Robert Walker, Ph.D., Chief, Career Development and Outreach Branch (right); NIAMS 2015 Summer Interns (center); Stephanie Mathews, Ph.D., Scientific Program Manager (left).
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) Intramural Research Program offers a Summer Internship Program that provides outstanding opportunities for high school, undergraduate, graduate, and medical students contemplating a career in biomedical research or academic medicine.
Our 2015 summer interns received career mentoring from NIAMS researchers, attended lectures and symposia, engaged in basic and clinical research, and gained notable experience that will help them pursue their career goals. It is our pleasure to share with you their summer experiences.
Sophomore, Western Kentucky University
I had a wonderful summer with the NIAMS, working in Dr. Rafael Casellas’ lab. I was working with single molecule imaging of transcription factors in mice embryonic stem cells and B cells. The skills and experience that I obtained under Dr. Casellas will serve me well in the future. The NIAMS staff was very helpful in my transition to the NIH and provided me with great advice and seminars to help me prepare for my future. I would like to thank the NIH and NIAMS for this wonderful opportunity and experience.
Sophomore, University of Virginia
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the NIAMS Summer Program. This program offered me the most immersive research experience yet. Once I joined the RNA Molecular Biology Group and started to get in the groove of things, I gained a lot of confidence and felt like an essential part of the team. My lab members were great mentors and were always interested in helping me make the most of my time here. Outside the lab, the NIAMS program offered many opportunities to get a taste of different research fields and gain a lot of career advice. One example is the NIAMS training event. This event was very extensive and I was able to see a lot of exciting research at the NIH. Furthermore, Brown Bag Lunch sessions with the fellow interns were always a great time because it was a fun environment and a productive one, as well. Overall, I’ve met some interesting people and I've gained a lot of knowledge that I honestly wouldn’t have gained anywhere else. Since the NIH is both a clinical and research center, there is so much going on that you can never be bored.
Graduate student, Georgetown University
Traveling from my hometown and spending eight weeks at the NIH was well worth accepting this educational opportunity. Throughout this program, I found other students to share my experience with. I also connected with researchers who gave me important information and support on preparing for my future, both near and distant. I’ve gained so much from working in the Genomics and Bioinformatics area of NIAMS. I learned how to use some of the programs used in data mining to analyze gene expression. I also received a better understanding of how this technology can benefit patients in ways such as providing personalized medicine. I came into the program with very little experience, and becoming a summer intern has opened my eyes to the possibilities of using computer science and how necessary it will become to know and understand this type of research in the future. I am glad I was able to be a part of the NIAMS summer intern program this year. I believe the information that I was exposed to and obtained during this program will be extremely beneficial in my future endeavors.
Sophomore, George Washington University
This summer, I worked in the Laboratory of Oral Connective Tissue Biology, on a project investigating osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a heritable connective tissue disorder. We worked with two recessive OI mouse models in order to determine the disease's effects on tooth development and periodontal function. Between working in the lab and attending the seminars and workshops that were offered on campus, this summer was one of the most valuable learning experiences I have ever had.
Graduate student, University of Maryland Baltimore County
I started my summer internship in Dr. Maria Morasso’s lab as a first year Masters student still unsure of whether or not I wanted to pursue a career in research. I entered the NIH determined to learn as much as I could about both bioinformatics and the modern scientific culture as a whole, in order to better inform my career decisions. My post-doc mentor was approachable, brilliant and determined to teach me as much as possible about bioinformatics in the short time I was here. The rest of the lab was also welcoming and fun. Our daily lab lunches were always filled with insight into the glories and struggles of being a scientist. Through the program, I met other summer students far smarter than me who were at a similar crossroads in their career. Our weekly intern meetings were always interesting, and Dr. Robert Walker insured an open and comfortable environment for us newbies to scientific research. Overall, I’m incredibly thankful for having the opportunity to intern at NIAMS this summer. The people I’ve met here are some of the most intelligent, genuine and friendly people I’ve come across. The seminars and research being conducted here are also pretty awesome. NIH really is the place to be when it comes to scientific research and hopefully I’ll be back one day! Thanks for an awesome summer!
