Science Skills Boot Camp Gets Interns Ready for Research

By Ashley DeVine, Staff Writer
A speaker addressing an audience.

Vijay Walia, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at NCI at Frederick, presented sessions on reading a scientific paper and developing a good research question.

By Ashley DeVine, Staff Writer

Summer interns learned how to read a scientific paper, present a poster, maintain a laboratory notebook, and much more, at the Science Skills Boot Camp in June.

“It was a great experience, and it was a great opportunity to meet some of the other interns also working on the campus,” said Alyssa Klein, a Werner H. Kirsten student intern in the Cellular Immunology Group, Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation. “The boot camp covered many topics essential to being a good scientist and science researcher.”

The one-day training program, offered through the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE), was designed to introduce interns with little or no research experience to the NIH research environment.

Klein was one of 46 interns who attended the boot camp, which included sessions on NIH and its research culture, NCI summer resources, science communication, research questions, and reading a scientific paper. Most of the sessions included a group activity, according to Rocio Benabentos, Ph.D., program manager of the boot camp and a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, also working in the NIH OITE.

“We had a really positive response to the boot camp from the students,” Benabentos said. “The sessions on reading a scientific paper, presenting a poster, and keeping a lab notebook were particularly helpful to the students, as was the general advice. They also enjoyed meeting and networking with fellow summer interns.”

The group activities gave interns a chance to review and critique lab notebook entries, PowerPoint presentations, and scientific posters in groups, Benabentos said.

In addition to meeting other interns on campus, Monica Manam, a summer Cancer Research Training Award graduate student intern, working in the NCI-CCRIFX Bioinformatics Core, wanted to learn more about NIH, which she calls her “dream institution.”

“Right from [the start of] my undergrad education, I was fascinated with the amount of important and useful research NIH does,” Manam said. During the boot camp, she enjoyed “forming groups and learning things like writing titles to publications [and] understanding your goals.”


Katherine Goetz, a Werner H. Kirsten student intern with the Vaccine Branch, said her favorite part was learning about poster presentations. “The topic was one that I had heard a lot about; but before the boot camp, it was one about which I knew very little.”

“A lot of the advice given to interns was general because each lab is different,” said Tina Ju, a high school intern through the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences, who is working in the Protein Interaction Group, Center for Cancer Research Nanobiology Program. “It highlights how so many individuals work together to further the mission of NIH.”

Benabentos said the organizers of the boot camp hoped “to provide a foundation and a general understanding of important skills, such as reading a scientific paper or presenting a poster. Most importantly, we hope that the students realize that they have the power to succeed if they are proactive and take advantage of the wonderful resources and mentors around them.”