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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

2017 DCEG Summer Intern Program Bolstered by New Offerings

Posted on October 30, 2017

by Kristin Kiser, M.H.A., M.S.

This year, DCEG had the pleasure of hosting 35 summer interns. The interns ranged from high school through graduate school-level and hailed from such diverse locations as North Carolina, Florida, New York state, Nevada, Missouri, and Washington state.

As in recent years, DCEG participated in NIH specialty programs that target students from backgrounds typically under-represented in science, with the goal of increasing their participation in biomedical research. This year we welcomed seven interns from the following programs: NCI Introduction to Cancer Research Careers, NIH Graduate Summer Opportunity to Advance Research, and the NIH Community College Summer Enrichment Program. In addition, the DCEG Office of Education (OE) sponsored one intern whose summer research focused on health disparities.

Group of DCEG summer interns and their mentors gathered together for a final recognition event

DCEG summer interns and their mentors

Mentoring is a highly valued skill in DCEG, so before the summer interns began to arrive in mid-May, Kristin Kiser, M.H.A., M.S., fellowship coordinator for the DCEG OE, offered training to DCEG summer mentors to discuss program specifics and tips for making the summer experience successful. Mentors were also invited to attend the comprehensive workshop, Mentoring Relationships: Understanding, Developing and Making the Most of Them, co-led by Jackie Lavigne, Ph.D., Chief, OE, DCEG and Jessica Faupel-Badger, Ph.D., M.P.H., Program Director and Director, Postdoctoral Research Associate Program, National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Workshops Help Interns Develop Career Skills

Several new workshops were offered for the summer interns this year. Kara Michels, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch, hosted two training sessions at NCI Shady Grove, which she developed based on her experience with previous summer interns. The first was an Introduction to using PubMed and Endnote, which provided the basics for conducting literature searches and managing research references. During this hands-on workshop, students were guided by Brian Brown, M.L.I.S., C.U.A., an NIH Library user experience librarian.

Presented training in research tools and career development

Kara Michels and Tamara Litwin

The second, Career Paths in Public Health Research, was organized by Dr. Michels and Tamara Litwin, Ph.D., M.P.H., postdoctoral fellow in the Clinical Genetics Branch; the two also serve as co-chairs of the Career Development Seminar Series Planning Committee. The aim of this workshop was to address career questions such as: “Should I pursue a career in research? How do I integrate research into a clinical career? How do I decide between health policy or epidemiology?” Postdoctoral fellows from DCEG and the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences talked about their academic and professional journeys that led to their current positions.

Victoria Fisher, M.P.H., and Cora Hersh, of the DCEG Communications Team, along with Diane Wigfield, program analyst in OE, developed and led four workshops:

Members of the communications team who gave workshops for summer interns

Victoria Fisher, Diane Wigfield, and Cora Hersh

  • Communicating Science to the Media—helped interns understand the importance of communicating effectively with the media. Facilitators discussed helpful strategies, perspectives on what motivates reporters, and included some common interview questions.
  • Using Twitter to Enhance Your Career—covered ways the social media platform can be used to make connections within the scientific community, build networks, and find a job. Attendees learned how to get started and Twitter basics.
  • Poster Design and Presentation Skills—covered tips to help summer interns design an eye-catching, engaging poster, as well as strategies to present a poster with confidence.
  • Interactive Poster Workshops—targeted help for summer interns working on their posters for the NIH and DCEG poster sessions. Interns received feedback on their posters from their peers and the DCEG communications staff.
Dr. Diana Withrow gave a 6-week workshop in epidemiology

Diana Withrow presenting Epi 101 to summer interns

Diana Withrow, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Radiation Epidemiology Branch, offered a 6-session Epi 101 course that received very positive feedback. The course covered the foundational concepts of exposures, outcomes, confounders, effect modification, statistical power, and generalizability. Students were introduced to key study designs and analytic techniques using examples from DCEG research. By the end of the course, students were conversant in epidemiology, able to put research questions into an epidemiological framework, and understood the basic methods applied in epidemiological studies.

Daoud Meerzaman, Ph.D., of the NCI Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology, conducted a session titled Bioinformatics 101. Dr. Meerzaman explored the interdisciplinary nature of the field of bioinformatics, which uses mathematical and statistical algorithms as well as software tools to solve biological problems. His presentation summarized the current status of high-throughput technologies, focusing on “next-generation” sequencing technology. He also described the bioinformatics tools essential to analyzing complex datasets, including mutations, expression changes, copy number variations and other structural rearrangements that comprise a key hallmark of cancer.

Finally, the Laboratory of Translational Genomics (LTG) sponsored a Summer Journal Club for summer interns and postbaccalaureate fellows that was organized by second-year summer intern Clara Zettlemeyer. This student-run club featured LTG fellows who lectured on basic concepts in laboratory techniques and genomics.

Ludmila Prokunina-Olsson with summer intern mentees

The summer recognition event marked the culmination of the interns’ experience, with 28 presenting posters for the Division. Ms. Kiser opened the event, thanking the mentors for their hard work and support of their talented interns, whose posters demonstrated all that they had learned and accomplished in the short 8-week period. Stephen J. Chanock, M.D., Director of DCEG, echoed those sentiments in his remarks, congratulating the interns on their summer accomplishments and encouraging them to continue in science.

Browse posters and projects by DCEG summer interns.

How to Become a Summer Intern

Applications for the 2018 summer internships with DCEG will be accepted beginning in mid-November. If you are interested, explore the DCEG website to learn more about the Division's research. When the application period begins, complete a short summary application on our summer internship page, which will direct you to the full online NIH Summer Application.