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NINDS Leads Effort in NIH Native American
Student Summer Program

By Shannon E. Garnett

On the Front Page...
NIH has long been known for the many research opportunities and experiences it provides to students during the summer months. Recently, in cooperation with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), NIH initiated a new summer program for students -- the NIH/AISES Student Summer Work Experience Program.


This first-of-its-kind program is intended to enhance awareness among Native American college students of NIH career opportunities, to provide summer work experience for the students, and to improve NIH's Native American work- force population, which is underrepresented at NIH as well as in the overall federal workforce.

NINDS played a key role in creating and implementing the project, serving as the lead institute in the beginning stages, helping to plan, establish, and promote the program, and recruiting students. Claudia Palumbo, an NINDS personnel management specialist, initiated the NIH-wide agreement with AISES for the students' summer internships. Other institutes involved in the program include NCI, OD OEO, NEI, NIAAA and NIDR.

The purpose of the 10-week program is to expose students to all aspects of work at NIH including research, development, technology, administration, and management, and to encourage students to pursue careers relevant to NIH's mission.

AISES summer student Anthony Parker (r) is studying gene transfer with mentor, NINDS senior staff fellow Dr. Jeffrey Medin.

Anthony Parker, an undergraduate majoring in molecular and cellular biology and fish and wildlife science at the University of Arizona, is studying gene transfer with Dr. Jeffrey Medin, a senior staff fellow in the section on molecular and medical genetics, Developmental and Metabolic Neurology Branch, NINDS. So far, Parker's project has involved setting up gels, cloning, separating DNA, inserting markers into DNA, and extracting DNA from gels.

"I can't say enough positive things about the program," said Parker. "My mentor, Dr. Medin, is absolutely fantastic. I came here with basically no research training and everybody has been so patient, helpful and professional. The support is just great."

Participants in the program are American Indian and Alaskan Native American college students who are active in their schools and communities and who have demonstrated success in college. They are recommended to the program by their advisors and professors.

Other federal agencies, including the departments of Commerce, Energy, Agriculture, Transportation, and the Central Intelligence Agency, are also initiating similar programs.

A pre-med student considering specializing in emergency, surgical, or pediatric medicine, Parker recently participated in a workshop on research training opportunities at NIH for high school and undergraduate students. "I'm going to do everything I can to encourage students to apply to the program," he said. "It's outstanding."

AISES is a nonprofit organization that promotes community development by bridging science and technology with traditional Native American values. Through its educational programs, AISES provides opportunities for Native American students to pursue studies in science, engineering, business and other academic areas. Each year representatives from NINDS attend and participate in AISES's annual meeting.

In addition, NINDS is supporting two other efforts to attract, motivate, and encourage Native American students to pursue careers in biomedical sciences: the National Native American Youth Initiative in Health, Biomedical Research, and Policy Development, and the NINDS Summer Program in the Neurological Sciences.

"NIH's summer programs have proven to be very successful efforts for students of diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in science," said Levon O. Parker, NINDS minority and special concerns program officer. "The primary goal of these programs is to build a cadre of scientists for the future."

For more information on the AISES program or other NINDS summer student programs, contact Levon Parker, 6-5332.

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