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Elmira College students complete community engagement hours and a career-related internship before graduating to help build their career networks and give them important hands-on experiences.
Nathan Romano '25, a Biology major, gained important career skills like problem-solving and communicating with co-workers while interning at Global Tungsten & Powders (GTP) Corporation in Towanda, Pennsylvania during the summer of 2023. And even more importantly, Romano found a direction for his future.
“This internship guided me toward the type of career I’m looking for,” said Romano. “I want to be on my feet and doing something. It showed me that I want to be in a lab position where I’m assisting in chemical procedures, either in an industrial or medical setting.”
While Romano is majoring in Biology, he learned early in his studies that he enjoys studying molecular chemistry within organisms.
“With the classes I’m taking, I am looking deeper into the chemical basis of Biology and I’ve taken plenty of Chemistry-related classes. I would only need to take a few more classes to get the Biochemistry double major,” he explained.
At GTP, Romano flexed his chemistry and lab skills by assisting in laboratory settings. One of his two main roles included weighing tungsten, a rare earth metal, into small samples for technicians.
His other major role was assisting with a new piece of lab equipment.
“I tested the equipment and learned how to use the computer software to run it,” he explained. “No one knew how to use this equipment so I had to figure it out. When it first started working, the equipment was sensitive to changes and didn’t seem consistent. One day we had good readings and the next day we’d get poor readings.”
“There were a lot of growing pains,” he added.
Thankfully, Romano was able to work directly with a senior lab technician who helped troubleshoot the problems, test the equipment, and get it up and running.
“It was nice to have her right there, suffering in it with me,” he joked. “The technician had been working to set up the equipment before I arrived and she provided me with guidance and troubleshooting aid, so I wasn’t on my own.”
Romano didn’t quite figure out everything needed to run the equipment before the end of the summer, but he made good progress. He designed a procedure and left the team in a position to continue and finish the work.
“It wasn’t completely satisfying because I wanted to meet the goal,” Romano said. “But I helped work out a lot of the kinks and they should be able to quickly iron out the rest.”
Balancing his two main projects took coordination and communication skills. Romano had to make sure the technicians had the samples they needed. This meant checking in with them anytime he went to work on the lab equipment and alerting them to where he would be when he wasn’t at his desk.
Romano’s dedication to his tasks and trouble-shooting persistence clearly left a mark on the technicians he worked with.
“They were sad to see me go, which made me feel really nice because it was a great experience and I’m glad I had that level of impact on them,” said Romano. “They said to me, ‘When are you coming back?”
The technicians may not be the only ones wondering that question. Romano’s father works for GTP. He shifted his schedule for the summer so he and Romano could carpool and eat lunches together.
According to Romano, getting in some one-on-one time with his dad made the already valuable experience even more special.