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Summer in the Lab: Undergraduates Nationwide Join in Biomedical Research, Baltimore Fun

Every year, the summer internship programs at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine bring high school and undergraduate students from around the globe together to explore different fields of research.

These student researchers were honored at the Summer Career Academic and Research Experiences for Students (CARES) Summer Symposium on July 30. The students had an opportunity to share their accomplishments through speeches and poster sessions. 

Meet 19 of the 2015 Summer Interns


Watch Now: Students and Faculty on the Summer Internship Program

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Summer Internship Program began in 1995. Today, over 750 students have spent their summer on campus to experience the field of biomedical research.

Summer Research Internships

Learn more about summer research internships at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine:

Student Speakers

Branecia Bull

Branecia Bull – Carver Vocational-Technical High School, Baltimore City 

About: Growing up in the Sandtown neighborhood of Baltimore wasn’t easy for Bull, and she admits that early in her teens she had a bad attitude and let her grades slip. But her desire to become a trauma surgeon and her will to succeed overpowered this dark time in her life. Bull feels that one of her strengths in pursuing a career in health care is that she’s experienced the pain of the people and can relate to the underserved populations that she wants to help. Bull was accepted into Medical Education Resources Initiatives for Teens, a program that will support her academically, professionally and socially over the next seven years. She’s already improved her outlook and her grades. This summer, she shadowed doctors and nurses at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was impressed with what she saw in the trauma doctors: “They think and make decisions so quickly. It’s hard, but I think I could do it.”

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Makayla Proctor

Makayla Proctor – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

About: At 7 years old, Proctor was paralyzed from the waist down on a family vacation. Although this brought challenges, she did not let that stop her from succeeding. Proctor excelled academically in high school, tutoring other students and developing summer and after-school programs to help keep local kids out of trouble. Her hard work got her a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This summer, she participated in the Maternal Child Health Careers/Research Initiatives for Student Enhancement Undergraduate Program, where she observed inpatient and outpatient physical therapy sessions. Proctor hopes to earn her M.D. and master’s degree in public health so she can open a health care facility for rural and impoverished patients.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: Her favorite thing about Baltimore is the plethora of museums and hidden restaurants with amazing food. She also enjoys rides around the harbor on the Water Taxi.

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Nadeen Ibrahim

Nadeen Ibrahim – University of Colorado Denver

About: When she was young, Ibrahim moved with her family to a small Colorado town, where they were the only family of Middle Eastern descent. She remembers traveling 150 miles round trip to doctor’s appointments to treat her brother’s asthma. She was the go-between, translating the doctor’s orders to her mother. During these visits, she fell in love in love with medicine. 

Now, Ibrahim is a third-year public health major with double minors in chemistry and leadership at the University of Colorado Denver. In her short career, Ibrahim has already made a name for herself as the youngest-ever member of the Colorado Board of Public Health and Environment, where she advocates for ending health disparities. Over the summer, she participated in the Summer Urological Research Experience, working in William Isaacs’ lab studying the role of HoxB13 genetic variants in prostate cancer

Favorite thing about Baltimore: Some of Ibrahim’s favorite things about Baltimore are Berger Cookies and enjoying the scenery on long walks, particularly the natural vegetation and architecture in Charles Village.

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Andres Cordoba

Andres Cordoba – Goucher College

Project details: Six years ago, Cordoba’s family immigrated to America from Costa Rica to access better health care. He learned a new language and culture, and assimilated into public school in a short time. Cordoba learned English in about three months and went on to teach himself Chinese as an extra challenge. As a varsity tennis player and National Honor Society member, he excelled in his new environment, graduating in the top 5 percent of his high school class.

Last summer, Cordoba entered the Centro SOL Youth Summer Program for bilingual students in Baltimore. He shadowed interpreters, medical assistants and nurses at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where he had a firsthand experience being on the front lines of health care. He also researched the rates of diabetes in the Baltimore community. Now, Cordoba is in his second year at Goucher College, where he is majoring in chemistry and minoring in public health. The first in his family to attend college, he dreams of becoming a doctor one day. 

Favorite thing about Baltimore: Cordoba loves Baltimore’s community spirit and its welcoming environment for immigrants, as well as visiting the Inner Harbor.

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Kelcee Everette

Kelcee Everette – Harvard University

Project details: Everette’s life growing up wasn’t always easy — her family struggled with finances, choosing to keep the electricity on over filling prescriptions. But she was raised with a strong support system in her mother, who advised her “to stop seeking validation from anyone that isn’t you” when she was feeling down. The advice has guided Everette ever since, leading her to graduate as the high school valedictorian and president of the National Honor Society, and to earn a scholarship to Harvard University, where she is starting her second year. 

This summer, Everette participated in the Institute for NanoBioTechnology Research for Undergraduate Experience, studying the differences in invasive breast cancer cells in Denis Wirtz’s lab. Everette believes that living with good health is a right, not a privilege. 

She plans to get her Ph.D. and develop affordable prostheses. 

