As the summer winds down, we begin to bid farewell to our summer interns. Barr’s internship program informally started 34 years ago in 1989. Today, 23 interns across nine offices are given meaningful opportunities to gain real-world experience through field work, client work, and on project teams. Here, we talk with Becca May, an environmental focus intern working out of our Jefferson City, Missouri, office about her experience as an intern at Barr.
What is your educational background?
I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in geology at the University of Missouri (Mizzou). I just graduated from the University of North Dakota (UND) last year with a bachelor's degree in both geology and environmental studies. In my six years of higher education, I've developed an interest in mining and environmental work. My goal has always been to combine my passions for hydrogeology and surface water with mining, because those things go hand in hand.
What initially drew you to geology and hydrogeology?
In my time as an undergraduate, water was the first thing that piqued my interest. Mining was in the back of my head, but I wasn't interested in it until more recently. My internships have been valuable, allowing me to explore my career options.
"My internships have been valuable, allowing me to explore my career options."
Two years ago, I had an internship with the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality. I worked in their watershed management program doing lake and river testing and environmental regulatory compliance work, and I fell in love with it.
Later, I completed a nine-month internship at UND. In North Dakota, there is a mass cooperative movement to extract rare earth elements—critical minerals that are used in phones, cars, and more. I had the opportunity to work at a coal mine extracting minerals from coal, and it sparked an interest in mining for me.
I came to Mizzou looking for a position with surface water, but I ended up staying in the geosciences to explore the connections between water quality and the earth's surface. My advisor led me to a project involving deep hydrothermal water and mineral exploration of critical minerals.
How did Barr get on your radar?
In the Midwest, Barr is well known and popular at career fairs. I heard great things about the company and had classmates who were determined to get an internship at the company. When I changed majors in my sophomore year, Barr was one of the first employers I heard about. A year after my undergrad, I was looking for an internship here in Missouri, saw Barr had a Jefferson City office, and said, “Well, this is the internship!”
What types of projects have you worked on at Barr as part of your internship?
I have worked on a variety of projects in my short time at Barr. I spent my first few weeks out in the field sampling groundwater. During that time, I was also involved in some engineering-related projects that dealt with surface water remediation and subcontracting. Later, I had the amazing opportunity to help with soil sampling and analysis, which involves drilling—something I’ve never done before! Now, I’ve been working on a stormwater pollution prevention plan, gaining skills in report and technical writing. I think my last few weeks will be spent working on a tree delineation and soil restoration project. My favorite project, however, was going to a lead mine. It was like no other experience I’ve had!
Do you have any advice for future interns?
You should take every opportunity and say yes to jobs, even if you feel like you don’t have enough experience. The projects that, at first, didn’t seem that exciting have been the most beneficial for me. Engineers often get a bad rap for their poor writing and communication skills, so projects that involve writing or communicating with people have been especially beneficial for me. I’ve also gotten to write up subcontractor reports, do preliminary research, and create maps and graphs, and those are things I would not have had the chance to do in university.
"You should take every opportunity and say yes to jobs, even if you feel like you don’t have enough experience."
One example of a project that took me out of my comfort zone was when a colleague asked me to call a few subcontractors to obtain their contact information so we could send a letter. It didn’t seem that interesting at first, but I realized that being comfortable talking to a big construction company was exactly the realistic job experience I was hoping to get from my internship. It’s sort of like the transition from having your parents schedule your doctor appointments to learning how to do it yourself, without someone holding your hand through it.
When you're not in a mine, at the lab, or at your desk, what do you like to do?
I'm a big animal lover, so I spend my free time with my pets. I have a Jack Russell terrier and two parrots. Both parrots are rescues. One is a very loud Amazon parrot about the size of my head, with the intelligence of a two-year-old. My other parrot is a cockatiel. I like to take them out on walks with my dog. My cockatiel has a harness and leash and my bigger parrot rides in a clear backpack. I also have a passion for mixed martial arts, and it’s something I do regularly.
Interested in becoming an intern at Barr? Check out our internship program.
About Becca May
Becca May is an environmental focus intern at Barr. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in geology at the University of Missouri and graduated from the University of North Dakota last year with a bachelor's degree in both geology and environmental studies.
Image gallery (below):
Becca in the field sampling groundwater.
Becca walks her parrots on the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail in Columbia, Missouri.
Becca looks for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas (unfortunately, she didn’t find any).