By Mikaela Armstrong

I’m a senior, graduating in May and have worked in the Science Communications Lab (SCL) at the BioTechnology Institute for the past three semesters. When I began my major in design I quickly learned that there is a lot of pressure to find meaningful work and experience early on in school. While searching for a design internship, I discovered the SCL job posting online and after a welcoming phone call describing what my role would be, I accepted a position as a student designer.

The SCL is a unique program because students have the ability to grow in both their technical and soft skills. I connected and worked with other designers, writers, researchers, and scientists–an experience that can be hard to find in the undergraduate design world where projects are often independent. Through the SCL, I learned how to communicate with people from different fields and with different views on the same project to create final products. Besides collaboration, I found the SCL was a great place for me to flex my skills as a designer in different mediums within a low-stakes environment. Because of the high-level scientific nature of the BioTechnology Institute’s work, some of the content I was asked to create was challenging and pushed me out of my comfort zone. It was difficult sometimes to work with content that felt like it was over my head, but it was that kind of growth that made my experience invaluable. Besides valuable work skills, the SCL gave me freedom and flexibility in hours and work that is hard to find in other student jobs.

Last summer I received an internship with a small design firm in Minneapolis. I found a lot of the work I did through the SCL was applicable to the work with the firm, even though the content I helped create was vastly different. Talking to scientists and researchers at the BioTechnology Institute prepared me to meet and present to clients, as well as learning how to best cater to their design needs.  

As I gained more skills and knowledge throughout my undergraduate career, I found I could apply them to the SCL and play around with newfound techniques knowing I had the opportunity to fail and try again. I would recommend this job to any student designer looking to expand their comfort zones and learn how to function in an environment that more closely models real-world work.  I am extremely thankful for the time I spent in the SCL and the experience it gave me as a student designer.

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