Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

September 2017

Future scientists debut at summer interns’ poster session

On July 27, approximately 50 high school, undergraduate, and graduate students proudly presented their research at the NIEHS Summer Internship Program Poster Session.

Summer interns are selected directly by mentors to work in their labs for 8 to 12 weeks. Students gain first-hand experience with cutting-edge techniques, as they work alongside experts conducting environmental health sciences research.

The summer culminates in a conference-style poster session that allows them to present their work to peers and the greater NIEHS community. "The mentors and lab mates enjoy the summer as much as our interns, who bring enthusiasm, as well as fresh ideas and questions," said Debbie Wilson, coordinator of the program.

"And by the end of the summer, they describe their research projects with a knowledge and poise that impresses the scientists who stop by — sometimes asking very detailed questions. It always helps when the next call for mentors goes out."

Kapoor and Wilson Wilson, right, congratulated Ishani Kapoor, a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) for winning the 3-minute challenge (see sidebar). (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

New experiences for a bright future

Many students come to NIEHS for hands-on immersion in biomedical sciences and to learn more about what a research career is really like.

Pegah Khosravi-Kamrani, a recent Columbia University graduate, will start dental school in the fall. She hopes to translate her new skills to learning about the impact of environmental exposure on oral health. According to Khosravi-Kamrani, a big take-away skill from this experience was the ability to think critically. "[I learned] to look at the study after it's finished and think about what is missing that should be looked at next," she said.

Durham Academy senior Lindsay Santiago confirmed her choice to pursue research during college and beyond, in spite of the challenge she — and other interns — faced as they learned new terminology and techniques.

For other interns, exposure to a whole new field was precisely what they needed to firm up career plans. Savan Gandhi said performing data mining was a valuable skill he gained this summer. He is a senior biochemistry major at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and did not have experience in bioinformatics. Gandhi worked on a research project with a direct relevance to human health, to help him prepare for medical school.

Matthew Bergens talking with Zeldin UNC graduate student Matthew Bergens, left, explained the findings of his research project to NIEHS Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

A highly coveted internship

Some interns had their sights set on an NIEHS internship for years. Joseph Goodson-Gregg, a recent graduate of Macalester College in Minnesota, applied for a spot at NIEHS 2 years in a row. During the interim, he reworked his application to improve his chances.

Not only did he get to spend this summer at NIEHS, but this fall, he will start a year-long postbaccalaureate fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Goodson-Gregg liked what he found in the people at NIEHS. "[They] are more than willing to offer their perspective from years in the field and advice on how to put your best foot forward."

Otto congradulates Nacer Simone Otto, Ph.D., right, from the Neurobiology Lab, congratulated her summer student Samir Nacer, from Nova Southeastern University, when he presented his completed project. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Pauca recieves award from Wade Sofia Pauca, right, received the best high school student award from Paul Wade, Ph.D., deputy head of the Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Lab. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Interns Meredith Jessup, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Luyu Wang, from NCSU, followed in the footsteps of family members. Wang recalled that her sister's NIEHS internship was such a positive experience that it inspired Wang to pursue a career in research.

Jessup, who hopes to go to veterinary school, came to NIEHS because her mother, a small animal veterinarian, worked here as an undergraduate. Jessup especially appreciated the community-like feel embodied at NIEHS.

(Anika Dzierlenga, Ph.D., is an Intramural Research Training Award fellow in the NIEHS Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology Group.)


Megan Sfefkovich recieving an award from Wade Megan Stefkovich, right, received the best undergraduate poster award from Wade. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Bingham and Li stand together in front of Bingham's poster Best graduate poster winner Adrianna Bingham, left, and Yuanyuan Li, Ph.D., of the Biostatistics and Computational Biology Branch were pleased even before learning of the award. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Wu talking about his research Nicholas Wu, a sophomore at the University of California at Los Angeles, used his 3 minutes to explain why animal studies that do not account for sex differences present difficulties for biomedical research. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
A group enjoys trivia The end of the summer was also observed with a trivia game, ice cream social, and poster awards. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Reid, Bhattacharjee, and Morgan Office of Scientific Education and Diversity Director Ericka Reid, Ph.D., right, and NIEHS Scholars Connect Program (NSCP) coordinator Suchandra Bhattacharjee, Ph.D., left, congratulated scholar Janiece Morgan, from Duke University, for presenting the best NSCP poster. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Davy discusses their research Rodbell Auditorium buzzed with activity as students like St. Louis University graduate student Orlando Davy, right, discussed their research projects with scientists, staff, and visitors. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Peddada and Bird Teja Peddada, right, a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, listened as Gary Bird, Ph.D., staff scientist in the Signal Transduction Lab, asked one of the questions that kept the interns on their toes. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Ivanov, Kadiiska, and Kumar Lily Ivanov, right, a junior at Athens Drive High School, shared her success with advisers Maria Kadiiska, M.D., Ph.D., and Ashutosh Kumar, Ph.D., from the Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Lab. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
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