Essential Guide to the APE
Category : PROspective
In this week’s PROspective, we’ll be talking about one of the most valuable aspects of Rollin’s Epidemiology training program: the Applied Practice Experience – or APE. Many students who just completed their first year have been seeking out APE opportunities for the better part of the Spring semester, and many are searching for the right opportunity as we speak. While most students will complete their APE over the Summer, this is by no means part of the requirement, and many students happily and successfully start and finish an APE in their second year. This past week, you might have received an APE check-in survey to help the Department get a sense for where you are in the process – please don’t forget to fill it out to help us help you!
Whatever your situation, this week we wanted to re-share some of the suggestions and wisdom of our past PROspective authors, Dr. Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist and Dr. Lauren McCullough on thinking about what the APE can accomplish and how to set goals to ensure that your experience will be meaningful in the way that you expect.
First, let’s revisit Dr. Christiansen-Lindquist’s article from February 2020. These words were published in, shall we say, “different” times, but much of her advice continues to ring true. On the surface, the APE is an opportunity to translate what you have already learned in the classroom and apply it to real-life public health problems. But this really is just the surface – underneath lies an ocean of questions, emotions, and decisions about your research interests, the contexts in which this work takes place, and how these align with your personal and professional aspirations. In short, it’s a journey, not a checkbox. Ride the wave of self-discovery and don’t get too caught up in certain pre-conceived expectations.
In her original article, Dr. Christiansen-Lindquist posits a few specific questions that will help ground your thinking about how to approach the APE. This is a must-read for any students heading into their APE!
Dr. Lauren McCullough’s article on Goal Setting from September 2020 is another vital resource for those beginning their APE journey. The APE comes with certain requirements, but you should also consider your specific goals for your project and work closely with your field supervisor to identify the path to achieve those goals. Dr. McCullough’s process focuses a lot on introspection – who are you and what do you want? She uses this as a building block for developing SMART goals that can help approach ambitions with built-in intelligence and efficiency.
Finally, there may be many of you who are still looking for that right opportunity. This was a major challenge in the Spring of 2020, when in-person APEs were near universally cancelled for the Class of 2021. While the outlook is much better this time around, you may still experience challenges along the way. When this happens, remember the resources and support at our disposal. Keep a close eye on the Confounder’s APE Opportunities page, which will be updated on an ongoing basis throughout the summer even though the email newsletter will be sent less frequently than during the regular semester. Remember also that the Rollins community runs deep. There is always someone out there – whether you know them already or not – who would be lucky to have you on their team as an intern.
When I was a first year seeking out an APE, the environment was extremely competitive. I applied and interviewed for an opportunity in late April (long after I had given up hope on most of my prospects). Although it took longer than I had hoped to find an opportunity, I ended up landing my dream internship with RTI International and USAID on Malaria surveillance systems in Southeast Asia. Just 2 weeks after accepting the offer – I found myself on a plane to Bangkok. Patience, persistence, and a reliance on my Rollins network made it all happen.
Best of luck to all the first years seeking out or starting their APEs! Throughout the summer, we will be highlighting student APE projects in our #WeAreEmoryEPI section called #InsideAPE – so be sure to check out what your fellow students are up to and how they are navigating their own APE journey in real time. If you’d like to be featured, please send an email to Confounder [at] emory [dot] edu.
One last tip for those looking for an APE: check out the #InsideAPE archives to get ideas from those who have come before you!