Expand your skills

Gillings students are harnessing their entrepreneurial and innovative spirit and gaining real-world experiences in public health.


Opportunities.

Apply to an open posting!

  • Gillings-affiliated start-up seeking practicum applicants:  LiRA is a growing startup company and social venture developing lip-reading technology that employs advancements in computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing. Approximately one million individuals find themselves suddenly, and often unexpectedly, voiceless each year with no reliable way to communicate their needs. Through our technology, we hope to empower voiceless individuals and advance quality medical care. LiRA is founded by UNC graduate and professional students, including a current Gillings student, and is excited for the opportunity to have public health students join in our mission to build a world where all communication is realized.  Please see details about the practicum experience in the Gillings School Practicum Database.
  • Gillings-affiliated start-up seeking practicum applicants: Seal the Seasons believes local produce is best for our taste buds, jobs, and planet. Our business connects local family farms with the frozen market, allowing them to sell more produce every year and keep farms in the family. We partner with family farms to freeze, package, and sell their produce to major grocery stores like Kroger, Wegmans, Safeway, Whole Foods, and Ahold Delhaize. We have built farm partnerships with 70+ growers nationwide, yet the majority are white men between 40 and 65. The student in this role will explore why the vast majority of produce growers are older white men, and recommend strategies for us to source produce from a more diverse family farm growing base. Apply through Gillings School Practicum Database.
  • Spun out from the MIT Media Lab, OPT Industries is an advanced digital manufacturing suite seeking a graduate student for a 6 week paid practicum. The graduate student will seek to study the importance of diagnostic device performance across a spectrum of diagnostic applications — from infectious disease to wastewater management to fertility (for example). Additionally, health testing is not accessible to everyone and the Biden administration has made a push for Covid-19 testing to enter the home (goal: 60M at-home Covid-19 tests available by end of summer 2021) to improve health equity. We hypothesize the InstaSwabTM will improve at-home testing sensitivity. Research should touch on aspects of any diagnostic industry where swabs are (or could be) the primary sample collection device, looking at supply chain dynamics, cost implications, downstream effects of using a performance device, etc. At the end of this project, we hope to publish the research in the form of a white paper or through other channels. The ideal candidate should have a strong analytical background , writing experience, market research experience and the ability to think “outside the box”. Compensation will be $25/hr for 40hrs/wk. Apply through Gillings School Practicum Database.
  • The SESH (Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health) project is a partnership joining individuals from the Southern Medical University Dermatology Hospital and the University of North Carolina- Project China. The main goal of this project is to create more creative equitable, and effective health services using crowdsourcing contests and other social entrepreneurship tools. Apply through Gillings School Practicum Database.
  • Explore all practicum opportunities in the Gillings School Practicum Database.
  • Other Startup Jobs & Internships are also available through 1789.
Want to post an internship, fellowship, funding opportunity or resource? Please send information to solutions@unc.edu.

Student Experiences.

Interviews with students who completed a 2020 innovation-focused practicum.

Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes, Seal the Seasons

Tell us about your practicum placement and experience at a public health focused startup?  

Seal the Seasons has been committed to the environment and has made conscious business decisions to decrease the environmental impact of their products. Through this practicum experience, the company has their first opportunity to quantify the environmental impact of their products. The final goal of this project is to develop a detailed greenhouse gas emissions database for Seal the Seasons products and create a defensible carbon footprint report. Not only is the company passionate about supporting local farmers and increasing accessibility to local produce, but each employee I have worked with has been passionate about the company’s environmental impact.

Why did you want to do your practicum at a startup? 

Seal the Seasons also works to encourage consumers to be conscious of their purchasing power. The company’s products allow consumers to support the local economy throughout the year and minimize the environmental impact of frozen fruits.

What are the key lessons that you will take away from this experience? 

This experience has taught me how important it is to work with a company whose passions and commitments align with my own. Beyond my own content feelings, every customer and stakeholder I have spoken to feels inspired by the company’s commitment to local produce accessibility and their environmental impact. I have loved working for a company that is dedicated to leaving a positive impact on the world and supporting the local economy.

What was most fun or surprising about this experience? 

I have been pleasantly surprised by the relationships this company has with their partnerships. This enthusiasm and support is more than I could have asked for and has been crucial in the development of our project.


Caroline Mann

Caroline Mann, Frame Fertility

Tell us about your practicum placement and experience at a public health focused startup?

I have been working at Frame Fertility which is a FemTech and women’s health focused startup. I found the opportunity at Frame Fertility from the weekly practicum email listserv and it caught my eye because it called for both statistical and technical skills with the opportunity to try out different business areas as well.

Why did you want to do your practicum at a startup?

Before starting the MPH program, I worked at a large CRO which operated oppositely of a startup in most instances. While the stability and security of a large corporation has its advantages, I was excited to be involved in a health product from the very beginning and gain exposure to all of the work that goes into making a health startup successful.

What knowledge gained, results produced, or enriching experience are you most proud of?

I was able to learn new skills in digital product management (specifically for health products) that I would have never thought of pursuing before. I also learned so much about fertility, reproductive health, and the overarching need for women’s health advancement. This new knowledge has piqued my interest in the area and is something I am hoping to pursue in the future.

What are the key lessons that you will take away from this experience?

Through this experience I definitely learned the immense value of consulting with an inter-professional team. Everyone is able to bring different knowledge and skills to the table which enhances the product and the experience for everyone.

What are you plans post-graduation (it’s ok if you don’t know!) and has this experience influenced you to pursue your own social innovation or entrepreneurial endeavors? If so, tell us what you are passionate about innovating?

There are so many exciting new ventures in the FemTech world and the digital health area and I am eager to see what opportunities arise!


Cason Whitcomb

Cason Whitcomb

Cason Whitcomb, Real Talk

Tell us about your practicum placement and experience at a public health-focused startup?

I’ve had the opportunity to work with Real Talk: Stories by Teens, which is a mobile story-sharing platform providing teens with a tool to share authentic, engaging stories and be connected to high-quality online resources on sexual health, mental health, and LGBTQ+ topics. My practicum was centered around strategic marketing and partnership development – I researched and employed health behavior theory and social marketing principles to promote Real Talk to our industry peers and partners in order to develop lasting relationships and partnerships across many different sectors.

In short, this experience was fast-paced and fluid and offered me valuable experience in applying my public health skills in a setting very different from traditional academic research.

Why did you want to do your practicum at a startup?

I don’t see myself working in a traditional academic research setting, at least not in the near future, and really wanted to explore mHealth and innovative public health practice! I’m also very interested in sexual health, mental health, and supporting LGBTQ youth – which are all areas at the core of Real Talk’s mission.

What knowledge gained, results produced, or enriching experience are you most proud of?

I feel as if I’ve gained valuable insight into how health communications can play out in a less traditional public health setting. I’ve really enjoyed getting to run targeted advertisements and ad experiments; these are great ways to test message framing to better inform health campaigns! I also feel as if my practicum work has produced a solid foundation to further develop Real Talk’s community partnerships and increase awareness of the app.

What are the key lessons that you will take away from this experience?

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that my timeline had to be flexible. With so many moving parts, and so much for me to learn, it’s not surprising that my supervisor and I revisited my timeline on a few different occasions. But it’s still an important takeaway!

What was most fun or surprising about this experience?

I really enjoyed learning more about design-thinking and its applications in public health! I look forward to taking the course offered in Spring 2020.