Student Spotlight: Cassidy Waldrep

This week we’re spotlighting Cassidy Waldrep, a first year Zoology and Neuroscience major from Mahomet, Illinois. Cassidy will be working as an Undergraduate Field Research Intern at the University of Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and shared her internship search experience with us!

  • Majors/Minors: Zoology + Neuroscience Major, Spanish Minor, Statistical Methods Minor
  • Internship title: Undergraduate Field Research Intern
  • Internship company: I’m working under the supervision of Dr. Michael Ward, who works for the University of Illinois under the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

How did you find your position? 

I actually reached out to one of my best friend’s (from Mahomet) dad. He’s a wildlife biologist and always told me that if I ever wanted a summer internship, I should reach out to him and he would help me find someone that was taking on undergraduates. Through that connection, he put me in contact with Dr. Michael Ward and we started emailing back and forth. Thankfully the type of work that Dr. Ward does is exactly the type of internship I was looking for, field work with animals and research, along with some R coding on the side. 

How did you prepare for your interview? 

Because of the fact that at the time I was at Miami University and Dr. Ward was in IL, we held a phone interview one day. Earlier in the month, I had met with Career Advisor Hannah Pigg, from Miami’s Career Center and we talked about my resume, tips for finding internships, and most importantly, how to best convey my passion for this internship. She helped me build my resume and showed me how to best highlight the science and research experience I had up to this point. We then talked about how I could mention that in an interview. When the interview was conducted, I made sure that my resume was right next to me so I could reference that as needed. By the end of the interview (which was actually very short- he really only asked about my research experience and why I wanted the position), he had offered me the position!

What Miami experiences do you feel best helped you secure your position?

Since I’m a first year, I think what helped me stand out among other first years and older students in general was the fact that I was involved in research early on. At the fall of my first semester at Miami, I became an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Paul Schaffer from the Biology Department. With him guiding me, I’ve been using a giant dataset to analyze turtle personalities using a statistical programming language called R. With that research, I was able to show Dr. Ward that I had some experience in the field of animal research already. Furthermore, because of the variety of minors and majors Miami offers, I’ve been able to cater my class work to what I want to do in the future. This spring semester, I took a class called, “Introduction to Statistical Modeling”, which takes a look into representing data in graphs and models. This class has taught me a lot about the R language, which is perfect because Dr. Ward told me that we would be utilizing that language through my internship. Without the research and knowledge of how to code in R, I don’t think I would’ve gotten this internship. 

What advice do you have for other students looking for jobs/internships?

My advice to other students trying to find internships would be to ask for help! It sounds simple, but googling internships didn’t really work out for me. I did apply for some online, but since many other students applied, and because of the fact that it’s hard to convey your passion online, I didn’t get any of them. Figure out what connections you have and reach out to them. For example, I reached out to a mentor that I had from a research experience the summer before my senior year of high school. He was actually able to get me in contact with someone he knows that works with animals. Although that internship didn’t work out, I’m glad I tried because I learned a lot in the process. Without me reaching out to my friend’s dad, I would never have gotten this internship. Talking to Hannah helped me to improve my resume and interviewing skills so I could secure this internship. All in all, don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow professors or mentors to see if they have any ideas for internships. And most importantly, take advantage of your advisors in the Career Center because they are truly there to help you! As a first year, I didn’t really understand the importance of meeting with my advisor so soon, but I’m glad I did because of how much it helped me with my future career!