Wendy J. Fibison, Ph.D.
Associate Director, OTD
You can help researchers improve public health by volunteering for NIAID clinical studies.
Over the past several years, students from across the continental United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico applied to participate in the INRO program. Outstanding undergraduate and graduate students were chosen to participate each year based on their overall academic excellence and their interest in biomedical research.
Making the Most of the Summer Internship
JoLynn Azure, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, heard about INRO through her membership with the Association of American Indian Physicians and jumped on the opportunity. After interviewing with Kim Y. Green, Ph.D., Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, and learning more about the research underway in the lab, JoLynn signed on for a summer internship.
While at NIAID, JoLynn used her eight weeks wisely. In addition to doing a poster on her research, she job shadowed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center, a hospital devoted to clinical research. Twice a week she followed staff to get a sense of the day-to-day life of a physician who is also conducting research. The experienced fueled her goal of going to medical school.
Asked whether she felt uncomfortable at NIAID given that there are so few American Indians in biomedical research, JoLynn remarked on how welcome she felt, “My work crew is very diverse which is helpful. I felt like I fit in very well.”
After completing her summer internship, JoLynn returned to her hometown of Minot, North Dakota, to help her family rebuild their home which was flooded when the Souris River—heavy with intense snowmelt and rain—overtopped levees. She plans on going to medical school in the fall.
When she applied to INRO, Elisa Frankel didn’t know anything about NIH. But after attending the 4-day program in February, she knew she wanted to come back. She spent the summer working with Olivia Steele-Mortimer, PhD., Salmonella Host-Cell Interactions Section, at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana, studying salmonella bacteria using a transmission electronic microscope.
The experience whetted her appetite to learn more about the technologies that support biomedical research. After her summer internship Elisa is traveling to Israel under a Fulbright scholarship to study the electronic properties of DNA base lesions at the Weizmann Institute of Science, where she is excited to incorporate both physics and biology into her investigations.
For Elisa, there are too many choices. “I’m not sure what I want to do,” she says of her career path. When she returns from Israel she will attend graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where plans to get more technical training.
Neysha planned to go directly to grad school after completing her bachelor’s at Pontifical Catholic University at Puerto Rico, thinking it would be better for her career. After encouragement from her professor, though, Neysha attended INRO, deferred her graduate work and committed to a 1-year postbac traineeship at NIAID.
Neysha choose to do her postbac at RML to work under Steve Porcella, Ph.D., Research Technologies Branch. During INRO, Neysha was intrigued by Porcella’s presentation, talked with him informally, and by week’s end, was convinced RML was for her.
RML gave Neysha what she was looking for, a strong foundation of “important research techniques.” “My project focused on developing a technology and methodology capable of accurately analyzing and quantifying low amounts of RNA and DNA in hundreds of samples from various sources by using the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer and RNA 6000 Pico Kit.” Neysha also learned how to give scientific talks and was co-author of a paper, not a common feat for a postbac.
Hungry for more research experience, Neysha signed on to do another postbac traineeship with NIAID investigator, Dr. David Greenberg, Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases, this time at NIH headquarters in Maryland. Because of the skills she learned at RML, Neysha had a little more independence during this postbac. “I was excited to have my own experiment studying Granulibacter bethesdensis (a newly identified bacterium) in longer life phagocytes.”
After two postbac research traineeships, Neysha is ready to begin graduate school at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus to study industrial pharmacy. “INRO surpassed all my expectations. It was challenging and enriching. I feel more prepared and confident to go to grad school and then go on with what I’m positive will be an exciting career.”
Research That Affects Change
INRO, Eleca thought, would give her a nice introduction to the Institute, where she was pretty sure she wanted to do her postdoc. She was pleasantly surprised, though, by the amount of support she received. “As a graduate student, you feel isolated, not sure if you are making the right decisions― it was nice to come to a program that had such a support system.”
“I knew this was the Institute for me.” At NIAID, she explained, it is not just about research. “You meet people involved in writing, administration, public policy work. The world is really your oyster when you come here.” In fact, it is this merging of different disciplines that Eleca finds so attractive about NIAID. Ultimately, she wants to do work that goes a step beyond the bench, work that “feeds directly into public policy or disease management.”
After only two years at NIAID, it seems Eleca’s work is paying off. Her recently published paper on the different evolutionary trajectories of European avian-like and classical swine H1N1 influenza A viruses was the Journal of Virology’s second most read article for the June 2009 issue.
Ihunanya had set her goals―complete her bachelor’s at Wesleyan College (Macon, Georgia), do a postbac traineeship while applying to medical schools, get her M.D./Ph.D. from Duke University School of Medicine, then become a surgeon. What Ihunanya didn’t know before coming to NIAID was that these goals would change ever so slightly, yet monumentally.
