Miami University graduate student, Michelle Porcellino, gained both experience and confidence through her internship with the National Cancer Institute, according to her Miami faculty mentor.

Graduate students in Miami’s masters in technical and scientific communication (MTSC) program must do an internship as part of their graduation requirement.

Porcellino’s internship-she was in Washington D.C. from January to June 2007-took her to from writing papers in Oxford to writing drafts of letters to President George Bush.

“The National Cancer Institute is the largest division of the National Institute of Health, a large government agency that deals with a lot of the health research that goes on in the U.S.,” Porcellino said.

Porcellino worked on the President’s Cancer Panel, a federal advisory group that reports directly to the president of the United States. The three-member panel monitors the entire National Cancer Program, as well organizes four meetings a year on different topics related to cancer.

Reports are written up after the meeting by members of the panel with the aid of the federal advisory group and are intended to be easy to understand so that anyone could learn from them, according to Porcellino.

The report Porcellino worked on focused on cancer prevention through a healthy lifestyle. She said she feels believes strong in the content of the report, especially what it has to offer Americans.

“I think the message of the report is that prevention is really important and if you make healthy choices you can definitely reduce your risk of cancer,” Porcellino said. “America is in need of a cultural change and we need to reevaluate our lives.”

Porcellino contributed in various ways throughout the production process, working with the writers of the report, gathering research, editing and working on formatting.

Porcellino was also responsible for writing the first draft of the letter to the president that accompanies the report.

“It was a unique experience; it wasn’t anything I had done before,” she said. “You are in D.C. so there are a lot of policy issues that I hadn’t been exposed to before.”

As an undergraduate, Porcellino attended North Central College in Naperville, Ill., graduating in 2005 with Bachelor of Arts in biology and psychology.

Porcellino’s mentor; Jean Lutz, an associate professor of English at Miami; said she was an excellent student not only because of grades, but also for her ability to get along with others and think critically.

“She didn’t just accept things, she questioned them,” Lutz said.

Lutz said that she was approached by Porcellino to mentor her while she interned.

Porcellino found out about Miami’s master program in technology and scientific communication through a professor at North Central College. Porcellino said she chose Miami because they had a program tailored to what she wanted in a graduate education.

“I knew I wanted to do things in health and combine writing and health,” Porcellino said.

While at Miami she has also received a teaching assistantship, initially teaching English 313, Introduction to Technical Communications.

“I think our program helped Shelly mature as a writer… and helped increase both her skills and confidence levels,” Lutz said.

Porcellino agreed with Lutz.

“I think that my experience at Miami did help me prepare for working there (the NCI),” Porcellino said. “The (NCI) really focuses on taking technical documentation and writing them for the public. Miami taught me how to write for an audience.”

After six months, Porcellino was offered an additional six-month internship, which she accepted and will finish with in December.

She will then write a report and plans to graduate in May 2008. After graduation, she said she wants to move back to Chicago and work in health care communication and technology.