Internship Success Stories

Former Student Reflects on Summer Research Experience at NINDS - Nathan Rowland  

In the summer of 1997, I had an opportunity to participate in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Summer Program in the Neurosciences at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This highly competitive research training program is designed to attract and train academically talented students for first-rate research on disorders of the brain and nervous system. A major objective of this program is to expose students to the excitement, challenges, and rewards of health-related research and to prepare them for outstanding careers in biomedical research and academic medicine, especially in the neurosciences. That summer, the program was directed by Mr. Levon Parker. I distinctly remember walking into the lecture room on orientation day of the program and listening intently as he spelled out what was to be a pivotal summer in my research career. I still remember being impressed by how passionate Mr. Parker was, and it quickly became clear that he set the bar very high and expected us to do no less. I was honored to be assigned to the Laboratory of Central Nervous System Studies, a lab that produced a Nobel Laureate. My preceptor was the late Dr. Clarence Joseph Gibbs, an internationally acclaimed neuroscientist recognized for his pioneering work on infectious diseases of the nervous system. Dr. Gibbs was also known for his commitment to providing the very best training for his students. As a summer researcher in Dr. Gibbs’s laboratory, I presented posters on my research projects at the NIH Summer Research Poster Day. Poster Day provided an opportunity for me to present and discuss my research projects informally with peers and members of the NIH scientific community, and to gain experience in presenting scientific results. I also had the opportunity to participate in laboratory seminars and attend formal lectures and symposia dealing with the newest advances in health research. For the work I did on my research project in the Laboratory of Central Nervous System Studies, I was awarded an NINDS Exceptional Summer Student Award. And as a result of this training, I have successfully presented posters at several annual meetings of the Society for Neuroscience. In fact, I owe a lot of my commitment to doing top-notch science to Mr. Parker and the NINDS Summer Program in the Neurosciences. At the present time, I am in the final year of my Ph.D. studies in the neurosciences as part of the MD/PhD program at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. This past year, I succeeded in publishing my first peer-reviewed journal article in the Journal of Neurophysiology.

 

Summer Students at the NIH/NINDS - Lucy Boyce Kennedy

Lucy Kennedy

I spent two summers in the Laboratory of Functional and Molecular Imaging at NINDS. My project focused on determining the effect of cortical-cortical inhibition on recovery from peripheral nerve injury. On a more specific level, I performed Somatosensory Evoked Potential (SEP) recordings on rats in vivo to test the hypothesis that inhibitory activity hinders rehabilitation from injury. To run these experiments, I inserted three electrodes into the somatosensory cortex of each rat. I then inserted two forepaw electrodes and connected multiple plugs and wires. Dr. Galit Pelled was my mentor throughout both summers, and she willingly devoted large amounts of time to explaining her work and methods. Not only did she ensure that I understood the premise of her research, but she taught me to appreciate the importance of patience and open-mindedness in the scientific process. In addition to performing experiments and data analysis, I attended special lectures and symposia throughout the summers. NIH, as well as NINDS, invites exceptional speakers to present to the summer students. These talks cover topics from cutting edge research in countless areas to career path advice. I also attended lectures sponsored by the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE), which elucidate the process of graduate and medical school application. Additionally, I presented a poster at the summer poster session after both summers, which provided me with an opportunity to present my research to many scientists. The poster session enabled me to experience first-hand the process of question and answer that is central to scientific discovery-I was amazed that I enjoyed answering the challenging questions that I was asked!

 

My Summers at the NIH/NINDS - Yixiao (Peter) Zou 

In the summers of 2007 and 2008, I worked in Dr. Tom Reese's laboratory and learned to apply computational biology approaches to study the movement of calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinase II, or CaMKII, in neuronal dendrites and dendritic spines. In the first summer, I constructed the geometrical boundaries of a dendritic spine in simulation software SMOLDYN, wrote data analysis scripts in MATLAB, and qualitatively validated simulated diffusion by reproducing two published observations of protein diffusion in biological dendrites and dendritic spines. In my second summer, I quantitatively demonstrated that while neglecting the effects of macromolecules and organelles in neuronal cytoplasm, the error margin of my diffusion model was well within a factor of 2 from biological measurements. Explicit modeling of macromolecules and organelles further improved modeling accuracy. In the short term, a model of protein diffusion in dendrites and dendritic spines can help assess the roles of macromolecules and organelles in diffusion-mediated protein trafficking near the post-synaptic terminal. In the long term, specific protein-protein interactions can be incorporated into the basic diffusion model, therefore making the model a useful tool in elucidating the many mechanisms involved in recruiting CaMKII near selected post-synaptic terminals, where the protein plays critical roles in synaptic potentiation and behavioral memory. My summers at the NIH are instrumental in my ongoing development as a researcher. I picked up many pearls on how to function as a productive member of a lab from my mentors Dr. Shahid Khan and Dr. Ayse Dosemeci. I also enjoyed the amazingly collegial air around me, where accomplished scientists are often more than willing to exchange ideas with a novice in the field.