After attending INRO, Ihunanya signed on to do a postbac traineeship under the mentorship of Philip M. Murphy, M.D., in the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology. Spending the year at NIAID, says Ihunanya, gave her a new perspective and helped to direct her career. “NIAID increased my interest in global health. It was helpful to see other researchers, such as Thomas C. Quinn, M.D., M.Sc. (NIAID International HIV and STD Unit),” who are working in global health. Though her words are matter of fact, you can’t help but hear the passion in her voice as Ihunanya talks about this new career path.
No longer considering a Ph.D. to complement her M.D., Ihunanya is thinking about getting a master of science in global health, which will give her the background she needs for her new career path. She soon begins her third year at the Duke University School of Medicine, where she will be on her way to Botswana to do her clinical work as a result of being selected as a Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholar. The Botswana-Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative Partnership is a collaborative research and training initiative between the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Botswana and the Harvard AIDS Institute. “I’m thrilled to begin work in global health,” says Ihunanya.
From Science to Business to Science
The first male in his family to go to college, much less an Ivy League school, Tshaka felt pressure to go into business. Deciding to follow his heart, Tshaka went on to earn a Ph.D. in Virology from Rockefeller University and did fellowships at the Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris, at NIAID, and at the National Cancer Institute. Finding himself at a crossroad once again and ready to take a step away from the bench, Tshaka began to explore his options.
Today, Tshaka is a scientific program manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs, where he and his team fund $150 million annually for research that advances the health of America’s veterans. Although he is no longer in the lab full time, Tshaka still has “a toe,” as he calls it, in the door of research. The many journals he reads and his adjunct assistant professor position at Howard University teaching medical virology keep him up to speed on the science. Is it enough? “I am very satisfied,” says Tshaka.
Of his experience at NIAID, Tshaka says “NIAID offers that high level training.” His advice to others, “Make the best of the opportunity—get on well with your lab mentor and make as many connections as you can inside and outside of NIH,” because you never know which direction you may go.
“The programs sounded like an exciting opportunity to learn about NIAID research.…”
As an undergraduate at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, Imran Babar became fascinated with basic cell and molecular biology. On the advice of a professor, he applied to INRO and was accepted.
Imran met and interviewed with several NIAID investigators. Dr. Stephen F. Porcella, chief of the Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis at RML, sparked his interest. “I wanted to learn microarray analysis, and researchers at the RML were doing a lot of it.”
Under Dr. Porcella’s mentorship, Imran learned how to set up an effective control, gained a wealth of experience with microarray analysis, received advice regarding graduate school, and was able to coauthor a publication in a respected peer-reviewed journal.
Imran’s research experience motivated him to apply to some of the Nation’s top graduate schools. He entered the Ph.D. program in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University.
“I was thrilled to learn that the research component was definitely something I could incorporate with my medical career.… INRO solidified for me that research.”
At INRO, Mila attended scientific lectures and had the opportunity to interview with several researchers, including Edward A. Berger, Ph.D., chief of the Laboratory of Viral Diseases. She talked with Dr. Berger about the research in his lab and what she might do if she signed on for a research traineeship. After talking with Dr. Berger, Mila says, “I had no doubt that I wanted to take a year off and learn more about independent research at NIH.”
Today, Mila is pursuing her M.D./Ph.D. at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York through the Medical Scientists Training Program, an NIH-funded program. She hopes to practice medicine and eventually to have her clinical experiences influence the research she ultimately would like to do in virology.
Juliana Lewis attended INRO on the advice of her mentor at Northeastern University in Boston. She had just completed her first laboratory experience as an undergraduate and was sparked with a newly found interest in biomedical research. Her mentor thought that INRO might help Juliana decide whether she wanted to move forward with her original goal of attending medical school or perhaps take another path.
“At INRO, I learned about the science behind the medicine,” Juliana explained. “I realized that there are additional paths that will lead me toward my career goal of helping mankind lead a longer, healthier, and more fulfilling life. Biomedical research happened to be a side of medicine that sparked my interest on a deeper level than hands-on patient care.”
Juliana did a summer internship position with the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology at NIAID. She then secured a postbaccalaureate position at the same laboratory. Intending to stay for one year, Juliana signed on to continue her research as a postbaccalaureate trainee for an additional two years.
Juliana is now pursuing her doctoral degree in immunology at Tufts University in Boston. She speaks openly about her change from her original desire to attend medical school to her current path, that of obtaining a Ph.D. “It’s an exciting milestone in my life.”
“INRO superseded my goals. The research described was very cutting-edge and groundbreaking.”
As a graduate student at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Donald applied to INRO to gain a better understanding of research opportunities available. He knew that he wanted to pursue his interest in immunology, obtain a medical degree, and conduct research at a teaching hospital. He also knew that NIAID was at the forefront of research in immunology and would be a wonderful place for him to feed his desire for discovery through research. INRO offered the chance to see exactly what opportunities might be available to him.
Donald spent a summer honing his research techniques and gaining a broader understanding of research protocols through NIAID’s summer internship program.
Donald continued his educational training at the University of Illinois in the M.D./Ph.D. program.
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This program offered by the: Office of Training and Diversity, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health
Last Updated March 23, 2012