Senior, Savannah State University
Describing my experience in one paragraph is quite a challenge; I’ll do my best! First day on the job, I felt extremely nervous, but that all changed quicker than expected due to the great individuals in Dr. Robert Colbert’s lab who soon made everything feel like home. I was able to grasp the concept of my research project for the summer, ask as many questions as I wanted, and even start on a few PCR runs with my post-doc. In the midst of my research I had the opportunity to sit in on talks, special seminars, journal clubs, lab meetings, brown-bag lunches with my fellow NIAMS summer interns, attend a graduate fair, and even be a part of the NIAMS training event! The experience was everything I imagined it to be and more. The NIH has a diverse group of wonderful individuals, and I am honored to be a part of such an amazing program. I would love to thank everyone in the NIAMS and the NIH for my growth in this year’s summer internship.
Sophomore, University of Pittsburgh
My time at the NIH working in NIAMS was an enlightening experience for my career. I was lucky enough to enter NIAMS’ Laboratory of Muscle Stem Cells and Gene Regulation, which was an environment that fostered a healthy pursuit of knowledge with a casual atmosphere that made coming to the lab a pleasant experience. I felt no pressure to be perfect, which I think helped me feel very comfortable in the lab. This helped me focus on developing my research skills and producing data that was of high enough quality to benefit the ongoing research. My mentors, Drs. Aster Juan and Vittorio Sartorelli, were always willing to assist me as I worked on my project. Their mentorship was unique in that the criticism they provided was thought provoking, further engaging me in the research I was doing. Because of this, I truly felt like I was part of the research team and knew that I was actively contributing to the project at hand. From my time here at NIH, I learned a lot about my strengths, my weaknesses, and myself. I believe that this has helped carve out the career path that I want to follow. For that, I am very grateful for being able to participate in the Summer Internship Program at NIAMS and thankful for the mentorship and guidance I have received.
Yadis Arroyo Martinez
Second year medical student, University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine
If I could sum up in one word my experience at NIH, I would say it was amazing. I loved the cultural diversity to which I was exposed working there. I met so many amazing people who helped me grow not only in my work but also as an individual. I worked directly with Dr. Peter Grayson in a clinical research experiment in which we studied a disease called Takayasu’s Arteritis. My job as a summer intern consisted of reading and contouring PET-CT’s of patients with the disease. At the beginning, I have to say it was hard because it was the first time I was exposed to this type of research, but I had great mentors that guided me and gave the necessary knowledge to complete my work. This experience reassured me that a future in the medical field is what I want. I am truly grateful for the memories, experiences and knowledge I gained from the NIAMS summer internship.
Sophomore, Norfolk State University
I really enjoyed my NIH/NIAMS summer experience. Upon receiving this internship I had a narrow minded idea about what I wanted to do after undergrad, but this summer experience has really opened me up, and now I see that the possibilities for my future are endless. I never considered medical school or an M.D., Ph.D. program as a possibility, because I never had enough confidence in myself academically to make it a reality. When I first got to the NIAMS, I had a meeting with my director, Dr. Robert Walker, which really inspired me to think bigger and believe that I can do whatever I set my mind to. I recognize the platform that NIAMS has given to showcase my research and I appreciate all of the opportunities they have given me, from the brown bag lunch seminars to the final poster day. I would also like to thank my mentor Dr. Mike Ward and his entire lab for the impact they had on me this summer. I plan to take my newfound knowledge and confidence back with me this fall when I return to school.
