Experiential Learning at its Best: Internship Allows AU Chemistry Major to ‘feel like an actual scientist’

Augustana student Noah Hovorka ‘22, of Harrisburg, South Dakota, is majoring in chemistry (ACS) and will earn a minor in biology. He is debating between continuing the pre-med track or pursuing a career in biochemical research. This summer, Hovorka is interning at OmegaQuant in Sioux Falls, but also spends his time as a member of the Augustana Theatre Department, building supervisor at Recreational Services, recruiting officer of the Dungeons and Dragons Club, Viking Advisor in Campus Life and ambassador in the Admission Office.

Q: Where or how did you hear about Augustana?

A: I have lived in the Sioux Falls area since I was in fifth grade and had always heard about the university in passing. I had never considered actually attending Augustana until I talked to Wade Gemar (assistant director of enrollment and international programs) my junior year of high school at a college fair in the Elmen Center. Wade convinced me to take a tour of campus and the rest is history.

Q: What is/are the reason(s) you chose to come to Augustana?

A: Originally, I chose Augie because of the financial aid package. Since then, I have met some of my closest friends here, had an unbelievable number of opportunities that never would have been possible at the larger schools I planned to attend and I have come to consider Augustana my home.

Q: What do your job duties include?

A: This summer, I have been helping in OmegaQuant's Research and Development team to calibrate their kit-creating robot that they hope to use to streamline their commercial shipping operations. I have also been helping create a new laboratory technique that will allow for cleaner chromatography spectra in whole-plasma fatty acid readings. I am working on a system that will separate triglycerides, phospholipids and cholesterols from free-fatty acids so more samples can be run on the gas chromatogram before the column needs to go through a burnout phase to clear out the "junk" that will obscure peaks of interest. I have also been learning a lot about their commercial and research divisions, as well as helping out with lab work in both areas as needed.

Q: How did you get the internship? Did anyone help you? What did that journey look like?

A: I found the opening on Augie’s career opportunity website, Symplicity, earlier this spring and got in contact with Dr. (Cecelia) Miles and the Student Success Center to help create a research resume. 

Q: What do you like most about your internship?

A: I love the fact that I go into work every day and get to feel like an actual scientist. I have my own research projects and have the creative liberty to troubleshoot any issues I encounter independently. Every day, I feel as though I am a part of the team at OmegaQuant, not just an intern — that is largely due to the friendliness of the people here. 

Q: What do you hope to learn/gain from the internship?

A: I am learning how to use many new and different instruments that I have never seen before and how real-world scientific research is carried out in a lab setting.

Q: Why is experiential learning so important in preparing for future endeavors?

A: Gaining real-world experience is vital to learning what a career in my chosen field is truly like. Proficiency in a number of different instruments and lab techniques is huge for both the research and commercial sides of the biochemistry field. OmegaQuant is allowing me to really get a head start on this experience and put my best foot forward when I start my career.

Q: How important is building relationships/connections?

A: Building relationships in any career/field is incredibly important. The biotech industry is not very big in Sioux Falls, and because of this, building relationships and creating connections is huge because virtually everyone knows each other. My boss, Lindsey, has worked for more than 20 years in the Sioux Falls area and knows people at Innanovate, the GEAR Center and a number of other companies in the area. Meeting people in the field is so helpful because it can not only create potential job opportunities, but teach you about the different possibilities around you. As a chemistry major, I can work in biochemical research, an R&D department and even a brewery. The possibilities are endless, but I wouldn’t know about any of them without having met and spoken with industry professionals who told me about what they have done with their chemistry majors. Building new professional and personal relationships helps open many new doors and paths that would have simply remained undiscovered without meeting those people.

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