I joined the UF Thompson Earth Systems Institute in January 2020 as a communications and reporting intern. More than a year later, I can say that this internship has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in college and has shaped my career path for the better. 

As a biology and journalism double major, I’ve had my sights set on some combination of science writing and science communications for a while. Before working at the institute, I’d dabbled in both of my degrees already: webmaster for a medical department, nematology research assistant and student reporter. But I was looking for a role that fit both my interests in science and communications. I would soon find this at TESI.

When I first saw the application for the position, I remember feeling so aligned with the InstituteI remained hopeful at the possibility that this could be my first shot at science communication. I’ll lift a sentence from my original cover letter that I submitted to show my excitement: “The first moment I read about the position and then looked into the institute, I immediately felt a sense of purpose: This is what I want to do! 

miami blue butterfly
My favorite article that I wrote with TESI was titled, “The Rise and Fall of the Miami Blue Butterfly.” I loved diving into the history and future of this extremely rare insect in Florida.

And that was 100% true: Everything I read about TESI resonated with me and my passions, especially its mission toward “advancing communication and education about Earth systems science in a way that inspires Floridians to be effective stewards of our planet. Additionally, as a lifelong museum lover, I’d always loved visiting the Florida Museum of Natural History. The prospect of working in it excited me. So, I applied. 

I was lucky enough to get an interview for the position; when the resulting offer arrived in my inbox, I remember being in shock from excitement. I happily accepted and started the next semester. Walking into the museum, knowing there was a desk reserved for me, was such a thrill. I felt so lucky to stroll by a mammoth skeleton and a butterfly rainforest on the way to work. Even though my position shortly transitioned to online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I still feel a strong connection to the museum and a sense of pride and belonging.  

Looking back at all the work I’ve done for TESI, I can see just how expansive my skills have grown through my work responsibilities and projects. Every shift, I write, whether it’s an article, a blog or a social media post. Every shift, I read the latest environmental news and stories to gain information I can disperse to our audiences. Every shift, I edit, wielding my AP Style and grammar knowledge to make my work easy to understand for our audiences. And every shift, I come out feeling more confident in my science communication skills.

I love everything about this job, but above all, I appreciate my coworkers. From the beginning, the TESI team made me feel welcomed and important. They immediately gave me responsibilities like curating social media posts and creating educational content. If I didn’t know how to do something, they were patient and kind. If I made something especially well, they’d give recognition and praise. They quickly turned from not just my coworkers but also my friends. They’ve written letters of recommendation for me, given me guidance and advised me on my future career options. 

Now that I’ve come to the end of my journey at the University of Florida, I’m happy I can look back with pride at my work – including what I accomplished at TESI. I know this job has prepared me for all that is coming in my future, like my upcoming year in UC Santa Cruz’s Science Communication Master’s Program. As I depart, I feel grateful for this opportunity to delve into science communication every day, bolstered by a wonderful team of caring and motivated coworkers. Thank you, TESI, for helping me translate the world around me to the people around me – and for helping make Florida a more sustainable, informed and curious place.

Explore Brittney’s work for TESI by visiting her portfolio page, or follow her on Twitter: @BrittneyJMiller.