The Scientific Research Consortium (SRC), and its website aminoacids.com, is a Roseville-based life sciences company that performs complex diagnostic testing for the biotech and food manufacturing industries. When SRC’s President Mark Whittaker decided to hire an intern this spring, he had two R&D projects in mind for them to tackle: the development of an analytical method used in extracting tissue samples from fish products, and a new way of measuring nutritional value using simulated digestion.
Chemical Engineering Major Jeremy Stenger got the job after demonstrating his ability to work well within a “very collaborative organization.”
“I enjoy coming into work and seeing and interacting with everyone,” Stenger affirmed. “It gives me another group of people to bounce ideas off of.”
A set up for success
His first task at SRC was an exercise in independence. Stenger was charged with ordering and building a glove box for SRC’s lab. It’s a device you might recognize from movies and TV, wherein a technician puts their arms through a pair of suspended rubber gloves to safely work with materials inside of a sealed transparent chamber.
“That was something Jeremy had a lot of personal control over,” Whittaker said, which was his intention. Whittaker’s approach to successful internships is to give students the initial time and instruction and then step back, giving them the opportunity to execute an experiment alone.
Completing that initial project himself, Stenger said, “was definitely a moment of success,” and it started his experience at SRC with the confidence to take on his other responsibilities.
Inside and out
As an R&D intern, Stenger got to work closely with biological materials. He learned to use many of the machines in SRC’s lab and conducted tests with them. Stenger also designed a gas vacuum line for one of their chambers.
Working on a HPLC machine, Stenger said, “and learning how that properly runs and seeing the inner workings has been cool because we use an HPLC machine in my analytical chemistry lab, but we didn’t really get to see what it looks like due to Covid. So, working here, it’s been interesting to see what it looks like now.”
When SRC’s HPLC machine undergoes scheduled maintenance this summer, Stenger will work alongside Whittaker to fix it, getting to know the machine inside and out.
A student and employer resource
Thanks to SciTech’s wage match, Whittaker was able to extend this unique learning opportunity to Stenger while getting the extra R&D assistance his company needs.
“As a small company, when we want to do exploratory research, it’s very hard to hire staff for a non-revenue-generating program. So, Jeremy is getting the opportunity to do research and development in a really hands-on environment, and it offsets our cost,” Whittaker said. “He also brings a lot of energy to the lab. We talk about the science and what we’re doing, and it’s a chance to really think about it on an organic level. And I think that’s really valuable for everybody.”
For Stenger, because of this experience, he found that he enjoys biotech more than he initially thought, so much so that he hopes to go into bio or med tech after he graduates.
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