Joy Messerli, an intern in the Apprenticeships in Science & Engineering (ASE) program at Saturday Academy in 2005, studied behavioral neuroscience at OHSU. She learned about the program in high school through the gifted and talented (TAG) program. She says the ASE program gave her the confidence she needed to connect with adults and hold her head up high.
Messerli’s internship focused on the effects of estrogen and testosterone on the emotional responses of participants. Her responsibilities included graphing, reading scientific journals, responding to challenging questions and coming up with questions to ask her mentor Dr. Jeri Janowksy.
“My favorite part of my internship was working with our mentor who worked a lot one-on-one with us to improve our skills. I was treated like an adult and like a respected member of the team,” she says.
A resident of Cave Junction (a small town in Oregon), Messerli had to find a place to live in Portland in order to complete the several months of her research and internship. The experience threw her into adulthood. She observes, “I had never ridden a bus alone. It had different stops and I had to know bus times. I also was working 11-12 hour days to finish the project which I had to present to neuroscience heads prior to my presentation at the ASE Symposium.”
Not only did her experience with ASE teach her how to communicate with both scientists and doctors, she also realized through her experience that she did not want to go into the neuroscience field. Her advice for others that are thinking of applying is, “Go for it. It is not going to hurt anything. You might not use those skills specifically, but you will find skills you use. One of the best things ASE did was teach me that I didn’t want to go into neuroscience or live in a big city.”
Presently, she volunteers and leads a military wives Bible Study group which she says, is quite different from what she initially thought she wanted to do with her life.
“I got the tools I needed at ASE to work with adults. I had a low confidence level. I was always looking at the ground and had a hard time looking people in the eye. Being immersed in my internship with ASE where I was treated equally was amazing and helped me get to where I am now. I went home and became the editor of the city newspaper when I was in high school which had not been done before,” she says. Later, she also became a park ranger at Oregon Caves National Monument, where she lead tours and continued to hone her presentation skills.
Messerli was diagnosed with schizophrenia during her early twenties. “I was diagnosed schizophrenic and had already experienced hallucinations even when I was in the program but I was able to hold myself together. The symptoms got way worse by my late teens to early twenties. I was having delusions and psychotic episodes that were impacting all my senses. The ASE internship helped give me the respect I needed from doctors. They knew I had potential and that I can do things with my life. In regards to my diagnosis, it was hard to explain to doctors what was going on, but because I had worked within the behavioral neuroscience community, I knew they were doing the best they could. I gained trust of the medical field.”
She encourages any high school student to participate in the program, “If you are thinking of applying to ASE, go for it because the growth you will experience as a human being and as a person is worth it.”