Broadening Education Around the World Posted on April 17th, 2020 by

For Gustavus junior Kaitlyn Gruber ’21, her time in Germany was more than just a chemistry research internship. She fostered a deep appreciation for German culture beyond sightseeing and tourism while working alongside some of the most distinguished scientists in Germany. Receiving exposure to different lab structures and protocols, developing intercultural communication skills, and gaining more direction in pursuing graduate school are just a few aspects of Gruber’s all-around learning experience.

Gruber worked with DAAD RISE, a program for undergraduate science students that provides opportunities to work with top research institutions in Germany. Gruber was among the top 16% of U.S. applicants selected for entry into the prestigious DAAD RISE summer internship of 2019. With only 300 scholarships offered a year, the program is highly competitive. She is the second student Gustavus has sent to the program in the past 5 years.

During her twelve-week internship, Gruber made advancements on a mobile device using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to detect pesticides on agricultural products growing directly in crop fields. She tested fresh food samples that allow for a more accurate pesticide detection than ones harvested and taken back to the lab. The goal of this research project is to provide safer food sanitation for everyone.

Also during her time in Germany, Gruber developed collaborative skills with international students and faculty in a larger and new lab setting. “I gained a lot of communication skills that I wouldn’t have necessarily learned at home, especially in learning how to articulate myself in ways that nonnative English speakers can understand,” said Gruber. Through her partnerships, she created meaningful relationships with international graduate students and doctorate professors, which instilled in her a desire to pursue graduate school. 

Gruber’s research involvement began early on at Gustavus with the help of her faculty advisor, Dr. Amanda Nienow, co-chair of the chemistry department and professor. During her first year, Gruber participated in the First-Year Research Experience (FYRE) program where her work focused on pesticides. She has presented her work at the Midstates Consortium for Math and Sciences in 2018 and National American Chemical Society in 2019.

“It’s amazing to be able to take the skills that you learn abroad and apply them to your life back at home and in the classroom” Gruber said. “I am now an advocate for studying abroad. It pushes growth in many areas, whether it be in academics, cultural intelligence, social life, or in any area that pushes you to grow as an individual. You will come back with a new perspective.”


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