Sebastian doesn’t see himself as a biology person, yet he spent more than a month working at Blue Ocean Mariculture’s kampachi farms. Sebastian wants to major in mechanical engineering, although he is not particularly sure what he wants to do with his degree. At first, I was surprised that he chose to spend so much of his time dedicated to something that had nothing to do with his prospective job career, but he explained that one of the things that attracted him to mechanical engineering, is the ability to problem solve, and learn hands on. Sebastian was able to do both of these things over the summer at Blue Ocean Mariculture Farms.


For Sebastian, the choice to go into mechanical engineering was very natural. “I’ve always been playing with things as a kid. I’ve been playing with legos since I was four, and whenever my dad had anything to do around the house, he asked me to help him so I learned tools that way”. He explained that when he finds a project he is passionate about, he invests a lot of time and energy into seeing it through. “That's why I enjoy working at these internships, because it gets me interested in something”.

As soon as he arrived, on the farm, he was put to work. The first task was performing a fish necropsy on a group of kampachi that had been switched onto a new diet. “I was looking at their fat percentage how their organs were doing and how they were doing overall”. In the weeks that he spent at the farm, Sebastian was able to see all aspects of raising fish as he worked in every department. He helped take care of fish that ranged from less than a centimeter, to over eight pounds, and was involved in cleaning and monitoring their tanks, preparing their food, and helping build various things that the farm needed.

“If I am just doing something, that I don't have interest in I get bored and put very little effort into it, but when I am really into it, then I will just full throttle things, and I will have that energy to keep going and going and going"

The biggest problem that Sebastian encountered at the farms happened as they were transferring fish from the larval to the nursery tanks. To do this, they built an aquaduct that counted the fish as they went through. “We are transferring 80,000 fish through this pipe, and the pipe breaks, and then you have 30,000 dead fish on the floor”. From a business standpoint, losing 30,000 fish is hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was a long day. “Everyone was stressed, everyone was panicked and trying to figure out what to do, who to talk to, how to solve the problem, how to not do it again in the future".

Here at HPA, Sebastian continues to seek out opportunities where he can learn by doing. Currently, one of his favorite projects has been working with Mr. Turpack to build props for the musical. He likes that with Mr. Turpack, “I was given a project and told to do it, and I was in complete control of how to do it”. Sebastian has also helped to hook up our HPA golf carts with solar panels.

Working that the fish farm didn’t change Sebastian’s career choice, but he says it did show him “a cool other side of science that was very hands on”. Because Sebastian wants to go to college in Australia, he isn’t going to be able to start college until April 2017. During the nine month gap between graduating at HPA, and being able to enroll, he hopes to find another internship, or maybe even work at the fish farm.

Additional Information

Cost: $0
Duration: Four weeks
Location: Blue Ocean Mariculture, Kona
Highlights: Learn about the process of raising fish by participating in the process


Tanner Riley is using his independent science research as an opportunity to share some of his knowledge about biotechnology to middle schoolers. Tanner was inspired to pursue this project after learning more about biotechnology through Coastal Marine Biolab’s summer program. For a long time, it was thought that all of our genome that didn’t code for protein (about 98.5% of our DNA) was useless. Today, scientist are beginning to look at some of these sequences as potential regulatory devices. Over summer, Tanner helped with this research by biologically engineer fetal chickens to produce green florescent protein. The results obtained from the study were able the researchers at Coastal Marine Biolab, Ralph Imondi and Linda Santschi, understand where these regulatory sequences were expressed in nerve cells.


Tanner, and the eight students who joined him were tasked with creating a plasmid, a circular loop of DNA, that contained the gene for green florescent protein (GFP). Once they had engineered the plasmid, and had used bacteria to create copies of the DNA, they also inserted a regulatory section of DNA that was known to be a switch for various genes in nerve development. Much like a light switch, these sections of sense can be activated or inactivated by the presence of other proteins. By inserting this plasmid into the chicken embryo, the scientist would be able to see if these switch proteins were available. If they were, they would switch on the engineered switch in front of the GFP, making these cells fluoresce green, alerting the researchers to where these switches were activated.

