March 14, 2012
BERKELEY - While many students relish a summer break to spend time at the beach, goofing off and not working, it was quite the opposite for senior gymnast Nic Blair. This past summer, Blair headed back home to North Carolina to intern with a professor at the University of North Carolina. A chemistry major and a native son hailing from Kernersville, Blair prospered in the lab and in his home state. CalBears.com caught up with the high-flying gymnast to find out more about his summer internship.
CalBears.com: How did you hear about the internship? Did you have to interview?
Nic Blair: My brother worked for the same professor, as he graduated from UNC, Chapel Hill, in 2005 with a biology degree. I didn't really interview. It was more of just me meeting the post doc and research professor I was working for.
CalBears.com: In layman's terms, what kind of work did you do? What did your day to day look like?
NB: Microbiological laboratory work and DNA analysis of microorganisms. A typical day consisted of a lot of microscope work, counting cells, DNA amplification using polymerase chain reaction technique, DNA identification through electrophoresis, and methane/sulfide concentration measuring through mass spectroscopy and other various machines. Imagine the stereotypical view of a laboratory and a laboratory technician with gloves and glasses on, and that was me.
CalBears.com: Had you done an internship like this before?
NB: Nope, this was my first real-life job. I actually got to use what I learned in a laboratory for the progression of science instead of a homework assignment.
CalBears.com: How did the internship relate to what you want to do?
NB: I am a chemistry major, and working in the lab is essential and what I live for. Whether it is experiencing chemical applications or biological sciences, I enjoy the technical aspect of a laboratory.
CalBears.com: What are your post-Cal prospects?
NB: I am currently in the process of applying to oilfield service companies, chemical companies, pharmaceutical companies, and research and development positions for various companies. I would like to live and work back in North Carolina.
CalBears.com: What was it like being back in North Carolina for the summer? What parts about North Carolina do you miss and not miss when you're in Berkeley?
NB: I loved it. North Carolina is where my heart is and I hope to go back as my career develops. I love the hot summer days, beach three hours to the east, and mountains three hours to the west. I miss my family and the simplicity of North Carolina when I am in Berkeley. Berkeley and the Bay Area are so high-strung it sometimes gets overwhelming.
CalBears.com: Your hometown of Kernersville is about 65 miles from Chapel Hill. Did you commute?
NB: My brother Justin lives in Durham and works at Duke University, so I lived with him. Chapel Hill is only about 20 minutes from Durham, so I rode my bike, took the bus or drove.
CalBears.com: What kinds of things did you learn from your summer experience?
NB: It made me realize how much being away from home and family makes you appreciate them. It made me love living on my own and not having a lot of stressful deadlines. It made me realize that I love the field I am studying, and I can't wait to start my real career when I graduate.