Playing in the Dirt

Stage One of making a fuse bead on the fusion machine – Heating

I rarely paid much attention to the concrete in my everyday life, except to determine whether or not it would be there to catch me if gravity decided to work. I knew that it came from a mixture of what I thought was dirt and water, and that it was used to build things like skyscrapers, bridges, and sidewalks. Little did I know that this “dirt” was actually cement, and that people’s lives depend on how well it was made.

One of the days I was particularly dirty from mixing cement samples for testing.

This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to work for a cement plant as a quality control intern, learning the chemical and physical components that goes into making cement. This internship was designed to further my knowledge in my degree program, forensic biology. Though the two seem unrelated, the education I received in my courses, both in the lab and in the classroom, proved invaluable to learning and utilizing the chemistry used to make cement. In return, working at a cement plant provided important lessons that I can apply for the rest of my life.

My first few weeks at the cement plant consisted of training and obtaining my miner’s certification through MSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration. I learned the layout of the plant, safety procedures, and how cement was made. This process has many steps, and each of these steps are tested and adjusted to ensure that the cement will be of good quality, as determined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Stage Two – Mixing

Stage Three – Setting Into Molds

The Final Product

There is physical testing, which requires making and testing concrete made from the cement, and chemical testing, which is done to check the actual composition of the cement. I mainly focused on the chemical testing. I learned how to manipulate various reactions to gather information, something I did in my chemistry courses at ERAU. These results were actually recorded and used, so I learned how important thoroughness and accuracy is in real-world applications.

The materials necessary throughout the cement making process

The heating tower viewed from the cement silo

I learned how to work in a professional environment, and how important it is to be able to critically think and solve problems. It was an experience I enjoyed!

My Internship at the Endophyte Service Lab at Oregon State University

My summer at the Endophyte Service Lab at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon has been an enlightening and very knowledgeable experience. This opportunity has provided me with the experience to greatly increase my knowledge and understanding of skills in the areas of chemistry, toxicology, and teamwork, as well as closely relate to my future aspirations of becoming a forensic biologist.

Working with these professionals as well as other students who have common interests with me in achieving their goals has been extremely knowledgeable and eye-opening as to what my future career entails. I have learned many helpful lab skills and techniques that would relate to an actual forensic analyst’s career as well as how to use machines such as Mass Spectrometry and High-Performance Liquid Chromatography and Fluorescence, as well as extraction techniques and finally how to analyze the data they generate.

My job was to perform extractions of lolitrem B, ergovaline, and ergotamine mycotoxins from various grasses used for feeding livestock. The process for one extraction typically took about 3 hours and involved a lot of micropipetting, centrifugation, and drying of solvents on an N-Vap instrument. Measurements had to be extremely precise to obtain accurate results since it was on a microliter level. One tiny little air bubble could ruin the rest of the process and generate inaccurate results!

If it weren’t for the practice and knowledge I obtained from my courses at Embry-Riddle, such as Foundations of Biology 1 and 2, General Chemistry 1 and 2, Organic Chemistry 1 and 2, Microbiology, and Genetics, I would have never been prepared for the massive amounts of micropipetting I had to perform as well as any of the terminology or basic skills needed to achieve good results at my job. My courses gave me the confidence to be successful at the Endophyte Service Lab, and my experience in the lab gave me the confidence and knowledge to further pursue a forensic biology degree.

My Internship at McCarran International Airport

by guest blogger Gleb A. Liashedko, Sophomore (class of 2019)
Aviation Business Administration (minor in Industrial Organizational Psychology)

gleb-carThis summer I interned at McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, Nevada. LAS is the 8th busiest airport in the nation and is the hub into Las Vegas. I was hired on as a “Management Intern” for the airport. My supervisor was the Assistant Director of Aviation for Airside Operations.

This experience has been an incredible look into the “behind the scenes of an airport.” Throughout the summer, I had a unique opportunity to shadow most of airport divisions. Every week was a different department and a different shift. My favorite divisions were: Airport Operations Coordinators, the Airport Control Center as well as LAS Ramp Control.

gleb-flight-deckIn addition to shadowing airport divisions, I also did a few projects for the airport:
• Holding Pads Refurbishment Project – I connected the resources together to come up with a plan on how the airport plans to replace asphalt holding pads to concrete. In the end made a presentation and timeline for the FAA, Airport Operations Coordinators, Airfield Maintenance as well as the contractors involved.
• Everbridge presentation to the airport director – Researched a new program that the Airport Control Center wants to utilize for their mass notification communication and created a presentation that was presented to the airport director.
• Assisted in the implementation of the airport-wide survey for nearly 1,400 employees. Also participated in physically conducing the survey.
• Conducted a Ramp Control Efficiency Study for the airport which provided written recommendations for the FAA as well as LAS Ramp Control to improve operations. Provided statistical data of the ramp control efficiency. Conducted this study with my Intern counterpart Adin Herzog.

