Carly Craig recently participated as a summer intern at NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana. Although she was initially apprehensive about being so far from her home, family, and friends in Alaska, she was excited about an experience that “would make me grow as a person.” She was not disappointed. The experience exceeded her expectations. “The learning curve was steep,” she said, but not beyond her reach. “I learned so much in such a short amount of time.” She was also pleased with her decision to go to RML. “Montana seemed like the best fit for me. I really like the outdoors a lot and got to see some amazing things in Montana.”
The experience also caused Carly to question her career path. She is not as sure anymore about her desire to go to medical school. “There are so many research opportunities, and I love the field of biomedical research.” She understands now how much biomedical research directly impacts patients and others.
That couldn’t have been made more clear by the research Carly worked on during her RML internship. Stationed in the Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis, Carly performed antibiotic susceptibility tests on 10 community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates. MRSA, an infection previously limited to hospital settings and people with risk factors for infection, has emerged as a major public health threat over the last five years. Scientists at RML are working to learn how MRSA invades the body, resists antibiotics, and spreads so quickly.
Carly has some decisions to make as she nears graduation from college. A post baccalaureate traineeship is certainly a possibility.
Why did you pursue a summer internship?
I initially pursued this internship because a previous 2011 NIAID intern, Robbie Grove, recommended me to the [lab of Michael Lenardo, M.D.]. I had some previous research experience but was enthusiastic to explore the world of immunology as it relates to disease. I had explored some of these topics at the University of Pennsylvania but wanted to gain greater insight into them. In addition, I wanted to use this opportunity to look into various career paths. After talking with my principal investigator, Dr. Lenardo, and other lab members, I have gained a greater insight into the world of medical research. I will definitely consider their advice when I decide to apply for an M.D., Ph.D., or even both!
What tasks/projects did you complete during your time at NIAID?
A lot of the research I conducted related to studying a gene called PGAM5 in cell necrosis pathways. Much of my time has been used studying the interaction of the gene's protein product with other macromolecules in the pathway. This has involved a lot of Western blots, PCRs, and gel electrophoresis. In addition, I have helped conduct some genotyping to verify the genetic structure of various cell types. I am planning on compiling the data for my project to present at the 2013 poster session.
To whom would you recommend this internship?
I would recommend this internship to anyone interested in pursuing a career in research. The best part about the eight-week program is being to explore innovative topics and learn new lab techniques that will assist you later on in your research career. Although it does help to have some interest in the topic, I don't believe this is necessarily the most important factor. Even if you have never done research, I would still highly recommend applying for an NIAID internship for two reasons: 1) It will help you perform better in school by making scientific topics more applicable to the cutting-edge world of medical research, and 2) It can assist you in making a conscious decision about future academic pursuits and career choices. Overall, I can say it's been a wonderful and informative experience and hope that you decide to apply for it.
I wanted to participate in a summer internship at NIAID because I was excited about the prospect of conducting research on infectious diseases, which I am passionate about. Being able to do real and meaningful research in infectious diseases and being able to apply the ideas and methods that I had learned about in class was very exciting to me. I knew that gaining research experience in an NIAID laboratory would allow me to hone my laboratory skills, obtain first-hand insight on what it is like to work as a research scientist, and work alongside renowned scientists in a key place, NIAID, where so much amazing research is happening.
I learned to use molecular genetics to study regulatory mechanisms involved in mammalian infection by Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochete that causes Lyme disease. Some of the many methods and techniques I learned this summer include spirochete cell culture, plasmid DNA extraction, dark-phase microscopy, principles of scanning and transmission electron microscopy, Western blot, and cloning and transformation of B. burgdorferi, to name just a few. Aside from building actual lab skills and learning laboratory techniques, I gained confidence in my ability to do science and to be able to think critically and to organize experiments. I was also able to listen to lectures during a two-day conference on the gut microbiome, and I successfully presented my summer project during our end-of-summer symposium.
I highly recommend this internship to anyone seeking an invaluable summer experience. Not only will you gain lab skills and confidence while in a great learning environment, but you will have the opportunity to network with scientists and people in your field of interest. You will also be able to participate in workshops and other activities where you can learn about opportunities and different areas of ongoing research that can propel you toward your goals.
Last Updated September 30, 2013