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Summer Interns Shine

  College students, from left, Ayuko Iverson, Carlo Balane, David Tran and Ryan Grant spent 10 weeks in the labs of Johns Hopkins as part of a program designed to add diversity to biomedical and public health research.
For one August afternoon, more than 80 large easels, plastered with 40-by-60-inch posters, packed Turner Concourse, detailing the extraordinarily complex research projects undertaken in the Summer Internship Program for undergraduates, many of them minorities.

The tongue-twisting subjects included: “Regulation of Sodium-Phosphate IIa Transporter by Frizzled Related Protein-4” (Angelica Whye, Hood College pre-med); “Effect of Myosin Light Chain Kinase Insoform Overexpression in Sphingosine 1-Phosphate and Thrombin Stimulated Endothelial Cells” (Joe Johnson, University of Dallas biology major); “Characterization of Arc Binding to the Synaptic Proteins” (Kenny Rentas, University of Puerto Rico chemistry major).

The interns eagerly explained what they had spent hundreds of hours probing in Hopkins labs. “I’m just astounded by the sophistication of this work,” said David Nichols, vice dean for education in the School of Medicine, whose office partly funds the 10-week program, now in its 10th year. “These projects easily could be published in top-flight journals.”

Designed to encourage minorities and others to consider careers in science, medicine and public health, the Summer Internship Program (SIP) attracts more than 60 under-represented and under-served students to the East Baltimore campus each year. They come from colleges and universities across the United States. Xavier University of Louisiana, Morehouse College, Howard University and the University of California at Davis were among those represented this year. Students gain exposure to biomedical or public health research in one of Johns Hopkins’ clinical, basic science or public health labs.

Catherine Will, program manager, recruits many of the interns at meetings of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. They are either minorities, the first in their families to go to college, or low- to moderate-income students.

While it’s hoped their summertime experiences will encourage them to come to Hopkins for graduate work, the SIP, says Will, “looks at the big picture.” More than half of the program’s 167 participants in medicine since 1995 have pursued graduate degrees. (Ten have done so at Hopkins.) “We are interested in assisting these students to advance their careers. If they’re advancing—even if it’s not at Hopkins—we consider that a success.”

Still, says SIP director Roger Reeves, a geneticist in the Department of Physiology and the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, “the program is a very important recruiting tool for Hopkins.”

At the poster session, Rentas, the chemistry major from the University of Puerto Rico, said he’ll definitely apply to Hopkins. “The research experience was phenomenal and helped me gain confidence in myself. The professors were supportive; the medical students, helpful. I like Baltimore, too. There’s a lot of diversity here.”

—Neil A. Grauer

Summer Internship Program info: go to www.hopkinsmedicine.org/graduateprograms and click on “diversity programs.”

 

 

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