by Kristin Kiser, M.H.A., M.S.
Starting in the middle of May through the middle of July, the summer interns kept coming, totaling close to 50—typically, DCEG hosts 15 to 30. The interns, whose academic levels ranged from high school through postgraduate and medical school, were selected out of a pool of over 400 applicants.
Summer interns learned by doing—conducting research in a selected area of epidemiologic or genetic investigation under the mentorship of investigators and fellows. They also took advantage of informal “clubs” put on by DCEG fellows, designed to help them learn skills to support a scientific career—scientific writing, research poster production, use of statistical software, and much more. Read more about the DCEG summer intern clubs.
Unique this year was DCEG’s increased participation in NIH specialty programs that target students from backgrounds typically under-represented in science, with the goal of stimulating their interest in pursuing careers in science and medicine. DCEG welcomed 12 interns from the following programs: African Leadership Academy; Amgen Scholars; NIH Graduate Summer Opportunity to Advance Research; NIH Community College Summer Enrichment Program; and the NCI Introduction to Cancer Research Careers program. In addition, the DCEG Office of Education (OE) sponsored three interns whose summer research focused on health disparities.
The culmination of the summer experience was the Division's annual Summer Interns Recognition and Poster Event. The event celebrated the interns’ accomplishments and gave them an opportunity to discuss their research projects with DCEG scientists during the poster session. Interns and mentors received a warm welcome from Montserrat Garcia-Closas, M.D., Dr.P.H., Deputy Director, DCEG, who thanked them for their hard work. She emphasized the importance of a summer research experience, and shared that many DCEG investigators started as summer students.
Two current postdoctoral fellows discussed their career journeys, giving insights into what led them to become researchers. Mingfeng Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., from the Laboratory of Translational Genomics (LTG), shared that she began as a medical doctor in China. Realizing her passion for biomedical research, Dr. Zhang made the difficult decision to change her career direction and obtain a Ph.D. in molecular and genetic epidemiology.
Kamau Peters, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the Radiation Epidemiology Branch, described growing up in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, where he witnessed the consequences of the high rate of asthma among children, even losing a friend to complications of the disease. This personal experience drove his desire to pursue first an M.P.H. in toxicology, then a Ph.D. in environmental health sciences in order to fulfill his desire of working to solve public health problems. Both speakers emphasized the importance of pursuing career goals that spoke to their passions.
After the program, everyone mingled over breakfast treats contributed by their mentors, followed by a well-attended Division-wide poster session. Forty-seven students presented posters and fielded questions from interested DCEG staff.
Applications for the 2017 summer internships with DCEG will be accepted beginning in mid-November. Interested students are encouraged to learn more about the Division’s research and complete a short summary application before completing the full online NIH Summer Application.
The DCEG Office of Education coordinated a variety of activities for summer interns:
Learn about: Summer Intern Program
Explore: Summer Journal and Science Clubs
Watch: Summer Interns 2016 Video