Leaving College with a Career Plan

January 30, 2014

A note from Carol Murray, MSS, MLSP, CIRP@CHOP training manager: Today we are pleased to welcome a guest blog post from Lindsay Zajac, a senior at Bucknell University, who shares her insights about her participation in the CHOP Research Institute Summer Scholars Program (CRISSP).

As a second semester senior, I find myself engaging in a lot of self-reflection. Along with my peers, I am asking myself: What do I want to do next?  What is my calling?  How will I achieve my goals? Attending a liberal arts college, I had envisioned multiple career paths for myself – even as a young freshman. Little did I know the impact a summer internship at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP@CHOP) would have on shaping my professional identity.

I joined CIRP@CHOP in the summer of 2013 when I participated in the CHOP Research Institute Summer Scholars Program (CRISSP). Working under the supervision of Dr. Meghan Marsac and Dr. Nancy Kassam-Adams, I assisted with research studies designed to increase understanding of how to best help children coping with pediatric injury and illness. 

My time at CIRP@CHOP was an invaluable learning experience, as it exposed me to the rewards of conducting behavioral research for a pediatric population. Every morning when I commuted into the city I genuinely looked forward to my upcoming day. While there were some things I could count on (e.g., great conversations with other trainees or support from my mentors), there were other aspects of my day that were unpredictable. For example, I never knew how many families would be willing to participate in the research studies, and there was a range of reasons that brought children to the hospital. On a single day, it was not uncommon for me to meet a child there due to a car accident and another due to a sports-related injury. One way or another, every child I met brought a smile to my face.

Unlike other internship experiences of my fellow students at Bucknell University, my CIRP@CHOP training was unique because I was introduced to clinical, innovative, and multidisciplinary research and given the opportunity to make significant contributions to multiple projects. Over the summer, my primary (and favorite) role involved approaching and enrolling families to participate in the studies while they were at the hospital. The mentoring I received also was truly one of a kind, which was illustrated by frequent meetings with my mentors and their thoughtful advice. Along with enhancing my research skills, I benefited from multiple pre-professional development opportunities, including attending seminars concerning grant writing, work-life balance, and the graduate school application process.  

My experience at CIRP has ignited my passion for research and solidified my strong desire to pursue a career in clinical psychology. My goal is to eventually work as a clinical researcher and child clinical psychologist to promote optimal functioning for children and families. I am very interested in understanding how families and children cope with significant life stressors (e.g., poverty or chronic pediatric illness) and the mechanisms through which children develop resiliency. Through my interactions with the families at CHOP, I witnessed firsthand how parents and children use different coping strategies and the importance of developing preventive interventions. 

I also didn’t expect my CIRP@CHOP experience to inspire me to give back and mentor younger undergraduate students at Bucknell, but it did! I am now in the midst of organizing an internship panel, specifically for Psychology students. I want to share what I learned with other students. I can’t thank Dr. Marsac and Dr. Kassas-Adams enough for helping me to define a career trajectory.