How did I get selected?
I heard about the opportunity from Dr. Greenman from the Business Department. After I submitted my application, LAS immediately reached out to me to schedule an interview. I reached out to the Career Services (Judy Segner) who critiqued my resume and gave me great advice for the interview. The interview was conducted via Facetime. Interview went very well especially because two Embry-Riddle alumni were on the interview committee.

Did I apply any learning from ERAU?
There were a few moments during the summer where I thought to myself “Oh, I wish I would have paid more attention to this particular topic in class.” Every single class that I took my freshmen year had been applicable to the work that I did—especially excel. If I can recommend something for future interns,k it’s pay attention in your excel class, you’re going to use it one way or another.

I was able to apply my research skills on a few projects throughout the semester. The biggest project of the summer had been the McCarran International Airport Ramp Control Efficiency Study. I conducted the study with my intern counter-part Adin Herzog. I had the ability to interview personnel, collect data and provide recommendations to the airport from the conclusion of the report.

gleb-doorWhat was the best part?
Having the ability to shadow every division of the airport and get real hands on experience. From driving on the runway during rush hour at nation’s 8th busiest airport to painting taxiway lines at 4am in the morning to giving aircraft pushback and taxi instructions from Ramp Control Tower.

What surprised me?
There were a lot of things that surprised me during my experience. Seeing behind, the scenes of an airport is a very rare opportunity. What surprised me the most is the airport culture. It’s like one big family. Everyone takes care of each other. A good example of this was on my birthday this summer. The supervisors/managers of the division I was with (Airside Operations) had called an important afternoon meeting. Because of the urgency that was emphasized, I hurried to the meeting with my notepad and pen. As I walk into the meeting, the entire room starts singing the Happy Birthday song to me. I was really happily shocked by this. After they were done singing, the Airfield Manager said: “Gleb, our only agenda item for today is your birthday and the ice cream cake!” This was really touching moment. How the people that I’ve known for such a short time went out of their way to get me a custom cake and arrange this little meeting just for me.

How does having an internship enhance my college experience?
Since coming back to school, I am now paying attention more to what my professors are teaching. If the professor says that you will use the learning obtained in class in the industry, I guarantee you will! I can also relate many of the things I learned back into the classroom. Time management, deadlines as well as peer interactions are some of the things which are important both in school and in the workplace. You must be able to work in a team while taking an initiative to go above and beyond with your work. Meeting deadlines is huge, especially when time is money.

gleb-funAs I start my sophomore year of college I can appreciate the learning in the classroom. I know that at some point in my career, the things that I will learn in the classroom (event little things) will be applicable to what happens in the workplace.

This has truly been an incredible experience. I would choose this over summer fun in a heartbeat. Definitely one of the best summers yet.

Internship at Garmin

ryan-airplaneby guest blogger Ryan Bishop, Senior in Engineering

“Hardware eventually breaks. Software eventually works.”

Many analogies can be drawn from the above quote, but I would like to describe what it means to me. I have spent seven out of the last thirteen years trying to improve my software before the hardware broke. A blue-collar worker sells his physical body a little at a time, while a white-collar engineer sells his knowledge. Having knowledge and experience in both fields now, I have a new respect for engineers and a new drive for my future. I have learned that engineering is much more about how you think than anything learned in the classroom.
ryan-equipmentryan-desk       As of the beginning of this internship at Garmin, it was my objective to understand the certification process, and the internal processes and programs used at Garmin AT. While the process to certify a product for aviation use is rather simple, the act of gaining the data to support certification claims is a complex process that necessitates a department of 40+ engineers to gain and maintain certification. This is an internal process up to the point of FAA demonstration that requires many tools to remain organized. To track the revision of documents, I had to learn and utilize StarTeam, then do the same with Requiem, as Garmin changed programs during my stay. ryan-cable Issues found during testing were logged in Aviation JIRA, a network-based program that allows for categorization, assignment, and tracking of workflow. In an effort to share the tribal knowledge among its employees, Garmin uses a wiki page, Confluence. Meetings occur on a regular basis to discuss, categorize, and assign tasks, at both high and low levels.
ryan-garmin        The culture and community is unlike any company I’ve worked for. It is very apparent that Garmin values its employees for much more than just their productivity. Office life is very lax, but also considerate and respectful. There is little daily oversight or feedback, but rather a quiet expectation to accomplish tasks efficiently and in harmony with those you work with for a given project. Although I was an hourly employee, ryan-awesomemy schedule was up to me. I was not expected to work any number of hours, as long as my work was completed on time. I did have bi-weekly meetings with my mentor to monitor progress and ensure that I was getting the most of my internship.
Beyond the technical knowledge and skills I gained at Garmin, I also learned many things about myself and my place in the engineering workplace. As an aircraft mechanic, I was not very involved in avionics and I never became a pilot. I felt so very out of place working at an avionics giant. Although we all love airplanes, we speak in different terms. From this I’ve learned that specialization is key. We also speak at much different volumes. I am loud, in more ways than one and I know this. From this I’ve learned that if you’re going to be loud, try to do so outside of the visual and audible spectrum, or at least make it of pleasant tone and color. It was a very valuable experience for me and I have a direction for my future.




