In some ways, NIH is similar to a school—large wooded campus, cafeteria, students and teachers, lectures and a science fair. But this is not your typical build-a-volcano science fair. Rather, NIH’s annual Summer Poster Day offers summer interns of all ages the opportunity to showcase their research projects, completed with the help of professional scientists. Held in Bldg. 45 on Aug. 8, the day celebrated a community of learning, teaching and sharing among interns, NIH employees and family members.
Participants in the 2013 Summer Intern Program emphasized their appreciation for the depth of research and individualized learning offered by researchers doubling as mentors. Shai Porat, NIDA intern, said, “This was more focused, one-on-one training,” than he had experienced in college. Suzanne Xu, NINDS intern, voiced a similar sentiment: “NIH gave me an opportunity to really go in-depth with topics we can’t really discuss in school…such as C. elegans studies.” She particularly enjoyed being responsible for her own personal project while also collaborating with researchers on their work.
Rhea Sharma, NIMH intern, studied the genetic components of schizophrenia and, in the process, explored a “term that’s loosely thrown around [in society]…but no one really exactly knows what this disorder is all about.” She said her 6-week internship has convinced her that she would like to study both psychiatry and genetics in the future, possibly enrolling in college classes on the subject.
Porat also expects his summer lab experience to “help me when I go back to my home lab…it’s going to be great for grad school.”
The advantages of the Summer Intern Program are like a 2-way street—not only do students gain invaluable experience in professional labs, but also NIH prepares the next generation of bright young scientists to solve the medical issues of the future.