Heather Fryhle
Undergrad: Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA - Chemistry
Track: Polymer Science
Internship: Nike IHM
Currently at Nike IHM

 

How did you find yourself at Oregon and what about the program intrigued you?

At the end of my senior year, I remember feeling like my post-grad options were very limited. At the time, I was under the impression that the only two options for chemistry majors were Ph.D programs, or finding jobs in industry. Not knowing what industry was like or if it would be a good fit for me, I was hesitant to apply for a full-time position. So I began applying for Ph.D programs, without any real goal or area of interest. It felt like I was just applying for lack of a better option, but in the back of my mind I knew it wasn’t what I wanted. I learned of the program at Oregon when I was presenting my research at an undergraduate research symposium in Washington, where Lynde had a booth. The program was intriguing to me because, not only was it only a year (instead of a full five years for a Ph.D.), it would allow me to test the waters of industry by doing a 9-month internship. In addition, I loved the idea of having professional development as an important part of the summer, since I felt like I hadn’t had much experience in that area. It seemed like a great way for me to continue with my career in science, without having to make a decision right away about which exact career path was best for me.

What was the summer like for you?

The summer was extremely challenging, but I was able to get through with the help of my classmates. Since you are together pretty much 24/7, you form close friendships very quickly, which makes the summer much more manageable. The coursework was hard, but by working together we were always able to stay on top of things. Having the skills to work as a team was especially beneficial during immersion lab, where we were tasked with extremely challenging problems in very little time. I also really enjoyed the professional development aspect of the summer. Not ever having interviewed for a real, full-time job, professional development really prepared me for the interview event.

Where did you go for your internship?

I did my internship at Nike In-House Manufacturing (IHM), where they produce airbags, a part of the shoe sole. I worked as an analytical scientist, focusing on spectroscopy and other analytical methods. The main purpose of my position was to support materials researchers by providing and analyzing data when needed. I also got to work with materials that were experiencing issues during production, as well as forensic analysis.

Did you feel the program prepared you well for it?

The program really helped prepare me for what it would be like working in industry. Industry is very different from an academic setting, and the program did a great job of making sure I knew what to expect. Since my role here is more analytical chemistry based, I do not use many of the polymer chemistry techniques I learned over the summer. However, I am always working with polymers in the analytical lab, thus the knowledge that I gained about their properties and reactivity has been extremely helpful. In addition, the professional development portion of the summer helped prepare me for a corporate style work environment.

How did your internship prepare you for where you want to take your career?

I have learned a lot from my internship in terms of what I want to pursue in the future. I am now more aware of the specific types of science that I enjoy, and am also learning a lot about what areas I most excel in. My internship has helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses, which will be extremely important in moving forward in my career.

Why do you feel this was a good fit for you?

This program was a good fit for me because it was fast-paced, rewarding, and has given me an entry point into industry. I am more of an “extroverted introvert”, and this program allowed me to hone my skills as a scientist while also getting the opportunity to work with people and communicate with others. I feel much more prepared in the professional world.

What's different about it from other options you might have considered?

What I really like about this program is that it is one of very few graduate programs in science that has an emphasis on getting students into the workplace. I felt deterred from Ph.D. programs because of how long they are, and I also didn’t feel like having a Ph.D. would necessarily make it easier for me to secure a job at the end. This program seems very well-adapted for today’s generation entering industry, and it’s a fantastic alternative to other, more traditional programs.