ABERDEEN, S.D. – A Northern State University student will spend seven months
as a biotechnology intern at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park.
Mark Sperry will participate in Disney’s Biotechnology Agricultural Sciences Professional Internship Program from June 12 to Jan. 12, 2014. Sperry, who grew up on a farm near Bath, will work in Disney’s biotechnology laboratory at Epcot as a biotech lab technician.
Sperry, the son of Kathy and Scott Sperry, was the sole biotechnology intern selected from among more than 150 applicants.
“As a sophomore in college, I truly doubted that I had any chance of even receiving an interview for this prestigious position,” he said. “So when I received a phone call from Disney asking basic background check questions, I was completely shocked when the position was offered to me at the end of the phone call!”
At Epcot, he will be responsible for the marketing, sales and production of the “Mini Garden” business. Sperry said he will be preparing nutrient agar, sterilizing seeds, placing the seeds on nutrient agar under a light until they germinate, transferring the germinated seeds to jars of nutrient agar, allowing them to grow, packaging the small plants, and marketing them to park guests. He will also give tours of the Disney Greenhouses in “The Land.”
“While educating Disney park guests on the importance of conservation and the technology being used to conserve our resources, I will also be sharing about my personal South Dakota farm experiences and what farmers are doing here to conserve,” Sperry said.
Sperry said he is looking forward to the opportunity to work and gain experience in the biotechnology lab at Epcot, but he also is looking forward to all of the networking opportunities that will come from the experience.
“Living in Orlando, Florida, for seven months will be both fun and exciting, but will also be a great opportunity to explore more areas of the biotechnology and biology fields and help me in planning my future,” he said.
At Northern, Sperry is studying biotechnology and biology with minors in mathematics and chemistry. He has served as Lindberg Hall Council president and vice president; Honors Program vice president and secretary; Student Association College of Arts and Sciences senator; Freshman Wolf Pack Orientation leader; and a supplementary instruction leader for University College.
He alsohas been involved in the Lions Club, Science Club, Marching Wolves, Concert Band, Latin and Newman Center choirs. He has been 4-H club assistant leader and South Dakota 4-H performing arts assistant.
This is the second prestigious internship opportunity Sperry has received. Last summer as a Davis-Bahcall Scholar, he spent two weeks studying at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead. He set up and conducted experiments underground, and learned about and toured the experiments being conducted 4,850 feet under ground.
Through the internship, he also spent a week in Italy. He studied at the Gran Sasso National Underground Laboratory, learning about the experiments being conducted there and touring the underground labs. He also toured the National Laboratory of Frascati and saw its particle accelerator DAΦNE among other scientific experiments.
He then traveled to Chicago, where he toured Fermilab and learned about the Tevatron accelerator, the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment and other experiments dealing with particle acceleration. Next, he toured Argonne National Laboratory and learned about the Advanced Photon Source, Tandem Linear Accelerator System and other energy-related experiments. Finally, he traveled to Notre Dame University, touring its physics labs and learning about its equipment.
After a month of touring and studying, he returned home to finish his six-week internship at 3M.
“All of these experiences, in addition to the education I have received through the 4-H program, Aberdeen Roncalli High School and Northern State University, have helped me gain the skills necessary to apply for and be chosen to serve as a professional Disney intern in Orlando, Florida,” Sperry said.