Iowa City Press-Citizen: Not Your Parents' Job

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

By Adam B. Sullivan
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Incoming City High senior Sebastian Surom, left, and incoming University of Iowa freshman Jon Myers work on engineering projects Tuesday at the UI Seamans Center.

Incoming City High senior Sebastian Surom, left, and incoming University
of Iowa freshman Jon Myers work on engineering projects Tuesday at the
UI Seamans Center. / Benjamin Roberts / Iowa City Press-Citizen


Working 40 hours a week during the summer might seem like a drag to a couple teenagers, but Jon Myers said he and his lab partner aren’t missing out on much.

“Eventually we realized nothing really happens during the day. We get off at 5 and that’s when things start picking up,” Myers said.

Myers, who graduated in May from City High, and Sebastian Surom, an incoming City senior, are forgoing the traditional ice cream shop or lawn-mowing jobs this summer to work full time in a University of Iowa engineering lab. The two students and their peers at other summer internships say the summer experience is good preparation for life after high school.

Myers and Surom have a wide variety of duties in the lab. They’re monitoring plants to see whether low-energy LED lights are as effective as traditional grow lights, assembling digital card-readers, and tinkering with a system of cameras that they hope will give doctors a less invasive means of examining patients.

Myers will attend UI next year and is considering an engineering major. Surom doesn’t plan to enter a science field after his high school career, but he says the lab work is still valuable.

“It’s professional experience, even though the fields are different. It’s still helpful,” Surom said. “We could have jobs at restaurants over the summer or we can come here and hang out with Ph.D’s.”

Geb Thomas, an engineering researcher who runs the lab where Surom and Myers work, said he frequently employs high school students to help with lab work.

“It’s useful mostly because I like to get the kids invested in engineering. The vast majority (go on to study engineering),” Thomas said.

While Myers and Surom toil in the depths of the engineering facility, West High incoming junior Kate Anstreicher is spending much of her time outside doing projects for the local nonprofit Summer of Solutions.

The group works on sustainability projects around Iowa City. Most of Anstreicher’s work focuses on community art projects and gardening.

Anstreicher will lead environmental and gardening clubs at West next year. She said she learned about Summer of Solutions from a friend in one of those groups.

“I’d heard about it in previous years and kept hearing about it and she really encouraged me to register,” said Anstreicher, 16.

Fellow West High student Olive Carrollhach has worked at her high school newspaper, the West Side Story, for two years. She said she likes working in news so much that she didn’t want to be away from it for the whole summer.

So Carrollhach, an incoming senior at West, applied for a design internship at the Daily Iowan, the campus paper at UI.

“I just really like the community of being in a publication and working as a team. It’s a little more exciting and you rely on each other a little more than you would in a retail business,” said Carrollhach, 17.

Carrollhach also is interning with the Obama campaign, filling out college applications, making campus visits, and doing a couple other volunteer projects this summer. That probably keeps her a lot busier than most high schoolers, but she says she still finds time for “a decent amount of nap-taking” and she said the packed schedule is rewarding.

“I like to be expanding my experiences at all times,” she said. “There’s more responsibility, but it’s worth it to feel like I’m doing something more important.”