Mr. Litchfield goes to Washington

October 4, 2013

This Fall term, Bachelor of Science student Marcus Litchfield is not returning to classes. He decided to delay the start of his third year at MacEwan University and head to Washington, D.C., where he begins an internship with the Smithsonian Institution.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was one Marcus couldn’t pass up, even though he and his wife were settled in Edmonton. But they decided this was the best time—before they start building their family—for Marcus to take part in an international internship.

“I’m hoping to be an oncologist one day,” he says, “so to get into medical school, this will be a way to set me apart.”

He came across a poster for the Alberta-Smithsonian Internship Program while he was walking through City Centre Campus. He sought advice from the International Office, because it didn’t appear that the program offered many science-related opportunities.

“There are about 200 different internships through the Smithsonian and only a couple of science-related ones,” says Marcus. “So this is a really good program for people in arts or history.”

MacEwan International found him a Smithsonian internship position in an animal genetics lab at the National Zoo. With help from the International Office staff, he applied and received the internship. On September 24, Marcus was on his way to Washington.

As part of his internship, Marcus—the only undergrad working among graduate and doctoral students—will be involved in researching Central and South American deer. The deer are close to being classified as endangered, and, Marcus says, because they’re not well studied, it’s difficult to tell if they are of the same species.

“Because there is so much diversity in their size and characteristics, we want to be able to have a better understanding of how big the groups actually are,” says Marcus. “Also, we’re supposed to do niche modelling so that we have a better understanding of how to help them and how to calculate how many of them are left.”

He will also work out of the National Museum of Natural History, comparing the deer’s bone structures by using museum samples and conducting DNA sequencing.

“I get to use brand new technology and learn things that I probably wouldn’t get to learn until fourth year or as part of a master’s degree,” he says.

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