Internship Spotlight: Ingrid Zhou, Research Assistant and Quality Intern for Maspanadas

Ingrid Zhou is a second year FANPP student. She worked as a quality intern for Maspanadas, a food start-up at Maryland; as a research assistant with Professor Larissa Calancie; and as the student ambassador for Block Career Center in the Summer of 2022. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Food Science from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Today, we will interview Ingrid for her summer internship experience.

1. In just a few sentences, please tell us about your summer internship. How does it connect to your personal and professional interests? 

This summer, I worked as a quality control/quality assurance intern in a food startup called Maspanadas in Rockville, Maryland. I also worked as a research assistant with Professor Larissa Calancie on a research report about food council culture in Kansas. Finally, I worked with the Block Career Center (BCC) as a student ambassador. I joined Maspanadas because I wanted to learn more about what it is like to work in a start-up company. My research assistant role showed me the possibility of working in a non-profit/academia/research institute/consultancy. And I loved my role in the BCC too! It helped me explore endless career opportunities while helping my fellow students with their career paths.

2. How did you land your internship? (e.g., networking, found on the Block Career Center or another website, etc.)

For my research role, I found it on the Block Career Center website. And one of my professors in class connected me with the CEO of Maspanadas. They needed help for their quality department. As I had a food science/quality background before Freidman, it was a good match!

3.  What do you enjoy about your internship? What do you find challenging?

For my research role, I like it because I get to do more policy-related research. Sometimes, we had trouble finding the right data for the right time frame. For my quality role, I enjoyed the work environment a lot! Maspanadas is a minority-owned and women-owned business. We hired people who struggled to settle down in the US. We helped them to have good-paying jobs and connected them with skills and resources for successful lives in the US, such as child care and house mortgages. We celebrated all the important moments together, such as baby showers, weddings, and birthdays. And I did not get limited by my quality hat: I work on video editing, graphic design, research & development, and the regulation part as well. The down side was that my role was usually very stressful and we had to work long hours. Sometimes I felt like I did not have all the resources needed to finish my tasks. But overall, it was challenging and fun.

4.  What are the necessary soft and hard skills needed for your position? 

For my research role, communication, research, and data visualization skills were crucial. For my quality role, I needed an eye for detail, patience, and understanding of food law and basic food science (microbiology/hygiene practices/chemistry). It was helpful to have marketing/video editing and research skills as well. And sometimes, being the only person who did not know Spanish in the company, I wished I could speak more Spanish. 😊

5. If you could offer one piece of internship search advice to fellow students, what would that be? 

Don’t be bound by your perception about what you can do! It is often deceiving.

By Susannah Krenn
Susannah Krenn Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing / Career Advisor