Internship inspires student after work ripples through real world

Senior environmental science major Veronika Geiger gathers water samples as part of her internship with New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

By Paige Ewing

Inspired by the real-world application of her studies, one Rider student found a path for herself through an internship last summer.

Senior Veronika Geiger came to the university undecided and unsure of her future. Now, she is an environmental science and secondary education double major with a minor in sustainability studies.According to her, she still has no idea what she is going to do after college. However, she does know her work will go toward saving the environment.

Her work for the cause started during her internship at New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in the Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring in the summer of 2016. It was then she dove headfirst into the world of working with total suspended solids, chlorophyll A and thousands of dollars of equipment.

“I got a chance to be in a real lab,” said Geiger. “It’s so different than the labs at Rider in the sense that technology is so advanced. They had a machine there that was $500,000 and I was afraid to touch it. I had to learn everything all over again because you weren’t using a pipet with a squishy ball, you were using high-tech precision machinery. It was mind-blowing.”

Associate Professor of Science Daniel Druckenbrod, Geiger’s adviser, and the director of the sustainability studies program, saw a drive in Geiger to get as active as possible.

“I couldn’t be happier for Veronika,” Druckenbrod said. “She’s passionate in her interests in the environment, which is apparent in her coursework as well as her extracurricular activities.

Druckenbrod also praised her awareness of current environmental trends and policies.

“As our country considers the best ways to regulate our environmental resources, it’s great to see students like Veronika, who will be able to effectively communicate the importance of clean air, water and other environmental resources,” he said.

But Geiger didn’t just learn how to use high-tech machinery. She also learned the value of teamwork and the process of working with an entire division of scientists.

“A lot of people assume it’s going to be like doing an experiment on campus, but it’s so different because you’re not just working with one lab partner,” said Geiger. “You’re working with the entire division where everyone’s research works on top of one another. If I’m getting water samples from the field that day, it means someone is going to be testing them, and then somebody’s going to be analyzing that, and observing that, and looking at that data and going back and checking it. Everyone is so particular and specific on different things.”

At Rider, Geiger is a Bonner Scholar, and was formerly a part of the Lawrenceville Eco Reps, the green team and other sustainability organizations. Working for the DEP has reinforced Geiger’s love for spreading the message of our environment.

“My favorite part about working for the DEP, I felt like I was causing positive change within society,” she said. “Without that division, you might be swimming in water that is hazardous or you are eating seafood that is poisoned with bacteria that needs to be tested. All the things that they do are for human health and safety. To know you have a direct impact on society is really rewarding.”

This upcoming summer, Geiger was looking at a couple of different internships, including one at NASA. However, the DEP offered her a paid internship that she felt she couldn’t turn down.

“There is so much stuff you are doing and you’re doing something different every day and I love that,” said Geiger. “Every day was a different adventure, I was learning something new every day.”

At the end of the day, no matter where her degrees take her, this internship has reminded Geiger of the value of doing what is right and good for others and for yourself.

“Do a job that’s going to make you happy, something that makes you feel like you’re doing something with your life, don’t just do it for the money,” she said. “I feel like I can go to bed at night and say, ‘Wow, I love my job and I love what I’m doing.’ I love that I’m making a change.”

 

Originally published in the 3/8/17 edition. 

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