Make-A-Wish Internship by Guest Blogger Tiffany Wimenta

TiffanyThis summer I had the privilege of serving as an intern for Make-A-Wish America. Although I did not work directly with wishes (since I was working at the national office), it was still an amazing opportunity to make some real contributions to the mission of the organization — to “grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.” 

Surprisingly, I was able to use my undergraduate education in security and intelligence throughout my internship. You’re probably really confused right about now. Most people are. You’re probably thinking: “What are you doing interning at Make-A-Wish with your educational background? I don’t see the connection. How did you manage to use your education?” I’ll put the pieces together for you friends. I worked a lot with international wishes. Every morning, I came into the office, got my coffee, and pulled up various news sources to monitor what was occurring around the world that may affect international travel or our wish families abroad – so basically, I gave my supervisor situation reports every day. I was able to develop content to help our wish families be safe and knowledgeable while traveling internationally. I also got to work closely with the Rio 2016 Olympics Wishes, creating a detailed situation report on the internal state of Rio and Brazil (including crime, financial crisis, political unrest, and health concerns), the security preparedness for the Olympics, and terrorist developments (threats and arrests) related to the event. Now, I definitely was not expecting to use my education so much during this internship (well, I didn’t expect to at all), but I am glad that it worked out and I was able to make some pretty meaningful contributions to the organization.

In addition to working with international wishes, I was also able to independently develop content for volunteer managers so that they can more easily provide opportunities for youth under the age of 18 to get involved with the organization. You’re probably asking now, “How did you end up there anyway?” Well, I decided to throw my plan for my future away. That’s right, I started from scratch. I decided I didn’t want the life I thought I wanted before. Once that door closed, SO MANY MORE opened. The Peace Corps. Non-Profits. The possibilities seemed endless, which I will admit was TERRIFYING to me. I always had a plan. I always had some idea of where my life was going. I could see it 10, 20, 30 years out. I knew what my life would look like. That fall though, all certainty went out the window.

Eventually, I figured it out (well, for the most part). I have a direction now. Although it may not be 20 years out, at least I know I am going somewhere. I decided that I would like to pursue a masters degree in public policy or public administration with a focus in non-profit organizations, as well as EITHER international development or political decision making (at least, that’s the direction I have at the moment. I still need to feel it all out, but I know the path I am meant to take will reveal itself to me in time and through experience). So back to Make-A-Wish… this was my starting point to my new dreams and goals. AND WHAT AN AMAZING PLACE TO START! I look forward to continuing my relationship with the organization as a Wish Granter Volunteer for the Arizona chapter. I have my training this Saturday!!! It will be such a rewarding experience to work hands-on with granting the wishes of these children.


Other than being able to grow under the wings of this amazing, respectable non-profit organization, I also had the privilege to work alongside passionate, driven people who are dedicated to bringing a little more light into the world. Not only the staff, but my fellow interns made this experience and this summer the best I have had so far. They are friends I hope to keep for a long time. We were a group of people who came from many different backgrounds and experiences in life, in various places in our lives, and who are all very individual in our characteristics; but we became that group of friends that you always hope find. We were there for each other for laughs and tears, in love and heartbreak, for fun and work, to give an encouraging word and the hard truth. I am grateful to have shared this experience with such an amazing group of people who I deeply respect and who I believe will do great things in their lives. I can’t wait to see where our paths lead.


LIGO Proved Gravitational Waves Exist and I Helped!

Sophia interferometers (002)Well the cat’s out of the bag: the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Collaboration, or the LIGO Collaboration, has detected and confirmed the existence of gravitational waves.  Finally, I don’t have to giggle to myself as my friends ask why I am doing research on a project that had such a small chance of success.  Finally, I don’t have to keep secret about one of the biggest discoveries in the modern science, something I have known about since September when it was detected.  It is an exciting time, not just to see the amazing results of a project that I am a small, insignificant part of, but also because that means that a completely new field of research has just opened up, gravitational wave astronomy.

