Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in biology internships

Two Waynesburg University students traveled this summer from their hometowns in Western Pennsylvania to intern at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Both had the opportunity to serve as undergraduate researchers in graduate student laboratories, though in different areas.

Junior Emily Ankrom, a biology major at Waynesburg, worked in the R.B. Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry, which focuses on DNA nanotechnology.

Ankrom, with the help of a graduate student mentor, spent the summer researching how to visualize DNA liquid crystals. While Ankrom’s classes at Waynesburg significantly helped her understand scientific research concepts, she had little experience with DNA nanotechnology, which she said was one of the biggest difficulties of the internship.

“It was challenging right off the bat to enter into a research lab that focused on subject material almost completely foreign to me,” said Ankrom. “I had to spend quite a lot of time on my own, researching background information and reading scientific papers to understand what I would be doing.”

Thankfully, Ankrom had graduate students in the lab with her to mentor and guide her work. She loved being able to see firsthand how much Purdue’s graduate students and professors love what they do.

Ankrom is a member of the American Chemical Society and the Biology Club at Waynesburg. Other students in those organizations showed her how valuable an undergraduate research position could be and helped her apply. Now that she has research experience under her belt, Ankrom has solidified her aspirations to go to graduate school after Waynesburg.

“Before this research internship, I had no clue what grad school was like,” said Ankrom. “Being able to peer into the landscape of graduate school research has helped me visualize the journey I will be embarking on.”

Sophomore Lauren Petrina also secured a position as an undergraduate researcher at Purdue, but she was placed in a different lab than Ankrom. An engineering-chemistry major, Petrina worked in Professor Hilkka Kenttamaa’s lab, specializing in understanding crude oil.

Petrina entered into her research internship at Purdue just after her freshman year at Waynesburg, an unusual circumstance. Waynesburg professors in charge of the American Chemical Society, of which Petrina is a member, encouraged her to apply, though they warned her that freshmen usually don’t get accepted.

But a few months later, Petrina was in a lab with graduate students, getting more hands-on experience than she ever expected.

“I thought I was just going to be an assistant to the graduate students – that is not the case at all,” said Petrina. “I was able to ask questions, contribute my thoughts and feedback and even make suggestions.”

Petrina’s research included analyzing heavy crude oil to understand whether it can be converted to light crude oil, which is used in cars. Supplies of light crude oil have been depleted, so petroleum companies work with labs like Petrina’s to discover whether heavy crude oil is useful. Petrina said she would not have been able to complete her work without having taken Waynesburg’s organic and inorganic chemistry classes.

Like Ankrom, Petrina said the passion of the graduate students in her lab was evident, and she is grateful for the opportunity to work with them.

“If I decide to go to graduate school, I will already be ahead of the game because I will have had experience in a graduate laboratory,” said Petrina. “All of the knowledge I gained through this internship will be useful for the rest of my life.”

Hits: 29

Posted by on in Internships

b2ap3_thumbnail_Ansley-Thomas.JPGThis summer, Ansley Thomas is preparing for a future as a college professor by immersing herself in college education research. Thomas, a senior biology major, is participating in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Georgia.

“My favorite experience is being here surrounded by people who are passionate about teaching undergraduates and who demonstrate how invested and proactive they are about their teaching,” said Thomas.

Thomas is working side-by-side with Dr. Tessa Andrews, assistant professor of genetics at the University of Georgia, and Kelly Lane, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, on investigating the professional identities of graduate students.

“Specifically, we are interested in how they [graduate students] develop and what they look like when they do,” said Thomas. “I help mainly with data collection by finalizing the transcripts from our interviews and assisting with qualitative analysis coding.”

One of the most challenging aspects of Thomas’ work has been gaining familiarity and comfort with the qualitative data, which she shared, and is different from typical bench work in the way that it is handled, collected, analyzed and written. Fortunately, her coursework at Waynesburg has been helpful in providing her with a solid starting point.

“All of the biology courses I have taken give critical background knowledge for this kind of research,” said Thomas.

Thomas is thankful for the opportunity to be surrounded by the biology education researchers at the University of Georgia. The type of education research they are conducting is different than any work she has experienced in the past.

“Having research experience opens you up to the community of research as a whole and to the process of research,” said Thomas. “Acquiring that skill or knowledge is useful regardless of your future plans.”

Being that this experience has related so well to Thomas’ career goals, she feels confident that she is in a strong position to make them a reality.

Hits: 109

Posted by on in Internships

b2ap3_thumbnail_Rachel-N_20150806-182248_1.jpgUpon her arrival at her internship in an unfamiliar jungle located in a foreign country, Rachel Narasimhan, as one might expect, felt a bit homesick. However, she received comfort from an unlikely source, in the form a baby howler monkey named Stevie. After that moment, she never looked back.

