This past summer the NIAMS Scientific Summer Student Program welcomed the next generation of budding scientists and physicians to the NIH campus. The program provided a training experience that both motivated and challenged the young students for their future careers. This year’s diverse group of interns came from different regions of the United States, and were selected to participate in this competitive program based on their schooling and their proposed future contributions to areas of biomedical research keyed to NIAMS mission areas.
The interns contributed to exciting biomedical research, and participated in career development seminars, journal clubs, clinical shadowing, and independent seminars with NIAMS scientific and clinical directors, among many other enriching activities. Read what some of these bright students had to say about their time at the NIH.
Tyler Kellenberger, University of Florida
Mentors: Isaac Brownell, M.D., Ph.D., Head, and Natasha T. Hill, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Cutaneous Development and Carcinogenesis Section, NIAMS
"After completing my first summer research internship with the NIH in 2018 and having an exceptional experience, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to return to the NIAMS for the summer of 2019. My mentors, Drs. Natasha Hill and Isaac Brownell, were instrumental in helping me develop an inquisitive scientific mindset and learn new skills. Returning to the same laboratory allowed me to dive deeper into projects I had worked on previously, investigating the anticancer mechanisms of a novel combinational therapeutic for Merkel cell carcinoma. Additionally, Drs. Robert Walker and Stephanie Mathews, who lead the NIAMS Summer Internship Program, were always accessible and incredibly dedicated to our professional development as future leaders in medicine. Among other things, they organized the NIAMS weekly lunch series, which allowed us to learn from and speak with senior leaders in the Institute. At the NIH, you quickly realize that the opportunities are boundless, the knowledge is seemingly infinite, and the widespread commitment to improving health is outright inspiring. Throughout my time at the NIH, I have improved my analytical and critical thinking skills, learned how to communicate my research more effectively, and worked collaboratively with others in a translational research environment, all of which will undoubtedly help me to become a better health professional in the future."
Christopher Jones, University of Illinois
Mentor: Keith A. Sikora, M.D., Assistant Clinical Investigator, Pediatric Translational Research Branch, NIAMS
"This summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the NIAMS Scientific Summer Student Program, which allowed me to not only develop my research and passions, but also to be surrounded by other young scientists who have high ambitions of changing medicine. Not only did I spend a lot of time conducting research and time in the laboratory, but I also worked side by side with my Principal Investigator, who is a rheumatologist, and shadowed him in the clinic. Overall, the experience allowed me to network with brilliant scientists while also learning the necessary skills it takes to be a successful academic student and an even better person."
Marlee Dinterman, West Virginia University
Mentor: Rafael C. Casellas, Ph.D., Chief, Laboratory of Molecular Immunogenetics, NIAMS
"This summer, I worked in Dr. Rafael Casellas’ laboratory alongside two postdoctoral fellows on an ongoing project. The goal of the project was to investigate the functional interaction of transcription factors, through the use of CRISPR/Cas9 technology and a variety of sequencing methods. The NIAMS Intramural Research Program not only provided me with the opportunity to perform cutting-edge research alongside excellent scientists, but also to improve my ability to perform tasks fundamental to a career in medicine/research, such as networking and public speaking. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity!"
Jonathan Chen, Case Western Reserve University
Mentor: Adam Schiffenbauer, M.D., Staff Clinician, Environmental Autoimmunity Group (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences)
"Having the opportunity to come to the NIH not only expanded my research abilities, but also helped open up future opportunities for me in the field of medicine and biomedical research. During the summer, I worked under Dr. Adam Schiffenbauer and did basic translational and clinical research relating to a rare autoimmune muscle disease called myositis. I gained unique insight and perspective into clinical medicine as well as improved my technical skills in statistics and computational science. I was also able to network with several leading scientists in different areas of medicine and understand more about immunology and the mechanisms of disease pathogenesis. The support of the Summer Internship Program and consistent mentorship by all the staff have had a tremendous impact on my career in medicine and have helped me grow as a future physician and scientist. The NIH is truly a special place that is at the forefront of discovery in science and medicine, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have worked among such a unique community."
Manolya Osman, University of Maryland, College Park
Mentors: Edward W. Cowen, M.D., M.H.Sc., Acting Branch Chief, and Dominique Pichard, M.D., Staff Clinician, Dermatology Branch, NIAMS
"While I had never deemed it possible, my second summer with the NIAMS has proven itself even more fruitful and full of opportunities than the first. This summer, I was with the Dermatology Branch under the guidance of Drs. Dominique Pichard and Edward Cowen. Not only was I able to work on a summer project to influence future clinical trials, but I also attended clinic meetings, clinical journal clubs and rounds, and interacted with dermatology residents and physicians from other institutions and universities."
Rutha Adhanom, University of Maryland, College Park
Mentor: Sarfaraz Hasni, M.D., Director, Lupus Clinical Trials Unit, NIAMS
"My summer at the NIAMS has been the most transformational experience I have ever had. The NIAMS has given me an excellent opportunity to do clinical research in the Lupus Clinical Trials Unit. Every day, I met new people, attended a diverse range of seminars and grand rounds, actively shadowed physicians in the outpatient clinic, and learned new clinical research methods. Throughout my time here, I have had very encouraging mentors who advised, challenged, and helped me excel as a young scientist. As an undergraduate student pursuing a career in medicine and health, this invaluable research experience has been extremely beneficial for my future preparation and has taken my passion in biomedical research to the next level. I am very thankful to the NIH and the NIAMS for this phenomenal experience!"
