Recently, 24 undergraduate, graduate and medical students from
diverse backgrounds, and equally diverse goals, were invited to
NIH as part of the third annual Intramural NIAID Research Opportunities
(INRO) program. Begun in 2003, the program is the backbone of NIAID's
effort to increase intramural research program diversity.
Students from across the country spent 5 days learning about training
for biomedical research careers, attending scientific lectures
and touring. The event culminates with students interviewing scientists
who most interest them.
The program traditionally begins on a Sunday. Current NIAID research
trainees are on hand to address visitors. This year, postbaccalaureate
trainee and INRO alumni David Reynoso of the Laboratory of Malaria
and Vector Research, spoke about the hands-on approach of his mentor
and the gradual fostering of independence as he became more comfortable
with his research. He also offered useful tips on how to find affordable
housing in the Washington metropolitan area. Dr. Frank De Silva,
Laboratory of Viral Diseases, provided insight into challenges
faced by minority researchers, emphasizing the importance of strong
Dr. Wendy Fibison, associate director, Office of Training and
Special Emphasis Programs, guides the INRO program. She has current
OTSEP-sponsored trainees spend the entire week with the visitors,
offering their insights.
"The visiting students connect most with people at their own level,
people who have recently struggled with the same questions they
are now asking," said Fibison. "And, the trainees remember so well
their own struggles."
Dr. Thomas Kindt, NIAID scientific director, has strongly supported
the program since it began. He has no doubt that "the diversity
of the workforce offers significant advances in biomedical research
at NIAID and throughout the NIH."
Since its inception, INRO has grown. Begun as a 3-day program
with 11 participants chosen from a pool of 18 applicants, it has
evolved to a 5-day session hosting 24 students selected from more
than 120 applicants. More than 40 NIAID researchers requested interviews
with one or more of the INRO students during the visit.
Although the program is formally over for the year, students will
receive regular mailings from OTSEP informing them of new research
advances, events of interest and the latest information about training
Ultimately, the success of the program is measured by how many
INRO participants actually receive offers to participate in a traineeship
within the intramural research program.
To date, seven INRO 2005 students have accepted offers to return
and 11 more are talking about it. Before the students boarded planes
to go home, they took INRO 2006 promotional cards for their colleagues
and friends, assuring more potential trainees will learn about