It’s college application season, and Darby Brandenburg, a senior at Notre Dame Preparatory School (NDP), is juggling a lot of decisions. She wants to study engineering at any of the several colleges and universities on her well-researched list.
But one decision is crystal-clear: becoming a chemical engineer is definitely on Brandenburg’s career short-list, thanks to her recent summer internship in Dr. Mary Sajini Devadas’ chemistry lab at Towson University.
To think big, Brandenburg focused on the very small, creating gold and silver nanoparticles with another high school student from Eastern Technical High School. The two burgeoning engineers taught each other. “Dr. Devadas gave us scientific articles to read, but we had to come up with our own experiments and calculations,” says Brandenburg, who was one of 165 NDP rising sophomores through rising seniors with an unpaid summer internship to explore career possibilities through NDP’s Women In…(WIN) experiential learning program. “I never thought it would be this much independent work, but now I know what it will be like working in a college lab.”
And on her list of accomplishments on her college applications? Co-authoring a scientific paper as the result of her WINternship. Her paper, “Gold and Silver Nanoparticle Synthesis,” competes later this month at the 21st Undergraduate Research Symposium in Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Summer WINternships range from one-day shadow experiences to longer internships, depending on the sponsor and interest of the student. Brandenburg initially spent two weeks full-time before being asked to continue on part-time through early August. “The work experience and connections made are invaluable,” says Barbara Mantler, WIN program coordinator and NDP Social Studies teacher. “WIN provides our students with opportunities to apply what they are learning in the classroom to real-world work experiences.” Each WIN participant also attends an alumnae-facilitated, 1.5-hour Workplace Etiquette Seminar prior to any WINternship.
Founded in 2006, WIN grew from a smaller program for NDP students pursuing careers in medicine and STEM to a hands-on learning experience for 1,000+ students to date, many of whom apply for multiple WIN opportunities. Three years ago, the school expanded offerings, which are hosted by alumnae, parents, and friends of NDP, to business, law, the humanities and computer science. “WIN is an unparalleled opportunity to explore career interests while still in high school. Our girls come away from these experiences having a better idea of what type of careers they like and also what they do not like.” For Brandenburg, who plans to become an aerospace or chemical engineer, the WIN program brought one of her career choices out of the realm of possibility and into the real world. “[My WINternship] gave me a better understanding of chemistry and opened my eyes to opportunities,” she explains of her unique experience – a win-win for Brandenburg, NDP, and Towson University.
To learn more about Notre Dame Prep’s WIN Program, visit http://www.notredameprep.com/WIN.