 and the Ambassador Internship’s staff supervisor, says allowing students to take the program’s reigns made perfect sense because they are generally a lot closer in age and stage to the interns, giving them important perspective on how to make this opportunity most beneficial. 

“Lily and I can relate to the applicants, so we’re taking that into consideration when thinking about what we would want from a mentorship experience,” Pilch said.

Andress and Pilch desired to again expand upon the strengths of the existing program to further enhance its value, both to the student and to BIO5 administration. 

“We decided to create more structure around the program’s mentorship to provide a more holistic and guided approach that will give the students an experience that they can truly value as a final product,” Pilch said. 

Interns will now sift through potential mentor biographies and projects to help choose the right fit for their personal and professional goals, with the option of switching mentors after the first semester if they desire to expand their skills in a different area. 

The pair has also laid the foundation for dynamic mentor-mentee relationships through regular check-ins and journaling prompts. Interns will engage in these self-reflection activities alone and with the co-facilitators. Journaling prompts previously focused on tangible milestones, but now, the interns will not only log what they are doing, but they’ll also explore their emotions and headspace in relation to those activities. Mentors will also be provided with feedback to help tailor their mentoring style to the evolving needs of their intern. 

An unprecedented application cycle
The creativity of Andress and Pilch in promoting this opportunity across campus led to a 300% increase in applications for this year’s internship.

“Lily and Jordan worked diligently the past six months to reimagine every aspect of the internship, which ultimately led to them successfully pitching me with their vision. Seeing them put their heart and skill into creating an opportunity that will uniquely engage talented and eager undergraduates, especially given the unexpected challenge of having to pivot to a virtual environment, has been impressive and inspiring,” said Lisa Romero, BIO5 senior director for public affairs and communications.

The co-facilitators and their supervisor took great care to review each application and conduct virtual interviews before hand-selecting this year’s three interns. Andress and Pilch enthusiastically agree that Cohen, Raju and Scott will be great additions to the BIO5 family. 

“During her interview, Jorey was incredibly personable and demonstrated her curiosity and willingness to learn and grow. Anish was incredibly well-spoken, and you could see his passion for learning and his enthusiasm for working with BIO5. Jen's interview gave insight on her ability to challenge herself and step out of her comfort zone. I am so excited to begin working with them, and know I am going to learn so much from each intern. This is truly an outstanding group of students, and I am very grateful to have a role in the program this year,” Andress said. 

Pilch added to Andress’ sentiments, saying, “Our new three interns demonstrated that they truly have the work ethic and personality to match what we expect of an ambassador. I am excited to see the interesting perspectives that these students can bring, and the wonderful work that they can do for BIO5.” 

“We hope this internship program becomes something that is inherent to the culture of BIO5, so that when you think of BIO5, you think of the research and innovation that comes from the merging of our core scientific disciplines, you think of our KEYS Research Internship for Arizona high school students, and you think of the continuing student engagement that is done through the Ambassadors Internship,” Pilch said.