Melissa Hey

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Melissa Hey
Melissa Hey

Melissa is a fifth-year PhD student in the Department of Environmental Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences. Her dissertation research seeks to highlight the various ways in which artificial light at night (ALAN) may be disrupting ecosystem processes. Specifically, her work explores how ALAN is affecting decomposition, nutrient distribution through consumer movement, and net primary production. 

Melissa participated in Communicating research, Teaching, and Future Faculty core modules of PhD Plus. 

Melissa is a PhD Plus intern at the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), University of Virginia during the academic year 2019-2020, under the mentorship of Brian Cullaty, Director of the Office.  

What is your post-PhD career aspiration? 

I want to remain in academia following graduate school, serving as either teaching faculty or as an administrator with a role in student engagement and improving the undergraduate and/or graduate experiences. 

How would you summarize your PhD Plus Internship?

I was immediately interested in deepening my understanding of the work that goes into supporting early career opportunities for students to engage in academic research meaningfully. During my time as an intern for the OUR, I have been involved in teaching courses related to research methods, creating content for and running workshops offered by the office, as well as getting involved in broader discussions about what undergraduate research looks like on campus at UVA and ways that we as an office can improve student access to such opportunities. This internship has provided me with a way to take part in what I consider to be deeply meaningful conversations on campus, as well as insight into academic structures outside of my formal training in my own department.  

What professional skills did you develop during your internship? 

This internship has provided me with ample opportunities to develop generally transferable skills in diplomacy, communication, and organization. I’ve also gained more administrative skills like workshop and event recruitment and management, as well as program assessment and evaluation.  

How has this internship assisted your career preparation?  

As part of this internship, I've been able to diversify my graduate research portfolio outside the scope of my dissertation. I communicated my findings at an Education-based conference within a year of beginning work in the OUR. I've also gained insights into the breadth of positions available for those who love doing research and want to stay in academia, as well as broadened my professional network. 

What advice would you give peers on utilizing PhD Plus internships for career development? 

An internship, like any opportunity, is what you make of it. I wanted an experience that would be very different from my regular departmental and dissertation goals. Through my internship, I found a set of colleagues who supported and encouraged my holistic development, and it has greatly enriched my experience as a graduate student. Therefore, if you want something particular from your graduate training experience, communicate it early and with enthusiasm, and you are likely to find the help you need! 


PhD Plus provides students with the opportunity to pursue an internship with a University office or an external partner. The intent of these internships is to engage and develop students’ professional competencies beyond those typically addressed within their academic training. Our goal is to provide students with substantive exposure to activities that will render them more distinct and versatile on the academic job market while also broadening their career options.

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