Expand your skills

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


  • Explore all practicum opportunities in the Gillings School Practicum Database.
  • Other Startup Jobs & Internships are also available through 1789.
  • Check back here in early Spring 2022, for additional practicum opportunities!
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 2021 innovation-focused practicum.

Sarah Muskin, Seal the Seasons

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

My academic interests broadly deal with environmental justice and exposure mapping. For my summer practicum, I worked with Seal the Seasons (StS), a company dedicated to “making local frozen produce available year-round, while also helping provide small family farms with a reliable income stream year after year.”

The purpose of my practicum project was to recommend anti-racist interventions to StS to diversify and support socially disadvantaged farm partners. My experience working with StS included conducting a literature review on systemic racism in agriculture, and then outreaching to potential partners to discuss how StS could help direct or redirect sourcing and purchasing, and thus capital to socially disadvantaged farmers either in the long or short term. Finally, I compiled a recommendations report in which I included suggestions for company innovation to better direct sourcing and purchasing to socially disadvantaged farmers while meeting diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Working in a creative and problem-solving work environment was exciting and fun.

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

Given that my project was research-focused, I am most proud of how I was able to weave together the themes that arose throughout my literature review search. I was then able to utilize these themes to help build my recommendations report for planning StS policies. I hope that my products are able to be used and/or implemented through the resources I provided in my recommendations report.

What was most fun or surprising about this experience? 

The most fun part of my experience was getting to attend farm visits with the StS procurement specialist. Meeting farmers in different areas of NC was so enjoyable, and in the case of visiting larger farms- informative, as I only had experience working with and on small-scale family farms. Also on the farm tours, learning the supply chain system that StS is creating was thought-provoking and fascinating.

Zhitong Yu, OPT Industries

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

I worked in the intersection of technology, healthcare, and business at OPT Industries, an advanced digital manufacturing suite, specializing in designing and mass-producing products such as nasal swabs and medical devices.

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

I spoke with this company beforehand and found their projects are very interesting. The scope of the practicum work was a great fit for my interests. Additionally, it was a great opportunity to work independently in a small team, and collaborate with people from different backgrounds. The tasks assigned to me were unique and there wasn’t a pre-specified way to do these tasks. I had the flexibility to figure things out and think innovatively about how to get tasks done most effectively and find out the ways that worked best for me. Lastly, there were multiple projects going on, and I had the opportunity to get involved in a variety of activities going on in the company in some way.

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

I am most proud of being able to apply what I learned in my education to the practicum and create positive impacts. In terms of knowledge gained, this experience enhanced my understanding of how my data science skills and public health experience can help with social innovation.

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

It is important to maintain effective communication with preceptors/co-workers. For example, it is very helpful to ask people what their preferred working styles are. As for my preceptors, they are usually occupied with various tasks, they preferred for me to let them know or send reminders to make sure they reviewed my work and provided me with feedback or instructions on time. Knowing this and incorporating it into the way I worked with them definitely made our collaboration more effective. Different people have different working styles, and they may not always tell you beforehand. It would be good to take the initiative, proactively communicate with others, and make adjustments when needed.

What was the most fun or surprising part about this experience?

This experience challenged me to think deeper and more innovatively and allowed me to think out of the box and reflect on the ways that I have been working in a team setting as well as independently.

What are your 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? 

Though I am still figuring out my post-graduation plans, I am still very passionate about bringing innovation to public health and data science in the future.