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MSEIP Scholar at UST Lands Summer Internship at FDA

Mary Hidalgo, biology studentIn a first for the University of St. Thomas-Houston’s Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP), MSEIP scholar and biology student Mary Hidalgo has received a national-level government summer intern scholarship to work for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Hidalgo, who expects to graduate in 2025, was thrilled to receive the acceptance email.

Highly Exclusive Internship

“I was so excited I kind of screamed when I got the email,” she said. “It said, ‘Congratulations, you’ve been accepted to this highly exclusive internship…’”

The scholarship is the U.S. Department of Education Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program and U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition 2023 Summer Internship.

For Hidalgo, the assignment is a dream come true.

The St. Thomas student who transferred to UST from St. Edwards in Austin said, “I’m in STEM because I’ve always liked biology, science, and nature, and I’m curious to know how life works. 

Becoming a researcher is her long-term goal.

“I don’t know which field yet, but my heart is leaning toward something to do with evolution,” she added. “There is a wall of human skulls and ancient shells at the Museum of Natural Science, and I’m fascinated by it.”

This summer, Hidalgo hopes to gain experience and insight into how the business of biology works. She is assigned to a project role titled “Support Activities in the Development and Issuance of Field Assignments and Compliance Programs to the Office of Regulatory Affairs.” Specifically, she will “provide coordination and direction with various offices to lead, develop and issue field assignments and compliance programs in support of the agency’s mission to protect the food and cosmetics supply. Design and Support the Office of Compliance in storytelling to explain who we are.”

Other MSEIP Summer Internships

While Hidalgo was the first MSEIP scholar from UST to receive confirmation of her summer internship, another MSEIP mentor and physics major, Lauren Dysarz, got word that she will participate in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) internship outside of Texas this summer.

A number of other students in the program have applied and are waiting to hear. In the meantime, some are already participating in internships at local companies, and others will join UST’s on-campus Summer Research Experience, which is also funded through the University’s MSEIP.

Priceless Experience

Professor of Chemistry and Director of UST's MSEIP, Dr. Richa ChandraDr. Richa Chandra, associate professor of Chemistry and director of UST’s MSEIP, explains why the summer internships are so enriching.

Chandra said, “They allow our students to be genuinely immersed in the careers they are thinking about. It helps them to find meaning and purpose in what they are learning in their classes with real-life problems seen on the job. Furthermore, studies show that students find motivation through internships during college which leads to better persistence, which is especially important in rigorous STEM courses and degrees.”