This summer, the Waynesburg University senior biology major spent a month as an intern at Aloutta Sanctuary, a rehabilitation and research center located on the Chiriqui Peninsula of Panama, observing and working with monkeys like Stevie. During her time at the sanctuary, she was able to work with many different types of monkeys, including two capuchins, two Geoffrey’s Tamarins and two baby howlers.

While there, Narasimhan was provided with many opportunities to interact with and observe these monkeys, taking on responsibilities such as providing enrichment for them and watching and recording any behaviors they might exhibit that are typical to monkeys in captivity. Each day, she spent nearly an hour documenting howler behavior in order to compile an ethogram, an inventory of every behavior exhibited by the howlers during the period of time in question. It was through observations such as these that she learned how to read and interpret their facial expressions and body language, so as to improve her interactions with the monkeys.

“It is one thing to see them in photographs and to learn about their behavior in a textbook, but nothing compares to seeing it in person,” Narasimhan said.

She was also able to bond with these animals through activities such as grooming sessions and cuddling with the babies. To prevent the monkeys from becoming bored, the interns often rearranged the branches in their enclosure or hid food in interesting places for them to find, tasks fun for both the monkeys and the staff.

In addition to working with the monkeys, Narasimhan spent time studying the effects of teak harvesting in a local teak plantation on the animals that live there. Despite being profitable, teak plantations are often devastating to local mammal populations. However, she found that through collecting the teak in a way that leaves the understory rather than completely removing it, the plantation will be more sustainable.

“Conservation and sustainability are the reason for all of our work at Aloutta, and I [enjoyed] learning about how to make the world a better place, one step at a time,” Narasimhan said.

Narasimhan feels as though she was truly blessed to have had the opportunity to spend part of her summer at the Aloutta Sanctuary. The experience has showed her how much she enjoys working with animals. Upon graduation from Waynesburg University with a major in biology and a minor in psychology, she hopes to be able to continue doing the type of work she experienced during her time in Panama.

Hits: 663

Posted by on in Internships

b2ap3_thumbnail_King.jpgGabrielle King, senior biology major

Maryland sea grant REU fellow, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Cambridge, Md. 

With the iconic Chesapeake Bay as her subject of study, Gabrielle King spent her summer months as a Maryland Sea Grant REU Fellow at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). 

A senior biology major from Clairton, Pa., King’s main responsibility was to characterize predator-prey interactions between copepod Eurytemora carolleege nauplii and Heterocapsa rotundata, both species that thrive in the Chesapeake Bay area. In order to determine interactions, King conducted grazing and survival experiments that she later presented to her co-workers at the end of the summer. 

Spending 40 hours a week at an internship may seem daunting for some students, but for King, she saw it as an opportunity. 

“I applied to my internship because I wanted to get real research experience in marine biology,” said King. “I read about potential mentors at the program who worked with plankton as well as other organisms, and that piqued my interest. I had zero experience with plankton, so I was really hoping I could do some research with them.”

Although not entirely sure what to expect, King felt confident and prepared heading into her internship because of the strong academics she received at Waynesburg University. 

“My courses gave me the background in biology that I needed in order to successfully participate in the program,” said King. “A general biology background in areas like ecology served as a basis from which I was able to build my research.”

Working with an organization centered around sustainability and the livelihoods of people, King was able to recognize the importance of service and relate it back to Waynesburg’s mission. 

“The knowledge I gained this summer not only fueled my passion for learning, but also contributed to my understanding of the Chesapeake Bay which can be used to help others,” said King. “The more we know, the better we can address issues and keep the Bay healthy.”


Hits: 720

Posted by on in Internships

b2ap3_thumbnail_Cochran_20141205-150814_1.jpgIsaiah Cochran, senior biology (pre-med) major

Catalyst SCRPT intern at Harvard University in Boston, Mass.

Isaiah Cochran spent the summer of 2014 interning at an institution where many scholars dream to study and research. The senior pre-med major gained both research and hands-on experience as a Catalyst SCRPT intern at Harvard University. 

Cochran worked mostly in the laboratory alongside Dr. Charles Nelson, a cognitive neuroscience professor, where he studied the 4:1 male to female ratio seen in neurological disorders. In addition, he assisted with clinical observations in regards to Autism Spectrum Disorder, completed a biostatistics course and shadowed physicians. 

Cochran, who interned at Yale University in the summer of 2013, attributes much of his success and the opportunities presented to him to Waynesburg University. 

“I have learned so much at Waynesburg. The professors give us a support system. They know you and they know what will make you successful,” Cochran said. “I have had this fire in me to change the world since I was in eighth grade. With the opportunities that I have been given, I know that it is just a matter of time before I do.”


Hits: 2012