If you’re looking for an internship in Frederick, there’s a good chance you’re from the area. Most people looking for work and experience locally are locals, after all; often, it’s simply easiest logistically to look for opportunities close to home.

Joy Gerdes is from Michigan.

In spite of that, when she decided to expand her professional skillset by pursuing work experience in the biomedical field, she chose Medigen Inc. in Frederick with the help of Frederick CREST. The result, for Joy, was an adventure in living in a new town, in doing impactful work, and in gaining valuable skills that she’ll put to use as she navigates her career.

All told, spending the summer interning in Frederick was a great move – even if it involved more moving for Joy than for most people.

The Frederick Connection

Earlier in 2018, Joy was finishing up her year as a teacher 600 miles from Frederick as she considered opportunities to branch into a new field.

She knew that she wanted to develop STEM-based skills, but she wasn’t sure of the best avenue to take toward that direction. That’s when she received an email in connection with an academic program she was attending, the Masters in Chemistry and Life Sciences, a CREST-affiliated program at Univ. Maryland, College Park. The email notified her of the STEM opportunities available through Frederick CREST for students in the program. Her interest was piqued.

“I got connected with them, and Joanne reached out to me to help me find a position,” says Joy. After the connection was made, she submitted her resume on the Frederick CREST website. From there, CREST moved ahead with outreach, navigating the opportunities offered by potential employers to line Joy up with a company that would be a perfect fit.

That’s where Medigen came in.

Matched to the Right Biomedical Company

Located on Gas House Pike in Frederick, Medigen is a leading developer of vaccines against emerging diseases. With a focus on vaccine safety and natural immunity, the company’s services aren’t just in high demand – they’re also incredibly important in affecting human health.

The company needed another pair of hands in the lab, and Joy was looking for hands-on experience. The situation made sense, and after working out role expectations, Joy packed up her things in Michigan and hit the road for Maryland when her school year ended.

That’s when the adventure really started.

The Housing Dilemma

Most Frederick interns don’t need to consider housing during their time in-role; they’re generally commuting a short distance from home, so the situation is pretty straightforward. For Joy, though, making the transition from her home in Michigan was a bit more complicated.

Her initial plan on accepting the Medigen internship had been to stay at an Airbnb for two weeks while she searched for a longer-term housing situation. The thought was that the interval would give her time to search for housing in-person, versus trying to work things out remotely before the move.

It was good in theory, but in practice things quickly got difficult.

The Airbnb Joy was planning to stay in ended up having an allergen on the premises that made staying there unfeasible. After two days, it became obvious that Joy needed another place to stay, but, not being a native, she wasn’t sure where to go. She booked a hotel room to buy time and started working through last resorts.

“I ended up calling my parents from the car, asking if they knew anyone in the area,” she says.

They didn’t. But they did know people in DC. Through a series of networks, Joy was able to find a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who was willing to open up a home to her. It was a distant, unlikely connection – and a huge relief.

Frederick CREST offered help on the housing front, too: Joy was able to house-sit for Joanne for several weeks during the summer in a situation that worked out for all parties. Since then, CREST has sorted through some housing options to aid students and others participating in CREST programs.

The Valuable Experience

Joy’s experience in Frederick wasn’t completely seamless, but it was completely worth it.

“I remember feeling intimidated for the first month,” she says. “Coming in from another field where I felt successful to a field where I felt really unskilled was intimidating.”

But the team at Medigen quickly helped Joy get up to speed. “The team was great,” she says. “It felt like everyone I worked with took the time to help me and take me under their wings.”

That collaborative experience was empowering for Joy; by the end of the internship, she was doing meaningful work on her own, overseeing valuable research in the early stages of development for a dengue vaccine without direct, hands-on oversight.

When she presented her work at the end of the summer, the team was impressed. “I got to present a stability study where I was the only one who knew the data. The team was really encouraging and even seemed a little impressed.”

Joy was impressed by the experience, too.

“I was really impressed at how much of a basic skillset they gave me,” she says. “They were really good at teaching skills that they knew would help me in the future.”

The Future

Joy’s not entirely sure where her work experience in Frederick will take her, but she does know that, thanks to Medigen and Frederick CREST, she’s equipped to explore a whole world of career possibilities that wasn’t available to her before. With proven lab experience and a new set of lab skills, a lot of doors are swinging open – maybe even one in Frederick.

“Frederick was great,” she says. “I’m sure I’ll be back in some way.”

For now, the Michigander is grateful for her Maryland experience. “It was definitely an adventure.”

“In the end, it was really great.”

Make a Frederick Internship Happen

Looking for an internship in Frederick? Looking for an intern for your Frederick business? At Frederick CREST, we’re here to help. We build bridges between employers and education that benefit students, employers, and our city. We put our connections to use to line up ideal internship experiences for all parties involved – even for intern applicants from Michigan or beyond.

Frederick is a city brimming with opportunity, and we’re honored to be a part of making STEM growth happen. If you’re ready to make a Frederick internship happen, get in touch with us today.