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Kalis Harrison’s Science Research Summer Internship

A Junior’s Profile
Kalis Harrison, Class of 2025

The day-to-day of high school life can be daunting.  Kalis Harrison, Class of 2025, grounds herself by taking full advantage of programs that strengthen her sense of purpose.  As a rising junior, Kalis was one of 70 students selected city-wide to participate in the American Museum of Natural History’s Science Research Mentoring program.  According to youth.gov, “Mentoring can help youth as they go through challenging life transitions, including dealing with stressful changes at home or transitioning to adulthood.”  Big Brothers Big Sisters, one of Leadership’s mentoring partners, focuses on the development of skills required in the workplace.  Mentors called “Bigs” support students through the process. Kalis joined BBBS in the 10th grade.  Lead News interviewed Kalis to learn more about her experience.

Gabrielle (Lead News) 1: What is the name of the Internship you participated in?

Kalis 1: The name of the internship is the Science Research Mentoring program, hosted in the American Museum Of Natural History. 

Gabrielle 2: How did you hear about this internship?

Kalis 2: I heard about this internship through the program Big Brothers Big Sisters which is another mentoring program where I meet with a “Big”, as they call it. A “Big” is which is an older and wiser adult who is a professional at a partner corporation.

 Gabrielle 3: What motivated you to apply to this internship?

Kalis 3: I was motivated by my love for science and wanting to do something academic-related over the summer.

Gabrielle 4: What was the process of applying to this internship?

Kalis 4: The process for applying was a simple online application but what made it competitive was the interview process. The American Museum of Natural History wanted to make sure that the candidates’ demonstrated beliefs were aligned with their core values of courage, commitment, and curiosity. There were two rounds of interviewing followed by two orientations.

Gabrielle 5: What activities did you do in your internship?

Kalis 5: I am personally studying zoo archaeology, the study of human activity and prehistory through excavation and observing artifacts.

Gabrielle 6:What were your duties? Which ones did you like, which ones were difficult, how did you overcome the challenges you faced in this internship? 

Kalis 6: My duties in this internship were a full course summer institute that lasted for 5 weeks. During the summer institute portion, we focused on machine learning and the process of how artificial intelligence is made. We used machine learning to study science topics such as data collection and tracking animal species. We also had other community-building activities, such as tours around the museum to different exhibits and a camping trip to Black Rock forest. We collected samples from the forest, set up animal tracking cameras on trees in the woods, and used machine learning in a natural habitat. The challenge I faced with this program was stepping out of my comfort zone. Experiencing science in the woods and in a lab gave me a ton of experience to possibly pursue this as a career in the future.

Gabrielle 7: What was the structure of the internship?

Kalis 7: The internship is a science program where you meet with your mentor who is a registered scientist and you get to choose your science major. Currently, we are broken up into small groups of 2-3 students per group alongside a scientist. There are 70 students in total. Accepted students completed a 5-week summer institute, a trip to the Black Rock forest.  Some participants like myself were offered the year-long session working alongside a scientist.  My mentor is Jemima Georges.  Interns receive a $2000 stipend. 

Gabrielle 8 What were the greatest benefits? 

Kalis 8: Some of the benefits were: connecting with other students my age who have a passion for science and learning; being in an intellectual environment was great for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even during the summer institute, it didn’t feel like work or a hard job, everyone clicked with each other in the group. We built a strong community and lasting friendships.

Gabrielle 9: Did you know about SRMP prior to this internship?

Kalis 9: No, I had never heard of it until my Big Brother’s Big Sister mentor mentioned it and i decided to take the chance and apply!

Gabrielle 10: So your summer internship was extended into the academic year.  What are you specifically studying now? 

Kalis 10: Our group is researching what the Mayans were eating 2000 years ago. This field of science called zoo archaeology is the study of animal remains intending to understand past human life. Our excavation site called Nixtun-Ch’ich’, is located in northern Guatemala at the edge of Lake Peten Itza. We are investigating an aguada called Fosa I. Aguadas are depressions filled with water which can happen naturally or artificially. We are studying and identifying deer, dog, and other mammal bones, and shells (mollusks) that come from various types of snails including freshwater, saltwater, and land snails.  By looking at what the ancient Maya consumed we can infer their societal structure such as their cultural practices and day-to-day life such as hunting behaviors, rituals, gatherings, and other recreational events. 

Gabrielle 11 : What advice would you give to students who are interested in this internship? 

Kalis 11: I would tell them to apply to this program if they are into science.   Not a lot of people get the opportunity to go here, and it’s a great way to learn and gain experience.

Students interested in joining Big Brothers Big Sisters should speak to Ms Ibanez in Room 1115 and research Teen Programs in the American Museum Of Natural History website.

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