Anne Schauer, Montgomery College
Mentor: Massimo Gadina, Ph.D., Chief, Translational Immunology Section, NIAMS
"My objective this summer was to create an optimized assay of the STAT4 gene in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Previously thought impossible to create for humans, this assay allows us to see the STAT4 pathway/activity (crucial information that was lacking) and be applicable to future experiments. As a NIAMS summer intern, I was given one-on-one mentorship and extensive training in genetics/immunology, and opportunities to attend campus-wide networking events, career-development seminars, and more! Every moment here made a substantial impact on my future; it is an experience I will forever value."
Lowrey Peyton, Virginia Tech
Mentor: Vittorio Sartorelli, M.D., Chief, Laboratory of Muscle Stem Cells and Gene Regulation, and Hong-Wei Sun, Ph.D., Chief, Biodata Mining and Discovery Section, NIAMS
"This summer has granted me valuable, eye-opening research experience and allowed me to discover my passion for bioinformatics. I worked under two Principal Investigators: Vittorio Sartorelli, M.D., in the Laboratory of Muscle Stem Cells and Gene Regulation and Hong-Wei Sun, Ph.D., in the Biodata Mining and Discovery Section. This multidisciplinary support network allowed me to thrive and complete a project I was passionate about. My main focus was to create a data analysis pipeline for single-cell RNA sequencing data in Python, and I also learned how to process this data on the high-performance computing system. Outside of the lab, I participated in a journal club and attended fascinating seminars by prominent scientists. I am so thankful for the experience I gained this summer and will employ my newly developed skills in my career."
Ashley Bushey, Temple University
Mentor: Mariana Kaplan, M.D., Senior Investigator and Chief, Systemic Autoimmunity Branch, NIAMS
"Spending the summer as a NIAMS intern has provided me with the opportunity to network with other coworkers and learn new skills that will benefit me as I continue research throughout college. I spent the past two summers at the National Cancer Institute, so I was excited for the chance to work in a different Institute and learn a variety of new skills and techniques. My research consisted of learning how to run samples using flow cytometry so I could gather data on differential B cells. When I wasn’t conducting experiments, I talked to coworkers about potential career pathways. I am now considering pursuing my M.D. /Ph.D. after graduating and have also considered the postbac program at the NIH."
Rajee Ganesan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mentor: Hanna Kim, M.D., Lawrence Shulman Scholar, Pediatric Translational Research Branch, NIAMS
"My summer internship with the NIAMS has been a fantastic and rewarding experience; with Dr. Hanna Kim in the Colbert Lab in the Pediatric Translational Research Branch, I worked on a computational project studying proteomics and significantly dysregulated proteins in juvenile dermatomyositis, a complex autoimmune disease associated with chronic muscle weakness. This summer, I have expanded on my technical, computational, and research skills, while meeting and working with primary investigators across NIH Institutes on a truly collaborative project. I am incredibly grateful for the supportive and consistent mentorship I received over the course of the summer and look forward to utilizing these skills that I’ve learned for years to come."
Amal Hutchinson, Howard University
Mentors: John O’Shea, M.D., Chief, and Rachael Phillips, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Molecular Immunology and Inflammation Branch, NIAMS
"I joined the Summer Internship Program at the NIH hoping to gain more perspective on what a career in a STEM field is like. As a chemistry major, I knew I loved science; however, I did not know what it was like to work in a lab outside of class. I learned basic laboratory skills, how to use cutting-edge technologies, present data at lab meetings, and plan for future experiments. The opportunity to be surrounded by some of the world’s greatest minds and resources was invaluable. I also got the support and direction from my mentors on what I need to do to achieve my career goals. I found an interest in translational research and medicine, and therefore shifted my focus on the steps I need for the future. This program was my very first introduction to biomedical research and provided me with an environment that developed my interest in translational research while encouraging me to attentively plan towards attending medical school."
Leah Schachter, Lander College for Women
Mentor: Markus Hafner, Ph.D., Head, RNA Molecular Biology Group, Laboratory of Muscle Stem Cells and Gene Regulation, NIAMS
"My internship at the NIAMS has broadened my horizons in ways I never dreamed to be possible. It has given me the opportunity to explore science and innovation in my own way, the capabilities to pursue my dreams in the biomedical field, and the empowerment to persevere through the journey ahead. I was lucky enough to be matched with a mentor who encouraged me every day to challenge myself, taught me to recognize my strengths, and inspired me to learn and develop a love for contributing to science. During my internship, I also had the opportunity to connect with researchers across the NIH campus, which exposed me to the extraordinary breadth of biomedical research discoveries happening daily. Throughout the summer, the NIAMS administration gave us the warmth and empowerment to proceed, as well as the backing and infrastructure to pursue our goals. At the NIAMS, the intern cohort formed a warm and friendly micro-community that united to support and encourage each other to succeed. I will never forget the valuable lessons and experiences that this internship has given me, and I will cherish these memories, through every step of my journey."