How Great Is Your Student Intern?

Compiled by Marsha Nelson-Duncan, education specialist, Office of Scientific Operations, NCI at Frederick; and Andrea Frydl, Contributing Writer, photos by Richard Frederickson, Staff Photographer.
Two women and a man.

Alex Beall, with mentors (from left) Stephanie Mellott and Nicole Shrader.

Editor’s note: We asked Werner H. Kirsten Student Internship Program (WHK SIP) mentors to tell us about the unique and diverse backgrounds of some of this year’s student interns.

Alex Beall

Microarray Group, Genomics Laboratory, Cancer Research Technology Program
Mentors: Nicole Shrader and Stephanie Mellott, research associates

What is your WHK student intern’s role in the laboratory?
Alex’s role in our laboratory is primarily in our Microarray Group. He works on a variety of tasks/protocols for us, including, but not limited to, RNA/DNA quality control, sample normalization/dilution, and sample preparation for gene expression using the Affymetrix platform.  As time permits, he also helps maintain the status of our Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) by periodically running various diagnostic tests and keeping records on our instruments. 

What extracurricular activities does your intern participate in?
Alex is president of the National Honor Society and is a member of the golf team at Brunswick High School. 

What skills does your intern possess that help with the internship?
Alex is very bright and eager to learn new things. He is not afraid to ask questions, which is a great quality to have for this internship. He is willing to go above and beyond when necessary. He has quickly mastered the microarray techniques, and he has been able to learn a little Sanger sequencing and to help out with the daily CLIA maintenance operations in our laboratory over this past school year. It has been a pleasure having him in our laboratory.

What are some of your intern’s achievements (either inside or outside of the work setting) that you would like to highlight?
Alex was recently accepted to the University of Maryland Honors Program and hopes to be accepted into the Entrepreneur and Innovation Program at Maryland. Approximately 1,000 students in each class are awarded this privilege. He is also a candidate for the Banneker Key Scholarship at the University of Maryland, which is the most prestigious scholarship at the university. Only the top 2 percent of the incoming class are interviewed for this scholarship. Approximately 250 of the 400 students interviewed will receive either a full or partial scholarship. Although Alex has not accepted his admission to Maryland yet, this is an amazing accomplishment. He is still waiting to hear from other colleges before he makes his final decision. He also participated in the Intel/International Science and Engineering Fairs in Phoenix, Ariz., in 2013 and in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2014. He received first place for the Alcoa Future of Transportation Award at the Los Angeles fair in 2014. 

Vincent Kai Homman

Tumor Virus RNA Biology Section, Gene Regulation and Chromosome Biology Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research
Mentor: Masahiko Ajiro, Ph.D., visiting fellow

What is your WHK student intern’s role in the laboratory?
Vincent conducts experiments related to oncology and virology.

What extracurricular activities does your intern participate in?
Vincent has participated in the following activities:

  • Volunteered at Take Your Child to Work Day at NIH
  • Participated in the Student Science Jeopardy Tournament at NCI at Frederick (awarded third place in 2014)
  • Presented a poster about the alternative splicing of HPV16 E6E7 viral gene expression at the NCI at Frederick Student Poster Day
  • Presented genotyping results for Srsf3 cre-loxP knockout strains at laboratory meetings
  • Presented genotyping experiments and HPV16 E6E7 alternative splicing for the summer student progress report

How does your intern excel either inside or outside of the work setting?
Vincent has a great interest in science. He is also a patient person who continuously tries experiments until he eventually solves the problems. For example, it can be difficult to determine the optimal experimental conditions and sample preparations for some kinds of genotyping. In those cases, he has tried again and again to finally determine the optimal conditions.

What skills does your intern possess that help with the internship?
Vincent has excellent presentation skills, which he showed at our laboratory meeting and during his poster presentation.

What are some of your intern’s achievements (either inside or outside of the work setting) that you would like to highlight?
Vincent has completed a few hundred genotyping polymerase chain reactions in order to profile the genotype status of transgenic mouse strains.

Rebecca Matthews

Human Retrovirus Pathogenesis Section, Vaccine Branch
Mentor: Cristina Bergamaschi, Ph.D., staff scientist

What is your WHK student intern’s role in the laboratory?
Rebecca participates in studies aimed at generating human-derived cell lines expressing high levels of cytokines. She is involved in the generation of optimized vectors for cytokine expression, stable transfection of HEK293 cells, generation of cell lines, and clone screening. She contributes to the studies by performing several molecular biology techniques, including cloning, PCR, transfection, ELISA, Western Blot, Coomassie gel, and Bradford total protein determination. She performs the experiments and reports results in her notebook and in PowerPoint format for review.