Algenis De Jesus
Senior, Fayetteville State University
After graduation, I plan to pursue an M.D. and Ph.D. degree. As a NIAMS summer intern, I worked in the Pediatric Translational Research Branch under the direction of Dr. Robert Colbert studying spondyloarthritis. My project investigated ERAP 1 and its interaction with HLA-B27 in the pathogenesis of ankylosing spondylitis. With the help of Dr. Colbert and the scientists in his lab, I was able to experience bench to bedside translational research first hand. This experience has solidified my career goals allowing me to learn new scientific techniques by shadowing physicians during patient care, working with animals in the animal facility, and attending NIAMS clinical rounds. I could not have asked for a better summer experience. The NIH opportunity facilitated by the NIAMS summer program was exceptional.
Sophomore, University of Maryland College Park
I returned to the NIAMS Summer Program and worked with Dr. Sarfaraz Hasni in the Office of the Clinical Director, investigating multiple clinical research projects involving patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. My project was specifically a multi-factorial assessment of patient compliance with mycophenolate mofetil using three indicators of compliance: pharmacy refill adherence percentage, Medication Self-Adherence Report Index, and physician rating. I greatly enjoyed the work I had to do for this project, from reading the literature on patient compliance with lupus medications, to interacting with patients and learning statistical analysis, as well as my interactions with multiple mentors. I am excited to become a physician-scientist in the future and very grateful to the NIAMS Summer Program for enriching my ambitions.
Junior, University of California at Los Angeles
I had an awesome time this summer, working in the NIAMS Autoimmunity Branch. Having worked in a basic science lab for the last three years at UCLA, it was exciting to get to see the translational side of the research that I had been involved in. More importantly, I got to make great connections with many people inside and outside of the lab, and all of them have been very helpful and kind in giving valuable advice that will definitely help me later on. I will miss NIAMS and I definitely intend on returning soon.
Junior, University of Maryland College Park
I had a really productive summer working in the Autoimmunity Branch at NIAMS. My mentor was extremely encouraging and knowledgeable and I really learned a lot from her about our project, the scientific method and research process in general. Even though it was my first experience working in a wet-lab, I was given responsibilities from day one, and felt like I actually contributed to the project. I learned a lot of different types of lab techniques, ranging from microbiology to molecular biology, and I feel more prepared to take the knowledge that I've gained and apply it to my coursework next year, as well as future research experiences. I also gained a lot career-development wise, and my experience has helped me to form my future scientific career path.
Senior, University of Maryland Baltimore County (Meyerhoff Scholar)
The NIAMS Summer Student Program has definitely given me a wonderful research experience. The principal investigator, Dr. John O’Shea, and my lab supervisor, Dr. Franziska Petermann, ensured that I have a productive summer, balanced with attending workshops, seminars, and lectures open to the whole NIH community. When I arrived at NIAMS, everyone was incredibly welcoming and personable. I would like to thank everyone who has made my summer so special, and I hope to be back soon!
Senior, Morehouse College
The NIAMS Summer Program was truly a time for me to blossom as a young professional. The training that I received while working with the RNA Molecular Biology Group, was second to none. This is my third undergraduate research experience and it has by far been the best. The NIAMS Summer Program offers students the opportunity to be taught at the bench and in the clinic by some of the best scientists in the country on the NIH’s main campus. This incredible access is a priceless opportunity for curious and committed students to make monumental leaps in their scientific and professional maturity. On top of that, our Director, Dr. Robert Walker, made all the difference in pushing us to be our best and helping maximize our exposure. I really enjoyed being in the company of like-minded scholars who encouraged me to continue to strive for excellence. Overall, it was an awesome experience filled with lots of learning – if you’re interested in research as an undergrad I highly recommend it!
Junior, Gardner Webb University
My experience at NIAMS helped me understand the career path I want to pursue in life. I was able to learn about my strengths and weaknesses both in the lab and outside of it. I was able to learn new techniques and information that will help me achieve my future goals. The people that I was able to work with in the Autoimmunity Branch not only taught me more than I could have ever imagined, but they also became friends that I intend to stay in touch with for years to come.