Doing all this biological engineering took, time, and an amazing amount of precision, but when everything was finished, Tanner says the results were astounding. "The most incredible moment, maybe the most incredible thing in the entire summer was being in the lab where we were opening up the chicken eggs, and inserting the gene into the chick embro. Under the microscope seeing the embryo, it was like seeing life, seeing the heart pumping, even each little red blood cell. It was the coolest thing. And I had this moment: life is amazing. Life is beautiful"

"They could get what they are doing a lot faster, but they are doing it with kids, because they think it has a bigger effect on the world, and I could see myself doing that"

Because lab work was so tedious, Tanner says that, "Working in the lab, helped show me that lab work is not my main thing, and that being a research scientist isn’t right up my alley, but I saw that I was still really interested in what we were doing, and I would want to spend more time in a lab, so I think it did influence my career choice, in that I am still going to pursue neuroscience as a degree, but aiming more on the teaching side, with the end goal being a college professor". To Tanner, teaching people has always been something that he was interested in going into, "I think its always been something that's been a part of me. I like communicating with people. I like teaching I like enriching information, and adding things to a classroom."

After enjoying his summer so much, he wants to be able to give back to the community. Tanner is eager to use what he learned over the summer to help teach middle schoolers about DNA, and get them interested in biotechnology. When I asked him what inspired him to to this project, he said Imondi and Santschi, the scientist that hosted the program in their lab, with the goal of giving opportunities to high school students interested in research. "They have done tons of research in the past. And they are good in lab research scientists, but at this point, its not as much research, but they are doing it with kids. They could get what they are doing a lot faster, but they are doing it with kids, because they think it has a bigger effect on the world, and I could see myself doing that."

Additional Cost

Cost: $0
Duration: Nine days
Location: Coastal Marine Biolab’s laboratory Ventura Harbor, California
Highlights: Learn biotechnology through doing, help answer a scientific question, craft a group presentation about your finding

North Presbyterian Hospital

Josh Bramwell Butcher wants to help give people beautiful smiles as he plans to become an orthodontist. Josh was able to get a jump start on his career this summer when he interned with North Presbyterian Hospital in New York city. During the summer, Josh was able to work closely with doctors getting their residency helping to assist them with procedures like fillings, root canals and extractions.

Josh first became interested in pursuing a career in orthodontics after visiting the dentist as a child only to find out that he had cavities. “I was really surprised, I thought that it was just about having a nice smile. I didn’t realize that there is more to it that”. Josh has always wanted to be a doctor, so going into dentistry made sense, for someone who wasn’t particularly fond of blood. As he began to think more about being an orthodontist, he found that most orthodontist open their own practice and work for themselves. Something that Josh finds very appealing.


Interning in the summer gave Josh a look into what he can expect if he continues on his path to become an orthodontist. “I really did enjoy being able to assist doctors doing procedures, specifically the more difficult ones, because then I got to see what working in an actual person’s mouth was like”. In particular, Josh was surprised to find that some people don’t always have the same dental hygiene that many people find standard. “You think that everyone brushes their teeth, and everyone does things like that because it is what we are taught, but some people don’t” Josh explains that the hospital was a public facility, meaning that people from various backgrounds could visit, and get procedures done, even if they didn’t have insurance. He said that one of the most challenging parts of working at the hospital was learning how to interact with patients. “You have to be able to work with different patients and be congenial”.

"Majority of the time, the other interns would me things that they had learned, so that I could put that knowledge into an actual practice. Many of the residential doctors were also very informative about things I should look to do in the future. It was really helpful to be able to learn all about that"

Josh was surprised to find that he was the youngest intern that worked at the hospital that summer. All of the other interns were junior and seniors in college, or students who had already finished their undergraduate degree, and were working on applying to dental school. Rather than finding this intimidating, Josh enjoyed working with these students because it helped him learn more about dentistry. Many of them would share things that they had learned in class, which helped Josh connect what he was learning about being a dentist to the work he was participating in. The residential doctors also helped give Josh tips about things that could help him stand out. “Many of them recommended doing research during dental school or before dental school, and having that published, so that when I am applying, colleges would be able to see that, and it would be a lot easier”.

Like becoming a medical doctor, the road to becoming a dentist is long and arduous, but Josh is glad that he was able to see what he can expect as he starts on his path. Josh is applying to college this year, and hopes to find similar opportunities to work in an office like e did this summer.