Mark Moran [00:00:02] Hi, welcome to TGen Talks. I'm Mark Moran. Theory can take a student only so far. It's a practice that often sparks a student's creativity and passion. Those hands-on experiences make a lasting impact. The engagement with a skilled mentor can open new doors, showcase new ways to approach a topic, excite a student to consider paths and ignite career opportunities that have the potential to change the world. Today, we're talking about internships and how, for many, they become the deciding factor in whether or not to pursue a particular career. The Helios Scholars at TGen is a summer internship program that offers students the opportunity to spend a summer honing their skills side by side with TGen and faculty and staff. It's a program that provides a first-hand look at careers in biomedical science from bench to bedside. They gain a well-rounded view of what it takes to lead a laboratory. 2021 marks the 14th year of Helios Scholars at TGen and Kristen Kaus, supervisor of education and outreach, joins us today to talk about the program, how it serves as a springboard for many students and what to look forward to as the summer program opens its application process in early December. Kristen, welcome.
Kristen Kaus [00:01:23] Thank you for having me.
Mark Moran [00:01:25] Let's talk a little about the program. First of all, what is the Helios Scholars at TGen program and what does it entail?
Kristen Kaus [00:01:32] The Helios Scholars Program at TGen is an eight week paid internship program where you're working on authentic research projects with our scientists and mentors. So I love that it allows the students an opportunity to learn the science as well as give them professional development opportunities throughout the entire summer.
Mark Moran [00:01:52] And who's it designed for specifically?
Kristen Kaus [00:01:54] The Helios Scholars program is designed for undergraduate students as well as graduate students. For those students that are interested in science research, potentially becoming doctors, anybody who really has that interest and passion in science research overall.
Mark Moran [00:02:10] So pretty broad. Very, very broad.
Kristen Kaus [00:02:12] Yes, very broad.
Mark Moran [00:02:13] And what makes it really special?
Kristen Kaus [00:02:16] I think what makes it really special is that it's very student-oriented. We're really focused on making sure that those students are successful through those eight weeks that they're working with us, really opening up their eyes to potential career opportunities. It's a very well funded by our amazing funders, the Helios Education Foundation. They do a lot to make sure that this is a great opportunity for students to be able to spread their wings and fly into future careers.
Mark Moran [00:02:45] So if I'm a student, from my perspective, what can I expect if I'm accepted into the Helio Scholars program
Kristen Kaus [00:02:53] So, what to expect if you're accepted into the program would be to work with a lab on-site or off-site depending on this year, and you'd be working with a mentor
Kristen Kaus [00:03:05] They will be giving you a project that's really your own project to work with. Then, as you're working through the project, you'll be introduced to other lab members and other projects that are happening within the lab. You'll be taking part in the lab meetings and giving your feedback on other people's research that they're doing. So you're really becoming part of the culture of TGen.
Mark Moran [00:03:25] Do you have some specific examples, some success stories you want to share with us?
Kristen Kaus [00:03:28] I do. So we have an intern right now that's still working with us. He came to us in 2019 as a finance major and he has since after spending eight weeks with us over the summer in 2019, has changed his major and is going into biomedical research more at this point. He's graduating this year as a senior at ASU and he is currently looking for a PhD program.
Mark Moran [00:03:54] Wow. How did he go from finance to biomedical science? What made him interested in an internship at TGen? Talk about being broad.
Kristen Kaus [00:04:01] Very broad. He's very interested in numbers. And so we aren't just a bunch of lab science. We also have bioinformaticians. And those bioinformaticians also need to do some data analysis. And so those numbers and those that interest the numbers really lead him into the bioinformatics space that he's currently working in today.
Mark Moran [00:04:19] 14 years... That's a lot of programs. That's a lot of students. How many students is that roughly? And do you follow your alumni after graduation?
Kristen Kaus [00:04:27] Yeah, we have approximately 550 alumni at this point in time, and we do reach out to them on a regular basis. We have alumni at this point who are radiology oncologists, MDs, researchers. Really, the sky is the limit. But we do make sure we're reaching out to our alumni on a regular basis just to touch base and see what they're doing and up to.
