Kathryn Kielbasinski ’23: Learning problem solving and self-advocacy as Syracuse hospital intern

Kathryn Kielbasinski ’23 (Biology) spent nearly 400 hours in the summer of 2022 interning at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, New York. The experience gave her a new level of confidence in her ability to self-advocate and solve problems while also giving her new insights that have helped shape her career goals.

When Kielbasinski arrived at Upstate University Hospital, she went straight to work on a genetic research project investigating Fragile X Messenger Ribonucleoprotein (FMRP). By understanding FMRP and its effect on the genome, doctors hope to develop better treatments for patients with Fragile X Syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder.

“I enjoyed the people and learning the importance of teamwork and interpersonal skills,” said Kielbasinski. “It was an extremely challenging experience, as I needed to quickly learn to self-advocate and problem-solve on my own. There was very little direction with portions of the work, but I am so proud that I not only completed the work, I excelled. I have gained confidence that I can work in a biology and/or chemistry lab.”

This can-do attitude served her well with her team.

“I got along well with everyone and they appreciated the positive attitude I brought to the team,” she said. “They even made me a ‘Best Undergraduate Intern Ever’ medal!”

Beyond her daily lab procedures, Kielbasinski attended weekly seminars given by Upstate University Hospital faculty. They often shared information about their current research and described their career journeys. She also attended career-prep workshops covering topics such as how to develop a personal statement.

Both a challenge and a highlight for Kielbasinski was attending the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Yeast Chromosome Biology and Cell Cycle Conference in Springfield, Massachusetts. For her, the challenge came in creating a poster about her genetic research and giving a presentation during the conference. Kielbasinski didn’t receive a lot of input on how to put the information together and was on her own for much of the project. However, after the poster and presentation were complete, she received positive feedback and felt proud of her achievement.

“I focused on learning how to adapt and problem solve,” she said.

For Kielbasinski, the highlight of the conference was meeting and networking with other students interested in pursuing biology careers.

“It was so great to meet people that knew exactly what it felt like to be in my position, and we connected over our interests and experiences in biology,” she said. “I met some wonderful, funny, kind people that week.”

In addition to her successes and a newfound sense of confidence, the internship opportunity helped Kielbasinski realize that molecular biology research is not her passion and that she does not want to pursue it as a career.

“While it’s awesome, I realized I like to look at the bigger picture,” she explained.

Kielbasinski wants to apply her knowledge of biology to support evolution and better understand animal behavior. With her background, she will be able to understand how an animal’s physiology at the molecular level affects the animal and its behavior.

To help with this pursuit, Kielbasinski volunteered at the SPCA to gain experience in animal care and upkeep as part of her community engagement.

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