Favorite thing about Baltimore: Everette’s favorite thing about Baltimore is eating good seafood in the Inner Harbor, something that is almost nonexistent in her hometown in north Texas.

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Undergraduate Summer Research Interns

Andrew Flatley

Andrew Flatley – University of Notre Dame

Project details: I am working on a project related to cognitive function in Down syndrome. Specifically, I am comparing cerebellar morphology between Down syndrome mice who have been injected with Sonic hedgehog agonist — the Sonic Hedgehog pathway is a signaling pathway that relates to embryonic development — and those who have not.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: I have found the population of Baltimore to be extremely diverse and accepting, which I think is an invaluable asset for a city.

Why he chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I have a strong interest in developmental disabilities research. The Summer CARES program provided me with the ideal opportunity to explore this interest through Down syndrome-related research in the Reeves Lab.

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Page Greenwood

Paige Greenwood – Hampton University

Project details: This summer, I am working in Johns Hopkins’ infectious disease lab on HIV and hepatitis C. I am studying the many cytokines that are expressed when a patient becomes infected with these viruses. We are hoping to identify cytokines that are elevated or down-regulated in these four groups, and explore if they are detrimental or helpful when the immune system is under attack.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: My favorite thing about Baltimore is that it’s new to me. I love exploring new places, and I still have so much I want to see.

Why she chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I joined the program because Johns Hopkins has so much history! I wanted an internship here because it is a well-known research institution. This program also helped me gain access to all the information I wanted to know about the historical aspects of this campus, which is a passion of mine.

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Luis Milburn

Luis Milburn – The Johns Hopkins University

Project details: In lab, we study the epigenetic factors associated with pain through the use of a rat model. Over the course of my internship, I have worked to optimize chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) protocols for small amounts of tissue. Analysis of the related epigenetic factors could provide insight into the modifications in chromatin structure that trigger pain responses and provide potential targets for the development of therapeutics.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: My favorite thing to do in Baltimore is catch an Orioles game at Camden Yards with friends from the CARES program. The ballpark is a great place to relax, talk and take in some baseball.

Why he chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I joined the CARES program because Johns Hopkins combines a wonderful community with a fantastic venue for scientific and intellectual growth.

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Kelsey Hopland

Kelsey Hopland – Wagner College

Project details: I am working on a fascinating project in the biochemistry department under the direction of Seth Margolis and Kapil Ramachandran. We are attempting to classify and investigate properties of a novel type of neuronal proteasome.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: In mid-June, I was able to visit Hampden during HonFest, which was quite a quirky festival to experience. It was amusing to see how committed the whole community was to putting on such a fantastic event. But in general, my favorite thing to do in Baltimore is walk along the Waterfront Promenade from the Inner Harbor to Fell’s Point. I live in a maritime city back in Washington, and I guess it’s just like a little piece of home.

Why she chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: As a rising senior in the sciences, I was running out of time to decide what I wanted to do with my degree. I’ve always been torn between scientific research and health care practice as a physician or pharmacist. To help solidify my career goals, I thought it would be practical and interesting to experience research in a lab for the summer. The experience has certainly been a wonderful opportunity and extraordinarily helpful in selecting a direction for my postundergrad schooling.

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Maisa Yumi Nakata

Maisa Yumi Nakata – International Student from São Paulo, Brazil

Project details: I am currently working in Dr. Green’s lab with Camila, a medicine graduate student. All her projects involve gene delivery for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma. My job is to help her with general preparation for the experiments. Although I have been doing this for the past month, the plan from now on is to dedicate myself to a specific project. This project involves sensitizing hepatocellular carcinoma cells with doxorubicin to make them produce more DR4 and DR5 receptors on their membrane. This will allow these cells to connect with TRAIL proteins, inducing apoptosis.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: I believe my favorite thing so far was the Orioles game against the Yankees. Baseball is not a popular sport in Brazil, so it was a very unique moment.

Why she chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I came to the U.S. with an exchange program, and one of its requirements was to do an internship during the summer. I took a lot of interest in Dr. Green’s lab projects while I was searching for an internship, so I decided to apply.

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James Shamul

James Shamul – The Johns Hopkins University

Project details: I am working on the synthesis of block copolymer micelles, which are designed to function as delivery vehicles for hydrophobic chemotherapeutic drugs. In my results, the drug encapsulation has shown to be an effective and efficient transport method into breast cancer cells. In addition, significant breast cancer cell death has been observed with drug-loaded micelles. The in vivo biodistribution of these micelles is now being investigated to further probe the potential use of drug-loaded micelles as formidable cancer treatments.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: Visiting the Inner Harbor is certainly my favorite thing to do in Charm City. Whether it’s catching an Orioles game or just leisurely walking around and taking in all the culture, Baltimore has much to offer and is really a special place.

Why he chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: It’s a great opportunity to take a few months to do something really innovative that you may not get a chance to do back home.