What extracurricular activities does your intern participate in?
Rebecca is a very well-rounded student. This school year, she is taking her classes at Frederick Community College. She plays first clarinet in the Hood College Wind Ensemble and the All County Band, participates in Frederick’s Women in Science and Engineering program, and is involved in the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (ACE) program of Frederick County. She also enjoys creative writing.

What skills does your intern possess that help with the internship?
Rebecca is extremely personable, and her natural enthusiasm and curiosity make her a true delight to work with. She is a fast learner and, in few months, has stepped up from just performing experiments to interpreting results. She now designs her own experiments with appropriate controls and proposes ideas for future studies. Rebecca enjoys assisting other members of the lab during her spare time. Rebecca lived in Europe for 11 years before moving to the states. Her experiences abroad have made her very culturally aware, and she loves engaging with members of the lab who are from foreign countries. 

How does your intern excel either inside or outside of the work setting?
In the lab setting, Rebecca’s strong commitment to research has very much impressed me. She is one of the few students I had in my career who is interested in every aspect of biology and science in general, and values the internship for the learning experience before the open-door opportunity for the future. After only a couple of months, Rebecca was able to successfully manage assigned projects with minimal supervision. She is a creative thinker and extremely motivated to constantly find ways to improve and learn more. In addition to her dedication to all aspects of her own project, Rebecca recognizes the importance of understanding the research of other scientists and regularly reads papers to familiarize herself with relevant literature. Outside work, Rebecca is a top student at Linganore High School and a role model in her community. She is in four honor societies and volunteers her time tutoring other students and being involved in school events. She was recently accepted to the Honors College of the University of Maryland, College Park, where she will study biomedical engineering this fall.

What are some of your intern’s achievements (either inside or outside of the work setting) that you would like to highlight?
In spring 2014, Rebecca achieved a superior rating for her clarinet performance in the Solo and Ensemble Festival at both county and state levels. In fall 2014, she participated in the Towson University Honor Band. She has also been accepted into several engineering programs hosted by the University of Maryland: the Women in Engineering Exploring Engineering program, which is a week-long program in which participants live on campus; three Women in Engineering Leadership Enhancement, Application and Design Academies.

Henry Reichard

Basic Research Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research
Mentor: Anu Puri, Ph.D., staff scientist

What is your WHK student intern’s role in the laboratory?
Henry conducts experiments to further drug-delivery projects.

What extracurricular activities does your intern participate in?
Henry is team captain of the cross country and indoor and outdoor track teams, plays the violin, serves as president of the Science National Honors Society, and is a member of the National Honor Society at Walkersville High School. He also volunteers at the Tibetan Meditation center.

How does your intern excel either inside or outside of the work setting?
Henry is an excellent experimentalist and is focused on developing lipid-based nanoparticles for improved delivery of anticancer drugs.

What skills does your intern possess that help with the internship?
He is extremely organized, punctual, and highly responsible.

What are some of your intern’s achievements (either inside or outside of the work setting) that you would like to highlight?
Henry has exceeded expectations and has developed nanoparticles using a polymeric lipid that contains a photodynamic drug at a very high efficiency. He was admitted to Yale University for undergraduate studies. He is also a National Merit semifinalist (PSAT).

Jacob Vannoy

Structural Biophysics Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research
Mentor: Kylie Walters, Ph.D., senior investigator

What is your WHK student intern’s role in the laboratory?
Jacob is working with a research fellow to characterize a novel ubiquitin receptor involved in protein degradation.

What extracurricular activities does your intern participate in?
Jacob is the captain of the Linganore High School wrestling team.

How does your intern excel either inside or outside of the work setting?
Jacob has impressive computational skills and enjoys working with complex data.

What skills does your intern possess that help with the internship?
Jacob knows how to write computer programs, and he has written one that reformats and sorts some of our data into a more accessible file format.

What are some of your intern’s achievements (either inside or outside of the work setting) that you would like to highlight?
In our lab, Jacob is helping us solve the structure of a protein complex by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. His project is focused on how cells perform regulated protein degradation. The structural information provided by NMR is used to obtain mechanistic information. The NMR datasets are complex, and Jacob has used his computational skills to reformat data and resolve ambiguities within the datasets. His efforts have helped move the project along in a timely manner, and his programs will also be used in other projects.

Alex Beall, with mentors (from left) Stephanie Mellott and Nicole Shrader.Alex Beall is a student intern in the Genomics Laboratory, Cancer Research Technology Program.Vincent Kai Homman, with mentor Masahiko Ajiro (in background).Henry Reichard is a student intern in the Basic Research Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research. Henry Reichard, with mentor Anu Puri. Jacob Vannoy is a student intern in the Structural Biophysics Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research.Jacob Vannoy is a student intern in the Structural Biophysics Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research.Rebecca Matthews (left), with mentor Cristina Bergamaschi.Rebecca Matthews is a student intern in the Human Retrovirus Pathogenesis Section, Vaccine Branch.

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