Gravitational wave

Gravitational wave

First, let me explain a bit about gravitational waves, if you haven’t already seen the countless videos.  Gravitational waves were first predicted by Einstein in 1916 when he formulated the idea of general relativity.





In essence, they are the perturbations, or ripples, in the fabric of space and time.  They are emitted from massive systems, like coalescing two black holes converging and merging into one, which is actually what LIGO detected, or giant cataclysms like supernovae.  They are a confirmation of a theory we have been using for a century, but they are also a new tool we can use to probe the universe.  As the comparison goes, “As Galileo’s telescope opened our eyes to the universe, gravitational waves have opened our ears.”

The best part is that I can be a part of the research during this era of discovery, even though I am only an undergraduate student.  Embry-Riddle is a host to many esteemed faculty that do research and encourage their students to do research, and there is an entire department dedicated to student research in the form of the Undergraduate Research Institute run by Dr. Anne Boettcher.  In fact, three professors in the physics department – Dr. Michele Zanolin, Dr. Brennan Hughey, and Dr. Andri Gretarsson – are involved in the LIGO experiment, and actually are the only scientists in the whole Four Corners area (Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado) that are pursuing this research.

Research for undergraduate students is incredibly important, but also highly demanding.  I work ten hours a week, reading papers on high-level statistics, writing proofs, learning to code, and analyzing data.  It requires a lot of concentration and persistence, especially since I have had to learn a completely new set of skills and knowledge.  And it means that as a student, I have to take initiative and follow through on something I am not receiving a grade for.  But in the end, I don’t regret it, since I was able to sit in the conference room at 8:30 am and watch the live press release of something amazing.  Since I was able to be a part of something bigger than I was.  Since I have learned so much about something so fascinating that otherwise I would have known nothing about.  And in the end, we discovered gravitational waves!Sophia

Sophia Schwalbe is a Junior in Space Physics, in Air Force ROTC and the Honors Program, and has participated in research with LIGO.

Forensic Biology Internship: My Summer of Corpses at a Coroner’s Office

Guest Blog by Rebecca Long and Danica Murphy, Juniors in Forensic Biology

IMG_6764 small“This morning we are going to examine a homicide victim,” Dr. Kurtzman said.  The victim had been dead four days; there was skin slippage, dried blood, a mutilated face, and forty-six stab wounds. This was the beginning of the second day of our internship. Yikes, how were we going to handle this? As forensic biology majors, we were encouraged to explore the different fields of forensics and we decided we both wanted to be forensic pathologists. This isn’t the type of profession that can be experienced through movies or textbooks. We needed to experience the sights, smells, and sounds of the dead. Much to our surprise, we both fell in love with the profession and this summer internship changed our lives in only six amazing weeks.

IMG_6581 As an undergraduate student having the opportunity to work in a coroner’s office is unheard of. As we started to explore our options for an internship we experienced several email responses that were polite, but very disappointing. Most of the responses simply said, “Sorry, we cannot accommodate undergraduate students because we have contracts with medical schools. Best of luck!” We went to Security and Intelligence Studies professor Dr. Bozeman discouraged by the responses. Dr. Bozeman said he would try and contact some of his old colleagues and see what he could find. He is a retired homicide detective and mentor for the ERAU AISOCC (American Investigative Society of Cold Cases) student chapter. Within a few weeks Dr. Bozeman had secured an opportunity of a life-time for the two of us!


Over the summer, we worked under the direction of Dr. Kurtzman at the Grand Junction, CO coroner’s office. In the six weeks we were there, We observed twenty-one autopsies that included natural deaths, accidental deaths, suicides and homicides. Our patients ranged in age from babies to elderly. The sights, sounds, and smells were like nothing we could ever describe or forget. The smell of gases inside a decaying body is worse than any form of rotten meat or milk we have ever experienced. The sounds a body makes post mortem are eerie and disturbing, and the actual process of the autopsy is much more bloody and unsettling than anything they show you on the television shows.


Becca: I had worked as a volunteer in a hospital the summer before and during that experience I had the opportunity to observe a circumcision on a newborn baby.  I had no idea what to expect and from the combination of the blood, the scalpel and the baby screaming it really bothered me and I passed out. Super embarrassing!  However, with my autopsy experience I didn’t have any problems I’m happy to report.  I was concerned about it, but the dead never cry, complain, or respond to pain which is what I found difficult with the baby during the procedure.


