Emily Sausser ’24, a Biology major with Chemistry and Environmental Studies minors, loves all things science, making her an ideal research assistant in Penn State University’s John Tooker Lab.

Sausser was first introduced to ecology at LVC, where the class spent much of their time working with macroinvertebrates in the nearby Quittie Creek. This course cemented that environmentally-focused experiences were right up her alley.

In the summer of 2022, Sausser worked closely with a weed scientist at Cornell University. She took soil cores, stared into a microscope, and worked with plants. Yet it only took a brief training with an entomologist at Cornell to lead her to State College the following summer.

Sausser credits Dr. Rebecca Urban, Director of Environmental Science and Professor of Biology, for connecting her to this opportunity.

“Dr. Urban subscribes to an email service that provides a daily newsletter of internship and job opportunities in the environmental science field,” she said. “She constantly forwards them to us, and that’s where I first read about the Tooker Lab.”

From there, Sausser applied and received an offer for a research assistant position for the summer of 2023 in the Penn State Department of Entomology’s John Tooker Lab, a research lab that studies plant-insect interactions in agroecosystems.

Sausser worked alongside an environmental chemist and performed water quality testing for Central PA waterways, specifically running a lab experiment at different temperatures and speeds of water to analyze the capabilities of Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Sampler (POCIS) membranes.

Sausser also received a DiMatteo-Holsinger Internship Fund award, which helps bridge the gap between internship costs that may pose a student difficulty and the importance of valuable opportunities. For Sausser, these funds were best used toward State College housing.

“The DiMatteo Scholarship helped cushion the cost of this experience and allowed me to go somewhere I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

While she enjoyed the time spent in the lab and left with invaluable skills and memories, this research assistant position led her to reconsider her post-grad plans.

“Initially, I wanted to go into agricultural science and do research, but after experiencing it firsthand with this internship, I kind of changed my mind,” she said. “Some things didn’t click with me, and it showed me that there is a lot more to environmental research than I had initially thought.”

Now, Sausser intends to enter the medical field with sights set on Physician Assistant (PA) school. While waiting to apply to PA school, Sausser will fill her time with useful positions; she will be part of the Annville-Cleona Fire Company’s Quick Response Service, obtain shadowing hours at Wellspan Urgent Care in Annville, and volunteer with the WellSpan Health Network this spring.

While Sausser’s plans may have changed trajectory, this experience serves as a reminder that internships are a time to dabble.

“Trying things out to see what fits is good because you don’t know how an experience will go until you have it, whether that be shadowing or volunteering,” she said.

Sausser can move forward from these experiences, feeling confident that all moments prior have guided her to where she should be.



Meredith Haas ’24, Marketing & Communications Student Assistant