In Her Element: STEM Student's Summer Internship in Politics


The summer before starting her graduate studies in Biotechnology at Kean University, and just weeks after graduating from Kean with a Bachelor of Arts in science and technology, Chelsea Mann ’17 worked at a summer internship––in politics. It wasn’t a typical path for a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) major from Greentown, PA. The position didn’t involve her usual activities of drawing chemical compound structures or experimenting with organic synthesis, but it proved that a career in STEM can take many forms.

As a science and environment intern for Assemblyman Daniel Benson, Mann drafted articles on STEM-related news, updates and legislative policies. She also sat in on voting sessions, hearings and Assembly meetings at the New Jersey State House, witnessing the legislative process as bills dealing with some of the state’s most pressing issues moved through the legislature.

“As a future scientist, I learned how much the political world affects my research, work and opportunities,” said Mann, who is now enrolled in Kean’s Master of Science in Biotechnology Science program. “I was able to utilize the resources I learned at Kean and to incorporate what I knew about scientific writing to create more politically focused pieces.”

Making a connection between the two fields of study was challenging, but Mann tapped into the academic rigor, discipline, time management and collaborative spirit she developed at Kean to get the job done.

“As part of the STEM program, I learned how to search for articles and break them down and, more importantly, how to prepare my own research papers using established publishing standards,” she said. “So when it came to drafting articles for Assemblyman Benson’s science blog, I used what I had already learned to generate excellent pieces.”

In addition to her studies in Kean’s New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics (NJCSTM), Mann earned multiple NCAA-All Academic Honors as a player for the Cougars’ field hockey team and was an active member of the Alpha Sigma and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies.

It also helped that Mann was familiar with her employer. Her senior year, she was named a 2017 New Jersey Governor's STEM Scholar. As part of the highly competitive program, she led a research team of high school students and established connections with some of the state’s top pharmaceutical researchers and companies. It was during that time that Assemblyman Benson recruited Mann for the internship.

“The position wasn’t typical for someone majoring in science, but the internship taught me to take every opportunity, even if it doesn’t seem to fit your path,” said Mann, who earned her undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, in cellular and molecular biology with a minor in analytical chemistry from Kean in May of 2017.

“The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that success won’t happen on its own––you have to put in the work,” she said. “It is important that we recognize that every experience––whether we fail, succeed, learn from it or simply enjoy the moment––prepares us for the future.”  

While Mann may leave behind the labs of Kean University when she graduates with her master’s degree in the spring of 2018, she plans to continue to rely on her proven formula of success to guide her career –  a world-class Kean education, extensive research experience and ambition.


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