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Vol. LXI, No. 19
September 18, 2009
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Annual Poster Day Is Bigger with ARRA Funds
Summer Interns Keen on NIH Environment, Atmosphere of Research

On the front page...

The NIH Summer Research Program held its largest Poster Day in recent memory on Aug. 6 with 778 interns presenting their work in three 2-hour sessions throughout the day. More than 1,100 students worked intramurally in 22 institutes and centers and FDA this summer. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus NIH received earlier this year provided funding for 55 more summer research interns in 2009 than would have been hired otherwise.

Continued...


  Alex Mattia (l) and Sarat Muhammad, two of nearly 800 summer interns, share their research at Poster Day.  
  Alex Mattia (l) and Sarat Muhammad, two of nearly 800 summer interns, share their research at Poster Day.  

According to results from a survey of summer interns, efforts to engage the next generation of medical scientists and keep the pipeline of young investigators flowing are being well received. Many survey responses mentioned NIH’s “supportive environment” and its “dynamic research atmosphere.” More than 375 responded to the questionnaire. In addition, more than 93 percent of interns who presented posters felt the poster session was a valuable experience.

“I was initially very intimidated by all of the amazing work that came from people in this lab, and I was even more amazed by the fact that they were going to let me help out,” noted Angela Voyles, who recently began her senior year as a neuroscience major at Vanderbilt. She worked this summer with Dr. Stephen Suomi, chief of NICHD’s Laboratory of Comparative Ethology.

“It’s been great to have first-hand experience in the things that I had only read about in textbooks,” she continued. “Just about every day in this lab has been interesting. I’ve been able to feed infant monkeys, see the recording of EEGs and help conduct behavioral experiments. One of the best parts of this experience, however, has been that my mentor gave me the reins to an entirely new study of yawning in capuchin monkeys. I did all of the background research, planned the experiment and I’ve been collecting data on my own. It was really great to have that kind of freedom and responsibility.”

Jakita Baldwin Meghan Hughes (r) explains her work to Dr. Lauren Wood of NCI. Marco Arias
Chicago native Jakita Baldwin says, “One of the best parts about working with the NIH was being exposed to some of the newest technology used in research.” Meghan Hughes (r) explains her work to Dr. Lauren Wood of NCI. Marco Arias, originally from Bolivia, spent the summer in the immunoregulation unit of NIAMS’s Autoimmunity Branch.

What’s next for her? “I know that I want to continue research in one way or another,” she said. “I’m deciding between pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience or a combined M.D.-Ph.D. My long-term goal is to find a problem in neuroscience that intrigues me and needs to be solved, and then work my hardest to solve it. In 5 years I hope to be on my way to doing just that!”

A bird’s eye view of the scene on Poster Day 2009—more than 780 summer interns presented their work in the halls of the Natcher Bldg
A bird’s eye view of the scene on Poster Day 2009—more than 780 summer interns presented their work in the halls of the Natcher Bldg.

Detroit native Kim Golden had already experienced NIH extramural research when she was in high school. That’s what sparked her interest in science. Then Walter Jones of the Clinical Center’s diversity management and minority outreach department visited her school. “That made me want to find out about NIH and research,” said Golden, now in her second year at Howard University School of Medicine.

On her application for the summer program, she listed pathology, diabetes and hypertension as areas of potential interest. However, she wound up spending the summer with Dr. Fran Sheehan in CC’s department of rehabilitation medicine. “I had never considered rehab before, so this opened a whole new field for me,” Golden noted. “My long-term career goal is to become a practicing physician in a medically underserved area.”

Clinical work is also in the sights of Sean Chester, a junior majoring in biology at New Mexico Tech who worked this summer studying potential brain cancer therapies with Dr. Irving Wainer in the bioanalytical chemistry and drug discovery section of NIA’s Laboratory of Clinical Investigation. “I want to go to med school,” he said, “and start helping people.”

He’d had research experience before coming here, but discovered his NIH lab seemed “a lot more sophisticated, more driven” than those he had worked in. “Here everyone has a clear goal that we’re all working for, all focused on…We also have a lot more resources than in a university setting.”

He, too, found the atmosphere at NIH noteworthy. “There were many things I liked about working at the NIH, the people, the facilities, etc.,” he said, “but the thing I liked most was that the research wasn’t just about getting results. There was a big focus on learning how to interpret the data and relate it to the bigger picture—previous findings, other labs’ data. This helped me understand what I was doing better and helped improve my critical thinking skills.”

Sean Chester Kim Golden Eileen Hu-Wang
Sean Chester, a junior at New Mexico Tech, worked this summer studying potential brain cancer therapies. Detroit native Kim Golden had already experienced NIH extramural research when she was in high school. Now in her second year at Howard University School of Medicine, she got a taste of intramural NIH this summer. Eileen Hu-Wang, a Walt Whitman High School senior, enjoyed getting full-time exposure to lab science.

Learning lab research techniques at NIH also helped focus the “bigger picture” for Eileen Hu-Wang, a Walt Whitman High School senior, who spent the summer working in the section on molecular morphogenesis of NICHD’s Program in Cellular Regulation and Metabolism.

“I enjoyed getting full-time exposure to lab science and being able to observe and learn techniques that I cannot [get] in any course in high school,” she said. “I also valued the experience of writing and presenting a formal poster for Poster Day, because through this process I learned more about my project. I began to recognize the bigger picture and significance of my project and…think about future experiments. Moreover, I enjoyed the lab environment, with different members very willing to help me with my experiments and patiently explaining any background information that I did not understand. I really enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to be a summer intern at NIH.” NIHRecord Icon

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