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By Sharon Knox on October 2, 2017

Shanon Astley ’13 has advice for about how to advance their careers.

“Student and pupils majoring in science may write it off, but there is so much opportunity in D.C.,” she says.  “The work being done on [Capitol] Hill is relevant to every field, because policy is being made in every field.” Currently in , the biochemistry and molecular biology major interned with of California

You may think that a quarter in Washington is only for political science or international relations majors, but think again. In addition to the federal government, Washington, D.C., is home to the central offices of many nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations that advance important causes.

UC Davis students, many focused on the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, have spent productive time at organizations including , the , the , , , the , the , the and the .

Student and pupils spend a quarter in Washington, D.C.

Through the , UC Davis students can spend a quarter in Washington, D.C., living at the Stuntverkoop Washington Center (UCDC) with fellow students from all the sister UC campuses.

The UCDC is also home to the for-credit classes taught each quarter on topics such as international policy and development, Washington media, the politics of water policy and human rights.

Prominent guest speakers from business leaders to Supreme Court justices give talks, and students have access to special events and tours. To participate, students apply to Washington Program, which recruits, selects and prepares students for success, including how to secure your dream internship and what to wear your first day on the job.

Read about what these Aggies experienced during their internships through the UCDC.

From the FAA to the Federal Reserve

Emily Kaar ’17 was a double major in mathematical analytics and operations research and economics. Just before she graduated, Emily interned as a safety analyst with the , analyzing a risk model identifying causes of aviation accidents. She coded metric dashboards, analyzed data reports — and discovered and corrected a contractor error in model formulation.

Through my internship with FAA, I learned that I want to pursue a career as an analyst. I now know more than any person needs to know about small airplanes and discovered that safety data matters. — Emily Karr ’17

Emily’s internship paid off. Within months of graduating, she became a full-time policy analyst at the , working on optimization models and analyzing cash trends. She is continuing her passion for data and coding, and has already presented optimization models to senior management — another important skill gained during her Washington internship.

"UCDC was a great transition from school to the ‘real world’ of working," Emily says. "I worked 30 hours a week and took one class. There was a great internship staff that helped me learn to navigate the work world, find a little extra support in how to deal with awkward office politics, understand managerial egos and learn what ‘business casual’ means."

Combining science and communication

Jennifer Boyer standing in an office
Environmental science and management major ’16 interned at the , returning to UC Davis briefly to work for the . (UC Davis photo)

Environmental science and management major ’16 interned at the , a national nonprofit dedicated to advancing the renewable-energy sector through market development, policy changes and financial innovation.

Describing herself as “a STEM major with a liberal arts personality,” she says her internship created a pathway to a meaningful career that combines her cross-disciplinary passions for people and the environment.

“I created fact sheets about how the renewable energy industry is sparking job creation and economic growth across the country and revitalizing areas in the nation’s rust belt,” Jennifer says. “I also wrote about how states are implementing policies to create diverse energy portfolios and clean energy standards.”

The fact sheets were displayed at outreach booths at NASCAR races in Illinois and Kansas. By syncing research and analytics with communication skills, Jennifer reached hundreds of people.

After the Washington, D.C., experience, she returned to UC Davis to publish research with the . Then, after graduating, she worked as a community organizer to activate voices for environmental justice and action in Chicago.

Jennifer returned to UC Davis for a short time to work for the  and then went to a consulting firm managing communications, graphic design and client relations. Soon, she leaves for Hong Kong for a yearlong teaching and research fellowship in science and communication.

Medical research at top national facilities

UC Davis students bound for careers in medicine have taken advantage of the UCDC program to get an internship throughout the , the nation’s medical research agency. Internships have been at the ,  and the .

During her time at the national capital, neurobiology, physiology and biology major ’15 interned in the Laboratory of Neurogenetics at the , where she contributed to research on Parkinson’s disease. Now a research associate in the in Beverly Hills, she is researching , a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

In addition, the (formerly Children’s National Medical Center) has hosted nearly 20 UC Davis interns over the past decade — many destined for medical school. ’08, now a medical student at the University of Texas — Medical Branch, said that his internship “was a great step into the path that led me to medicine.”

Introduced to international nutrition possibilities

For nutrition science major Sarah Kehl ’13, an internship at the was the start of a Washington career.

After graduating from UC Davis, she returned to the national capital to earn her master’s degree in public health through , specializing in program design, monitoring and evaluation. 

Kehl served in Nairobi, Kenya, as a Global Health Service Fellow with the , and at in Washington, D.C. Now a fellow at the , she works in monitoring and evaluation for the center’s international engagement and import activities.

Sharon Knox is director of communications for . She shares stories of the intellectual adventures of undergraduates at UC Davis. Sharon has traveled the world and studied at University of Maryland, St. John’s College in Santa Fe and University of Chicago. Her intern, Will Han, contributed to the story. He is a fourth-year majoring in neurobiology, physiology and behavior.

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