Incoming freshman and award-winning scientist sets sights on clinical experiences

Most students wait until after they’ve started college to pursue an internship, but incoming freshman Rashad Prendergast got a jumpstart on his research experiences.

He won an all-expenses-paid internship at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rivohot, Israel, and spent July working in an immunology lab with interns from around the world.

“It was a life-changing experience for me - my outlook regarding the world of science has changed,” he said.

“I was able to meet and become friends with various students from all walks of life during my free time, in addition to researching the effects of autoimmune regulators in DNA and exploring the old city of Jerusalem,” he explained. 

Future certified nurse anesthetist

“The whole chemistry of being able to put someone to sleep during a surgery—that’s just fascinating to me,” Prendergast explained. “I can’t imagine ever being bored working in that field every day.”

He’s not trying to rush into his career, though.

“I am most excited for freshman clinicals,” he said.

Freshmen clinicals at UMSN are how first year students start learning the clinical, professional role of a nurse. They work in the simulation lab, wearing scrubs, behaving as if they were in clinic, and treating the mannequins as real people.

“When we get to clinicals in a hospital, we’ll be ahead with this experience,” Prendergast explained.

A passion for research

Prendergast’s enduring interest in science has opened the door to opportunities for him. In 2016, he participated in the Detroit Research Internship Summer Experience (D-RISE), an opportunity offered through the Literature, Sciences and the Arts chemistry department to students at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. Through this program, he spent a month on U-M’s campus working in chemistry labs with faculty members and graduate students.

“Doing undergraduate research was something that instantly intrigued me. I wanted to be at the University of Michigan studying science. After I applied, I bugged my advisor every day until I heard I got it,” he said.

Prendergast worked in an environmental science lab, focusing on the impact of road salt usage on the environment.

“With that project I entered into the Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) of Metro Detroit, and I won the grand award. That allowed me to enter the International ISEF in Los Angeles, and I won 4th prize in my category.”

Winning the ISEF Metro Detroit grand prize also entered him into the competition for the Weizmann Institute of Science internship.

Global pursuits

Prendergast credits his experience at ISEF with motivating him to explore research abroad.

“When I was at ISEF I was next to a student from Mexico and a student from China, and that was only one week,” said Prendergast. "It made me so interested to understand the research process in other countries."

No stranger to world travel, Prendergast has lived in a number of countries and different states in the U.S. with his military parents. He has also visited extended family in Jamaica.

Hitching his wagon to nursing

Early success in chemistry notwithstanding, Prendergast knew he would stick with nursing.

“I knew regardless a chemistry background would help me because there is a lot of chemistry in nursing. Whether I become a nurse anesthetist or not, I know I’ll have a great nursing education and be able to succeed wherever I go.”