Two-internship summer gives Kelechi Onuoha ’23 a leg up for future
Accomplished Saint Michael's student completes virtual collaboration with Vietnam agency promoting improved healthcare for women and youth; then it was off to Ohio for prestigious National Science Foundation lab experience
Kelechi Onuoha ’23 has made the most of her opportunities at Saint Michael’s College, particularly this past summer when she completed two challenging but rewarding internships – one a virtual experience with a center in Vietnam that promotes better healthcare for women and youth and fights domestic violence, and the other a prestigious National Science Foundation research lab experience at Miami University in Ohio.
Here is Kelechi’s own account of how and why she chose Saint Michael’s; she also describes much of what she has achieved so far in academics and extracurricular activities, culminating in her recent summer internships, which she describes with more detail:
“My name is Kelechi Onuoha, although everyone on campus knows me as KC. I am a junior and biology major with a pre-med concentration. I am secretary of community engagement, an RA, and work in the biology and chemistry departments.
It seems like just yesterday, I was visiting St. Mike’s for the first time. During my sophomore year in high school, I received the Book Award for Academic Achievement and Social Conscience. I was shocked and indifferent about receiving such a prestigious award because I felt that I did not embody its purpose. When I realized the location of the college was Vermont, six hours away from my hometown in Pennsylvania, I quickly dismissed the thought of going out of state. Two weeks before decision day, my older brother convinced me to tour the school. He said to me, “Vermont means Green Mountain, isn’t that enough for you to visit? Green mountains ensure that wherever you go, you will be fruitful, productive, prosperous, and successful.”
When I first stepped foot on campus, I immediately felt peaceful and at home. I am truly honored to be a part of Saint Michael’s Community. I am grateful to be connected to such great, talented, compassionate, and creative people through resident life, student government, and science departments. Saint Mike’s has such a warm and positive atmosphere that I was given no choice but to love. I could not ask for a better group of friends or faculty. In a short period of time, this college has become my home and a place that I have associated with love. Every day, I strive to uphold the qualities of a Book Award recipient, which is volunteerism and leadership in my community.
This summer I spent my time working in Professor Michael Crowder’s research lab at Miami University in Ohio. We investigated the evolutionary pressures that are driving antibiotic resistance. Our goal was to determine the next mutated bacteria to prevent its resistance in the future.
This program was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and provided advanced training in chemistry and biochemistry. In addition to cutting-edge research, I also participated in sessions that covered a number of topics associated with professional development, including development of research proposals, scientific presentations, ethics in science, careers in chemistry and biochemistry including science policy, and a few social activities to build a strong cohort. The combination of intense research, professional development, and cohort building will provide me with a well-rounded experience and strong encouragement to start my career as a physician and scientist.
I also participated in a remote internship this summer. The internship site I worked for was the Research and Training Centre for Community Development (RTCCD). This NGO focuses on improving healthcare in women, children and adolescents, and addressing domestic violence and non-communicable diseases.
My responsibilities consisted of writing, editing, and revising research proposals concerning non-communicable diseases (NCDs). This internship has given me a new perspective on international health care and politics. This virtual internship has shaped me into a professional. It taught me that I will not always have knowledge about something and what I should do in response. For example, what if I have a patient whose case I have never seen before, not even in textbooks. What will I do then? I cannot ignore the problem or pretend that it will disappear. I have to address the issue full on. Working remotely has helped me to improve my critical thinking skills, flexibility, mentality, communication, writing, and time management skills.
I learned new things about myself and did things that I never thought I was capable of. I learned a lot about Vietnamese culture that I did not know before. After the pandemic, I would like to travel to Vietnam and visit my local buddies and site supervisors. I want to assist RTCCD in advocating for governmental support concerning people living with NCDs. I want to make a difference. I want to use all the knowledge and skills I acquired from this internship to help Vietnam. I really want to help contribute to advocating for governmental policies relating to NCDs and improving the lives of people. This remote internship has given me a new perspective on what daily life is like in Vietnam compared to the U.S. I gained a better global awareness and would like to use my strengths to better the world around me.”
A Faculty appreciation of student
Professor Ruth Fabian-Fine of the Saint Michael’s biology and neuroscience faculty calls Kelechi “a remarkable woman,” and shared an email exchange with her student this summer about the science-lab internship experience. Kelechi wrote to the St. Mike’s professor:
“I just wanted to express my sincere gratitude for all that you have taught me. Your lessons have come in handy this summer! For example, I had to give several science presentations and I went back to your previous lessons from Biological Communications. Your presentation tips helped so much! I also had to write lab reports, so having a background knowledge about writing a manuscript was extremely helpful. Thank you so much for your recommendation letters, it helped me get this internship in Ohio. Thank you for believing in me. Hard work surely does pay off.”
Fabian-Fine responded: “Kelechi, it is people like you who make my heart skip a beat with joy, when I see how you recognize your potential and focus on your goals. It is YOU and your hard work who deserves the credit for all you have accomplished and will continue to accomplish. I am excited to work with you next semester. Congratulations on your accomplishments.”