'You miss 100% of the shots you do not take:’ Aylin Galvan on her prestigious internship

Aylin Galvan, a junior nutrition major with a dual minor in health and family studies, discusses her internship — the Cyclone Scholar Summer Research Experience, her research and how this opportunity will contribute to her future as she looks to graduate in the spring of 2023.

Q: When did you apply for the internship? What interested you?
A: I began the application process for this internship in the winter break of 2021 and submitted my application in late February.
I am a Lamar University McNair Scholar. I completed a research project on “The Role of COVID-19 on the Food Insecurity of Current and Expecting Mothers” from January to November 2021 with my mentor, Dr. Connie Ruiz. I was the only nutrition major in my cohort, which led McNair Scholars Program Director Pamela Comer to email me about this opportunity: the Cyclone Scholar Summer Research Experience, or CSSRE. Upon reading a brief synopsis of the program, I instantly knew that it was a program I wanted to be a part of.Aylin Galvan

Q: What was the process of applying like?
A: The process of applying was more mentally exhausting than I had anticipated. I had to submit letters of recommendation, an official transcript and complete an online application, which included short essays. That was not difficult at all; I knew my grades were good and my professors were more than glad to give their references. The process was more mentally draining due to Impostor Syndrome — a challenge I usually face. I was severely doubting my capabilities to be a part of a huge program. I even felt that if I were to get accepted, I would be nothing like the other students.

Q: How did you get the news you’d been accepted? Can you set the scene?
A: I received the news on the first day of our spring break in March! I remembered sleeping in because I was glad to have been done with midterms and staying in my dorm for a mental break. I decided to just get on my laptop to check emails and if any of my midterm grades were updated. My Outlook tab made a little “ding” that I received an email and I saw it was from the director of the program. I immediately told myself to not get my hopes up and that it was probably a rejection email, but as soon as I saw “Congratulations!” in the email, I began to freak out! I remembered reading through the email, an acceptance letter, and calling my mom because she had been hearing of me worrying over this internship. It was one of those moments that took a weight off your shoulder because you have seen the result of your hard work and achievements. 

Q: Can you share more about the research aspect?
A: The CSSRE research aspect is centered on faculty mentors who work together with other researchers to address food systems in terms of gains and challenges. The scholars of this program will devote their time to reading research articles, articulating lab data and exploring local food systems, agricultural food production, and the food industry. 

Q: What are you most excited about? What kind of challenges do you think you’ll face?
A: I am most excited to be surrounded by like-minded individuals and to study something that I have a deep interest in: nutrition. I not only study this subject for my major, but I have had a strong passion for it in all of its aspects since I was young. I have a desire to learn everything about nutrition. I have previously learned about clinical, educational, culinary and political areas of nutrition. With this opportunity, I will experiment with the more scientific areas and how it reacts with our bodies.
This also ties in with a challenge I believe I will face: a new subject. I have not explored the research in gluten-free grain processing, so I believe that this will come off as a challenge.

Q: How will this internship help you in your future career?
A: In the future, I plan to work under the United States Department of Agriculture in a food science research position. This internship will help me by providing me with a first-hand experience in interdisciplinary food science research. Also, this internship will assist me in my networking abilities as I will meet various professionals in the same field of study I intend to go into.

Q: What would you tell other students who are interested but hesitant to apply for internships?
A: “You miss 100% of the shots you do not take.” Apply, apply, apply! I see that many students nowadays notice that they may miss a minor qualification or two on an application or feel as if their application will be thrown out and immediately be discouraged to apply. This is a state of mind that should never be tolerated — apply for any and all positions. The worst thing that can happen is simply a rejection letter or email. All that matters is that you put yourself out there.
Prior to hearing back about my status with this program, I attended a career fair and was offered an internship with a healthcare clinic. I turned down my offer upon acceptance into the CSSRE. However, I still informed this clinic that I would be more than glad to remain in contact and perhaps work with them in the future, which they were ecstatic about. There is nothing to be afraid of in terms of rejection on either end. Make a connection. Put yourself in the limelight of seeking programs.