Metcalf Memoirs: Bryn Pernot

Maintaining a balance between research and practice at the Museum of Science and Industry.
Metcalf Collage
Photo by: 
Gordon Lew, College Visual Media Editor, Class of 2015
I think UChicago really prepares you to think deeply and rigorously about any topic, which has made the deep research I have been doing this summer more manageable.

As the summer internship season kicks off, the College media team has gathered reflections from a few students in each UChicago Careers In... (UCI) program who held Jeff Metcalf internships this past summer. Here is what they had to say about their experiences.


Bryn Pernot, Class of 2013
Major: Anthropology
Primary UCI program: Public and Social Service
Name of internship: Evaluation and Research Intern
Internship location: Museum of Science and Industry

Q: What attracted you to the Metcalf internship that you have been doing this summer?

A: I've been lucky enough to have Metcalfs at two other museums (the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Smart Museum of Art), and through these opportunities I've been very attracted to the idea of integrating public-facing work, like exhibits and programs, with rigorous research to enhance the experience of the public at museums. I was able to do two exhibition evaluations at the Smart Museum, and I really enjoyed the process of collecting data that could then be turned around to give suggestions about future projects. I also learned a great deal from the chance to do research at the Smithsonian on a daily basis and could see my UChicago education being put to work. I knew that the Museum of Science and Industry would be an ideal continuation of my previous experiences—getting to integrate public-facing work with evaluation and research to have the ultimate partnership between theory and practice.

Q: How does your major or other coursework at UChicago relate to the kind of work that you are doing for your Metcalf?

A: My second year I took a HIPS [History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine] course on history, politics, and controversies in science centers and science museums, which is what got me really interested in the interpretive practices of museums. I took probably nine courses where I got to focus on the social impact of museums, and working at the MSI is really a culmination of all of this knowledge. It's been great to not only think about the work that museums do, but to get to experience it on a regular basis at the MSI. I can see how the content I learned in that HIPS course and in other classes really applies in my work. More generally, I think UChicago really prepares you to think deeply and rigorously about any topic, which has made the deep research I have been doing this summer more manageable.

Photo courtesy of Bryn Pernot, Class of 2013

Q: What was going through your mind as you prepared and showed up for your first day on the job?

A: Although I felt prepared, I was nervous about proving that I belonged at the MSI. I had moved away from serious science content in college, and this job was definitely a return to that. I had gotten the sense that the people working in the department were very supportive, though, so I knew I could come to them with any questions I had.

Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of your Metcalf, and how have you dealt with or overcome that challenge?

A: Trying to keep that balance between research and practice. It can be tempting to just sit at the computer all day and crunch numbers, but it's important to remind myself of the bigger picture. I usually walk around the museum seeing all of the different visitors in order to regain perspective and keep moving forward.

Q: What is the most interesting, memorable, or unique experience/assignment you have had while working in the capacity of your Metcalf?

A: As strange as it sounds, I really enjoyed the orientation experience, because it was so much more upbeat and excited than any orientation I had ever been to before. This event gave me a great perspective into the enthusiasm of the museum and the fact that everyone there is in the guest experience business—that's what everyone's job comes down to. I saw how much this positive environment extended to visitors when I collected data on the floor, interacting with visitors who were so excited to be at the museum.

Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned or the most rewarding experience you have had?

A: To not be afraid to share my ideas or delve into my own interests in service of a larger project. I've discovered a lot of interesting and useful information that will be helpful to the larger goals of determining the learning goals of playing an online game developed by the MSI (my major project for the summer), just by being willing to spend a little bit longer digging through Internet resources or looking at an Excel spreadsheet.

Pernot has since accepted a full-time position as an evaluation and research coordinator with the MSI. 

For more Metcalf reflections, check out the overview article. To read the profiles that Career Advancement collects, click here.

UChicago Careers in Public and Social Service (UCIPSS), a program of Career Advancement, aims "to help students find purposeful and rewarding careers in the non-profit, policy, government, and related public service sectors." To that end, UCIPSS offers Jeff Metcalf internships, which are paid, substantive internships exclusively for UChicago undergraduates. For more information, visit the Metcalf Internship Program website.

Metcalf Internships are available to College students throughout the academic year, and especially during the summer internship season. To learn more about currently posted Metcalf Internships, log into your Chicago Career Connection account to search for opportunities, and to make an appointment with a Career Advancement adviser.

Tagged: museum, UCIPSS, Metcalf Internship, Metcalf Memoirs