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Sanford Research Internships-Discovering the Benefits of Work Experience

If you are a student in high school, you have plenty of decisions to make once you graduate – and Sanford Research wants to help. This year, Elizabeth Aaseng, was one of two Brandon Valley High School students who gained hands-on experience as part of their senior year coursework thanks to an academic internship in a research lab. This incredible opportunity allows students to gain invaluable skills and insights into their chosen field.


Elizabeth was introduced to research through Teen Science Cafe and Biomedical Research Investigation Day in the PROMISE lab at Sanford Research. She sought out Sanford Research as a potential internship for her course and was placed in the Pilaz lab for the semester. 


LJ Pilaz, Ph.D., and his lab look "at a neurological disease called BPAN. I learned a lot about brain development, proteins, and different processes used to look at and quantify neurodegeneration. I worked mostly with Brandon Meyerink (PhD Candidate) in the Pilaz lab. Brandon was great at creating a safe learning environment, so he let me explore and answer questions for myself but also explained things in an understandable way when I needed. He let me ask questions and learn about what I was interested in", said Elizabeth.

Internships allow students to become immersed in a career, not just observe. Through this experience, students learn what it takes to do the job. Elizabeth stated, "I was surprised about how well-rounded one must be to do research. Obviously, I had to understand the science, but I also learned about macros used to process data and did a lot of reading. I collaborated with many other people and learned how to communicate my ideas more effectively. There's no shortage of skills that will make the job easier."


The goal of an internship is to allow students to insert themselves into a workplace to help them visualize what a future could look like in that career. Elizabeth's time at Sanford Research increased her interest in the field. "I am absolutely interested in a career in research. Through this internship, I found out just how much we don't know about the world and that there is never an end to how much we can learn. I still do not know what I'll focus on in the future, but at least now I understand what the career looks like. My favorite part about research is that even a failure brings you a little closer to the truth. Data that was not what you thought it would be only makes you more curious for answers and can help you think differently. I am excited to see what my future in this field holds."


Brady Olson, Internship Coordinator for Brandon Valley High School, was able to visit the research lab and see Elizabeth in action. "I am blown away by the amazing opportunities our BVHS students receive through Sanford Research! Our students are working side-by-side with expert research teams to solve real-world challenges."

Mr. Olson noted that the students were very independent as they worked at the lab bench. "The level of confidence that Sanford Research has in our high school students is incredible. Not only is this a wonderful learning experience, but it also challenges our students to grow personally and professionally." 


The internship experience at Sanford Research is open to students over 16 years of age and are eligible for credit through their academic institution. Application along with a letter of recommendation from a teacher is required. Email the PROMISE team at with questions. Please check with your academic institution for eligibility.