Danica: I had never seen a dead body before and was nervous for how I would react.  The first body was the toughest because all I could think about was how a person was lying there which ate me up inside. I had to learn to treat each body as a case and look for the reason why they passed away. Finding the cause of death would help doctors find what the major contributing factors to death are in different communities as well as provide answers to grieving families.


IMG_6638 smallAfter the six weeks of working at the morgue and falling in love with the field of forensic pathology, we were thankful for the classes we had taken to prepare us for the internship. These courses included anatomy & physiology, microbiology, and forensic investigation and techniques. Without these courses we would have been lost and confused during our work. The doctor spoke in a language unique to the field of medicine and the concepts we discussed were specific to information I had learned in these classes.

This internship provided us with so much more knowledge for the field of pathology and allowed us to find out if we were on the right career path. Dr. Kurtzman said on our first day with him that if he did his job correctly, we would both end up wanting to become forensic pathologists. After completing our internship, we can both agree he was right! We made so many memories in our short time in Grand Junction and we want everyone to be able to experience their dream career like we were able to do!


Update on my Internship!

Hello from Seattle! I am about ready to begin week 9 of my awesome internship and so far, it has been surreal. Wait. Week 9?? Already?? How am I almost done? Times really does ‘fly’ when you are having fun! As much as I want to share every minute detail of my internship, sadly I cannot; due to the company’s privacy policy. However, I will give a general picture of what I have been up to!

My desk

The first few weeks were mainly updating aircraft manuals (pages upon pages of them) and swapping them out on board the aircraft. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the most thrilling project, but when we got to got to the aircraft to swap them out, that was awesome! The next few weeks were full of little projects around the different departments like the technical pilots, flight operations administration, and technical publications in Flight Operations. I currently have 3 projects that I am working on which all involve different things. Without getting into too much detail, I am working with the ACARS system (the magical computer box that you can program routes, performance, flight plans, etc into), an Operations Specification (Ops Spec), and a taxi time project where the other intern and I have to travel to Anchorage and LAX and, of course, Seattle to complete it!

Working on the taxi project

Other things I have done are helping out in the 737 simulators, tours of ATC and airport facilities and helping out over at the corporate building. One thing that is interesting is there is always food somewhere in the building. One day every month, without fail, there is “the food cube” in one spot of the office. It becomes “active” when food has been brought in. Various employees bring in food, under no obligation, to share and eat! Here is what it looked like one week.

The food cube

As far as how I feel about the internship, it has honestly been the most amazing and incredible experience of my life! The people at Alaska Airlines are one of a kind. They are kind and welcoming and really care about you as a person. I talk with the Manager of Flight Operations and the Chief Pilot everyday and both of them always stop to ask how I am doing, regardless of their busy schedule. I am incredibly fortunate to be interning with them and I know it will be really hard to leave when the internship is over. I will keep you updated on more cool stuff next week!

Prescott Valley Police Department

As promised before, I want to share my experiences with my new internship at the Prescott Valley Police Department. Unfortunately, I have not found too much free time to head over there too often, but the time I do set aside has been well worth it! I had the chance to go on a patrol ride with another Volunteer. He is actually attending graduate school at Riddle. (small world!) He is a really nice guy and he helped me to learn a lot more about law enforcement. Unfortunately, there was not too much excitement the day we went out for a ride. One guy ran out of gas at an intersection, so we got to direct traffic. There was also a car accident with a school bus (no one was harmed). Looked like the lady driving the car was not paying attention and rear-ended the bus driver. We stayed on the scene until officials came and took over. We wrote a few parking tickets, and did some house-watch requests. It was pretty fun!

I also spent some time trying to perfect my recovery of fingerprints on objects such as glasses and windows. It is a LOT harder than it looks. But it was a great learning experience and the head of the forensics department told me that my lifted prints looked better than some of the officers’. (shhh…we do not want to hurt their feelings. ha ha)

Just recently, I had the opportunity to go to Flagstaff to the big forensics/evidence lab. We took evidence from 5 different police stations around here (Prescott, Prescott Valley, Sheriff’s Department, Chino, and the Indian Reservation) and put them in the evidence van and took it all to the lab in Flagstaff. It was a nice drive. I learned a lot more about the chain of custody and how important it is to log everything that is done with the evidence because it will be used later in court. It is really interesting!

If you are interested and intrigued with security, forensics, and/or working for the government or law enforcement, I would really suggest volunteering for your local police department. They are all very helpful individuals and they are very willing to teach you as much as they know and once you have worked with them, I bet you any one of them would be willing to write you a nice letter of recommendation which will come handy once you are looking into a future career in the government. It is a lot of fun and educational!