It was a completely new experience. Stepping into an unfamiliar room, aligned with working stations, mixers, testers, and shelves of preserved chemicals, senior George Duong had no idea what was in store for him., but he knew that he had to be ready for anything.
During the summer, Duong shadowed a graduate student in the Laboratory for Energy and Storage Conversion at University of California, San Diego. With an interest in chemistry, Duong worked with zinc silver batteries and nanocells, an environment different from an average classroom.
“The lab setting was a lot more serious,” Duong said. “The people who were in that lab wanted to be there. It was very strict, but there was still a lot of fun thrown around: we made conversations back and forth in the lab to help pass the time. Even though it was a very professional atmosphere, it was an atmosphere I enjoyed.”
One of Duong’s favorite memories was when the graduate student assigned him a side project to build an LED glove and route it to a battery for a presentation.
“It was the most fun I had in the lab because the responsibility was held on me,” Duong said. “I had my own time and the resources to do it instead of having him tell me what to do and watch over my every step. I had more independence.”
However, the first week of the internship proved difficult for Duong. Because the lab covered more advanced and complicated topics, Duong had to write a report and learn physics and chemistry concepts he had never touched before.
“I had to use the concepts of what I learned in school and build upon it heavily to focus on one specific aspect,” Duong said. “It was very hard because I didn’t have Internet access all the time. I was lucky that my mentor gave me useful links and brought me to a level where I could understand what we were doing.”
Despite dealing with unfamiliar concepts and lacking Internet for the entire summer, Duong adapted to his circumstances, planning his time efficiently and working at Internet cafes.
“Doing this got my foot in the door, so I know I have something credible to speak for myself now,” Duong said. “I think it’s more than a stepping stone into college, more than something that gives you instant gratification like a job. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”
Duong hopes to further his study in college by taking up research internships and working for different companies. He advises that those interested in doing research to take opportunities wherever they can, even if they are not sure.
“From this experience, I learned that I don’t like analysis-based research,” Duong said. “I like more development-based research. The biggest piece of advice someone told me is that before you enter or take your first job, it’s best to try things out. That way you know what you like and don’t like.”