OpenDoors Summer Internship Introduces High School Senior to New Areas of Study

At the age of 17, Jakobi Blue-Smith of Raleigh, NC, already had an idea what she wanted to study in college. After she told her internship counselor at Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy about her interests, it wasn’t long before she applied for an internship through OpenDoors Summer Internship (ODSI) program.

“I told my counselor the field I was interested in was biotechnology incorporated with research, and she found exactly what I was looking for,” said Blue-Smith. “I immediately applied for it.”

Blue-Smith’s application landed her on the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Emerging Company Development team, which had been asked by ODSI to host a summer intern.

Jakobi office
Jakobi Blue-Smith and her office. - NCBiotech Photo

ODSI is a program of the nonprofit OpenDoors, which was formed in 2022 by a collective of biotech executives, companies and students to promote workforce diversity in the Triangle’s life sciences companies.  

When Blue-Smith arrived at NCBiotech, she began a deep dive into the life sciences, including the commercialization of biopharmaceuticals and medical devices, the integration of AI and digital health technology in the medical field, and the numerous neurological conditions and diseases on which researchers are working.  

“Through her initial research and introduction to life sciences, Jakobi built a foundation for her project. She decided to write about how digital health might enhance or supplant current drugs or devices used for certain psychiatric conditions,” said Kathy Meserve, NCBiotech’s senior director, investments and Blue-Smith’s supervisor and mentor. 

For her research, Blue-Smith gained access to NCBiotech’s proprietary reports and its life science intelligence analysts who helped her identify resources for her research and how to correctly cite information gained from these sources. She also learned how to identify the unmet needs of psychiatric conditions of interest and conducted research to understand the conditions impacting Gen Z. 

For Blue-Smith, this process brought clarity to her interests.  

“I found an interest in mental health conditions as I was doing my internship because my generation struggles most with mental health,” she explained. “I want to better understand these struggles and help people with disorders, such as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).” 

It also provided an opportunity for her to learn skills she can use in college. 

“In this process, Jakobi learned how to plan a large project and recognized how this skill would help her to plan future projects,” Meserve explained.  

Research best practices were not the only skill Blue-Smith built.  

“I believe the important thing I learned overall is time management,” Blue-Smith said. “This internship showed me how to evaluate my work and spread it out to finish it in a timely manner. I had consistent help while learning this skill and eventually mastered it toward the end, finishing my written report of nine pages two days early.” 

Meserve supported Blue-Smith as she embraced her new role and research. “Jakobi’s key strengths included her enthusiasm for the subject matter, her curiosity and her desire to learn,” Meserve said. “Further, she expressed genuine care and concern for the psychiatric well-being of fellow members of Gen Z. She also showed respect for the importance of citations as part of her research work.” 

With this experience, Blue-Smith feels ready to successfully complete her senior year of high school then attend college with a focus on the intersection of psychiatry, science and technology. 

“If you’re a psychiatric researcher, you are able to address these mental health issues and provide proper care,” said Blue-Smith. “I loved working with OpenDoors and NCBiotech Center. It helped me establish what I want to become one day, and I have them to thank.” 

Mindy Hamlin, NCBiotech Writer
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