Mark Moran [00:04:51] You're listening to TGen Talks. I'm Mark Moran, Kristen Kaus, supervisor of education and outreach. She's our guest today on TGen Talks. So, we've talked a little about the program. What about the process, specifically, what will it look like if we still can't gather in-person over the summer, for example?
Kristen Kaus [00:05:06] Last year we had to make a game-day decision to modify the program from an in-person to virtual just due to Covid-19. And we were able to not just host 45 scholars, but we were able to open up virtually to all 150 finalists for the program.
Mark Moran [00:05:24] Wow.
Kristen Kaus [00:05:24] So we had three to four days a week of programming for those eight weeks for those students where they could join us virtually, and they could learn professional skills. They could learn networking, basic career, soft skills from resume building to LinkedIn networking. And we were also giving them scientific knowledge, as well as our mentors and scientists, were giving them presentations throughout the summer.
Mark Moran [00:05:48] Obviously, it shifted the hands-on focus of some of the in-lab type things but sounds like you made some great successes in other areas and bolstered other areas of the internship program as a result.
Kristen Kaus [00:06:00] It was great that we were able to offer to so many students. We had typically about 100 students with us every single day. They were still able to network and meet new people through the summer, which was our concern was that networking piece. We really want to make sure that they feel like they're part of the program. And I think that Amanda did a wonderful job making sure that that was upheld throughout the summer.
Mark Moran [00:06:21] And Amanda is a coordinator?
Kristen Kaus [00:06:23] Amanda is our specialist for education and outreach. So she really does a lot to oversee our Helios Scholars Program. She's also a 10-year bench researcher here at TGen. So, it's nice to have pulled her from the lab. She really knows the science that's going on.
Mark Moran [00:06:38] What are the students say about what kind of feedback did you get?
Kristen Kaus [00:06:41] An overwhelming response with a positive that so many programs were canceled last summer and we were still able to provide an educational experience, as well as a networking experience for the students.
Mark Moran [00:06:54] Still very forward-thinking, even though it was done virtually. When does the program start?
Kristen Kaus [00:06:59] Our program this upcoming summer in 2021 will be starting on June 8th. And then we'll have our Grand Symposium, which is where we celebrate the research for the summer, at the beginning of August on August 3rd.
Mark Moran [00:07:13] What makes a strong candidate?
Kristen Kaus [00:07:15] A strong candidate is somebody who has an interest in learning. Really, we are not looking for strong amounts of experience or even any experience. We have high school seniors that have just graduated that have never touched a pipette that walk away after eight weeks as valid scientists in the field.
Mark Moran [00:07:33] Kristen, you mentioned the Helios Education Foundation and the importance of their funding. Expand on that just a little bit.
Kristen Kaus [00:07:41] Absolutely. So the mission of the Helios Education Foundation is to enrich the lives of individuals and Arizona and Florida by creating opportunities for success in post-secondary education. And so we reached out here at TGen about fifteen years ago proposing this program and they jumped on board. The past 15 years would not have been possible without the Helios Education Foundation. Through their initial support of the program, they've remained extremely engaged. They come to our program activities, they talk to the students and they're very supportive.
Mark Moran [00:08:15] So they have been very invested in the students' success, not only in the past but presently. What does the future look like?
Kristen Kaus [00:08:21] Well, the funding that we have, it was for about twenty years but as we're looking at the investment, we should be able to continue on through twenty-five years at this point in time. And so, again, that support that we have from the Helios Education Foundation is amazing. I know that, for example, this past year when we had to make a really quick decision about moving from an in-person for 45 students to a virtual for 150, we reached out to Helios Education Foundation to ask for their support and they gave us 100 percent support. So it's so nice to have funders and that funding partnership where you find that support with what you're giving to the student population and so the individuals from Helios Education Foundation are just amazing to work with, they're one of the greatest partnerships that we have here at TGen in my opinion, I might be skewed because I'm education, but the ability to reach and touch so many lives over the past 14 years, that's just an amazing accomplishment. And to see where those alumni have gone in that time since they've been here with us, it's just a great thing to see.
