Students completing summer internships locally and around globe

Students completing summer internships locally and around globe

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Callan Tweedie’s new best friend, Nick, is a European fellow, and while she doesn’t have his language quite mastered, they have been having some good interchanges this summer as they hang around the water near Rostock, Germany.

When she tells him hoch, he’ll jump out of the water and touch her hand. When she commands sag was, he will indeed speak to her. And when she suggests flosse, he’ll offer his appendage.

Of course, the 270+-pound Nick touches her hand with his nose, speaks in barks and growls and instead of a hand offers her his flipper.

Harbor seals are like that.

Tweedie, 20, is working with Nick and other seals and sea lions thanks to the Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) scholarship she landed from the prestigious German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the German government’s scholarship and educational agency for international students.

The rising senior biology major (with a German studies minor and honors concentration) at Rowan University won the scholarship and internship from among 17 applicants from around the world.

For three months, she is working at the Marine Science Center in Rostock, helping a Ph.D. student from the Universität Rostock with his research project that involves studying how harbor seals travel and recall their routes back to their starting point.

During her internship, Tweedie is living at the Center in the Hohe Düne Marina, just next to the small town of Warnemünde, on a boat called the Lichtenberg. The boat is outfitted with a full-sized kitchen and dining room, three bedrooms, eight offices and a classroom. She has worked with students from the United States, Holland and China, as well as Germany.

“Nine harbor seals and three sea lions live in the enclosure around the boat. The sea lions – all they do is play night and day. They know all the same commands as the seals, but because they want to play, everything is a game to them,” she said. “I’ve gotten used to hearing sea lions barking all day and night. Not hearing them after I return home will be sad!”

Tweedie, from Glassboro, helps set up experiments, take measurements and analyze data. She also is assisting several other students at the research center who are working on their Ph.D. projects.

She’s not just fond of Nick; she also appreciates his abilities. He has learned to distinguish certain distances and has memorized various ones. The research team rewards each success with positive reinforcement: a scoop of Baltic herring.

Teams at the Center conduct extensive research, most focused on how seals travel in the wild, studying their movements, their ability to avoid obstacles and the way they find food in the brackish water in Germany that diminishes visibility.

The work may impact bionics, which applies the way living things function to mechanical systems. Eventually, researchers could use the data for designing robots, said Tweedie, who also conducts medical exams on the animals.

“I am learning a lot of animal training. I am learning the commands that they know in German and learning how to work with them properly. They are incredibly smart animals, and I'm enjoying this part very much,” Tweedie noted. 

While the internship comes with much work, the opportunity also allows for some fun.

“I got the chance to swim with two of the seals, Sam and Luca, one weekend. Visitors pay roughly $280 to do this, and my mentor let me do it for free. It was amazing,” said Tweedie, who lived in Germany for a year as a child and has visited a few times since then.

She also spent a week in Berlin, visiting her sister, Tara, and she plans to return there and visit Rostock and some other towns before coming home in August. “I travel to Warnemünde often, which is the closet town to the marina that I live in. It is an adorable town with a beach and many cute shops and restaurants,” she said.

Before she heads home in August, Tweedie – who hopes to become a veterinarian – will present on the research she has conducted to several hundred people attending the DAAD RISE conference in Heidelberg, Germany.

While Tweedie is working with seals, students throughout the University are undertaking internships this summer that build on their education and prepare them for the future. They include:

Landing at GMA

Senior Leon Purvis, a Radio, Television & Film/Journalism dual major, this summer is working his FIFTH internship, a highly sought position with ABC’s Good Morning America show in New York City.

Purvis, 22, of Glassboro, whose previous internships include stints at 6ABC Action News and iHeart Media in Philadelphia, TownSquare Media in Atlantic City and, most recently, The Ellen DeGeneres Show in Los Angeles this spring, pines for his own syndicated radio and/or TV talk show, a la Steve Harvey, and knows the path to his dreams will be paved with experience and hard work.

But Purvis, who also knows that by continually building on his experiences he’ll better position himself for that dream career, did not wait for summer to build it. During the school year he’s a staff writer for The Whit student newspaper, a station member and on-air personality for Rowan Radio 89.7 WGLS-FM, a member of the Rowan Television Network and the political field reporter for RTN news.

He brought his deep interest in politics to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last year where, as a student reporter credentialed to help cover it for a summer journalism class, he met civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga., 5th)

As for his 40-hour per week GMA internship, Purvis commutes from Glassboro each morning, catches a train from Trenton into Penn Station and a subway to the Times Square studio to arrive by 6 a.m. There, duties run from the glamourous (interaction with anchors George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts and Michael Strahan) to the mundane (performing office tasks and answering phones) to the absolutely critical (assisting with scripts, helping guests get where they need to be and attending editorial meetings at the uptown ABC News Building where interns are encouraged to pitch story ideas to executives and producers).

Purvis landed the Ellen internship in part through a Rowan connection but found his way to GMA through pure moxie.

“I applied online, like everyone else,” Purvis said. “However, I didn’t want to wait until I heard something back, because I really wanted to intern at GMA this summer, so I found a former GMA intern on Twitter and connected. (The former intern) gave me some contacts . . . one thing lead to the next, and then I got a phone call when I was on my lunch break at the Ellen show saying I got the internship.”

Interning with NBA

Meanwhile, in Rowan’s William G. Rohrer College of Business, four students are serving as special projects interns for the National Basketball Association in Secaucus, New Jersey. They include accounting and finance majors Daniel Miller of Ringwood and Alec Silvers of South Bound Brook and accounting majors Nick Fiore of Sicklerville and Melissa Arguello of South Plainfield.

Additionally, RCB rising senior Andrea Rodriguez of Garfield is a summer intern with L’Oreal in New York City.

Protecting the Land

In the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Ashvin Kumar, a rising senior political science and economics major from Mahwah, is interning as a land conservation apprentice at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. There, Kumar is working side by side with foundation staff to learn natural resource management principles and conservation practices of open space and farmland.

Assisting Youth

Also in CHSS, rising junior Law & Justice and Africana Studies major Quenaija Gill of Camden is interning as a “life coach” with Hopeworks ‘N Camden, a non-profit organization that serves Camden youth. Gill is helping young people to set goals and develop viable plans for the future.