Mark Moran [00:09:33] Skewed or not. Twenty-five years is a significant and substantial investment. You don't see that in the nonprofit sector. Usually, it's a few years at best. And you're busy trying to keep up with the paperwork to keep the funding going. And they have made a substantial investment.
Kristen Kaus [00:09:49] Yes. And they have not only invested in our Helios Education Foundation but for the past three years, they've also invested in our Bioscience Leadership Academy, which is for our high school students.
Mark Moran [00:09:58] What is the application process look like? What should I expect?
Kristen Kaus [00:10:01] The applications this year are opening on December 14th and they close on February 5th. Our applications are actually pretty simplistic, I think. We're looking for some basic resume information, although we don't have you upload a resume, we just have you kind of added into our form and then you have a personal statement where you're telling us why, TGen? Why do you want to come to work for us for eight weeks? Why do you want to be part of the TGen team, so to speak? And then to letters of recommendation from a professional references or even personal references. We do require one professional. I usually recommend somebody in a scientific field or lab course that you've been part of, but it's really whoever you want to choose for your letter of recommendation.
Mark Moran [00:10:46] OK, and do you have some tips for those who are applying?
Kristen Kaus [00:10:50] I do have tips. I'll start with letters of recommendation. When you're asking somebody for a letter of recommendation, I always recommend that you are reaching out to them and giving them some information about you, three or four things that you've been part of or you've done just so they can beef up that letter of recommendation. So it's more personalized to you. As well in your personal statement, usually we're looking for how TGen will benefit you in the long run, what labs you're really most interested in, and that allows Amanda and I to make sure that we place your application, if you become a finalist, to the right lab pool so they can look into you.
Mark Moran [00:11:28] You mentioned the deadlines and the timelines. I would assume it's important to give people who are writing letters of recommendation for you plenty of time to get this done.
Kristen Kaus [00:11:38] True. As a former teacher, I've had a lot of students come to me at the final deadline, whether I've got one day to get something submitted and I wasn't able to give them as good of a letter of recommendation as I would have liked to. We did decide to open up the application window early this year just so that people had more time to reach out to those individuals, knowing that life is a little bit different with covid, making sure that you are giving them plenty of time and even reaching out now if you know that you're going to apply reaching out now to ask for that letter of recommendation. So it's ready to go so that when our program in our system sends them an email, all they need to do is copy and paste.
Mark Moran [00:12:15] And since it sounds as though this is a program built intended for students to succeed, getting things done early or on time even would be beneficial to them.
Kristen Kaus [00:12:26] We're very specific on the application closing window. So it closes this year, February 5th at five p.m. 2021. And we do that just because it is competitive. And there are several times that we've seen that students' letters of recommendation haven't been in on time and so they're not able to move forward in the application process.
Mark Moran [00:12:47] So, let's recap those deadlines and timelines one more time for everything.
Kristen Kaus [00:12:50] So our applications this year are opening on December 14th and they close on February 5th, 2021 at 5 pm Arizona time.
Mark Moran [00:13:00] So, where do I go to get some more information if I'm interested?
Kristen Kaus [00:13:03] You can look at our website for more information. It's TGen.org/intern ss well, you can always reach out to Amanda or me via email. My email is [email protected] And [email protected]
Mark Moran [00:13:25] Very good. Kristen, thanks much for your time today. And again, being very active in the community, being very focused on students as well as the general scientific community. Thanks for being here.
Kristen Kaus [00:13:34] Thank you for having me.
Mark Moran [00:13:35] Kristen Kaus is the supervisor of education and outreach at TGen and she joined us today on TGen Talks. If you'd like to hear other episodes of TGen Talks, visit TGen.org/tgentalks. TGen is an affiliate of City of Hope. Thanks for joining us. I'm Mark Moran.