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Brennan Boyle

Brennan Boyle – Boston College

Project details: There is a gene, ERBB2, that is indicative of a poor prognosis of breast cancer found in about 30 percent of all patients with breast cancer. Luckily, there are chemotherapy options that specifically target the upregulation of the ERBB2 proteins, most notably the drug Herceptin. However, Herceptin is also known to cause heart dysfunction and failure among its users. Our lab is looking at the ERBB2 protein pathway and its mechanism of action within the heart to find strategies to prevent this cardiotoxicity. 

Favorite thing about Baltimore: The Charm City Circulator is a free and convenient way to get around the city, which really helps if you don't have access to a car.

Why he chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I want to go on and pursue either an M.D. or Ph.D. (or maybe both!) after I graduate, and I knew being at Johns Hopkins would expose me to both worlds. I’ve met many M.D.s that are amazing researchers, and many Ph.D.s that are involved in the clinical world through their translational research.

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Michaela Siver

Michaela Siver – Salve Regina University

Project details: Copper is an essential metal in mammalian biology that plays a role in energy metabolism, neurotransmitter synthesis, brain function and formation of connective tissue. My research is focused on an essential copper transporter in the body, CTR1, which is currently believed to facilitate copper uptake from the diet in the GI tract. But its location in intestinal epithelium is controversial. We used a set of previously uncharacterized monoclonal antibodies to detect overexpressed CTR1 in cells, determine antibody effectiveness in detecting endogenous CTR1 in intestinal tissue and determine the localization of CTR1 in enteroids. Results concluded that antibodies detect CTR1 to varying degrees, and specifically the 7A9-G6 antibodies detect CTR1 well in both immunostaining and western blots.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: My favorite part about Baltimore so far has been the Inner Harbor. The view and energy along the boardwalk are amazing, filled with families and people from diverse backgrounds.

Why she chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I chose to join the summer CARES program because I was interested in participating in research that would engage and challenge me. I was looking forward to expanding my scientific knowledge and skills.

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Daniella Rodriguez

Daniella Rodriguez – Juniata College

Project details: The work in this lab is focused on the Hippo signaling pathway, which has many functions in the body, including the control of organ size. My project this summer has been working on the detection of a novel kinase that might also function in the pathway. Although we know of a few, I am systematically testing human kinases to see their function in the pathway.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: The Inner Harbor and Fell’s Point have been spots I’ve frequented. I also have really enjoyed the diversity of the city in general. There are so many interesting people I’ve met and gotten to know during my time here.

Why she chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I chose Johns Hopkins specifically because I wanted to do work in my primary investigator’s lab.

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Daymond Parilla

Daymond Parilla – University of South Carolina

Project details: This summer, I am constructing a kinase translocation reporter for PLK4, which is a kinase that phosphorylates to the centrioles. Developing a kinase translocation reporter will allow me to uniquely view PLK4’s activity in an individual live cell. 

Favorite thing about Baltimore: There is this movie theater called the iPic movie theatre that I love to go to in Bethesda, Maryland. IPic is not like the regular movie theater, where people are packed into one room. Here, you have your own spacious reclining chair, where you can order food and drinks that are brought to you. I would say it is the perfect place for a date, but even just the experience of iPic was just awesome.

Why he chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I joined the Johns Hopkins Summer Internship Program because The Johns Hopkins University is one of the top universities in the nation. I knew that through their prestigious programs, I would obtain a vast knowledge of new techniques and experiments that I have never performed. Also, the university is one of my dream schools that one day I hope to attend.

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Errol Hunte Jr

Errol Hunte Jr. – Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Project details: My project involves the metabolism of an HIV entry inhibitor drug named maraviroc. I’m investigating any possible correlations between how this drug is metabolized in humans and the age of the people metabolizing it from a pool of pediatric donors. Thus far, the data suggest increased metabolism by donors in their early childhood years.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: My favorite thing about Baltimore would have to be the festivals and the amount of events going on around the city.

Why he chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I joined this program to get a feel for research and to see if this is an option I’d like to explore going forward.

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Qiuyin Ren

Qiuyin Ren – The Johns Hopkins University

Project details: For the past two years, I have been working on a few projects involving nonspherical nanoparticles and their applications in drug/gene delivery and immunotherapy. More specifically, I have worked with creating nanoparticle formulations and testing their efficacy in vitro and in vivo.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: Recently, I have been running through and exploring the Charles Village area.

Why she chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I began doing research based on the experiences I had in high school. I really enjoyed the time I had been able to spend in a lab and wanted to continue working in one during college.

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Natalie Hamilton

Natalie Hamilton – University of Miami 

Project details: The semaphorins, a family of axon guidance cues, regulate neuronal morphology and synaptogenesis in the CNS. In particular, semaphoring 3F and semaphoring 3A, members of the class 3 secreted semaphorin subfamily, signal through neuropilin coreceptors: neuropilin-2 (Npn-2) and neuropilin-1 (Npn-1), respectively. Npn-2 and Npn-1 exhibit distinct cell surface distributions in vitro, and previous experiments suggest that S-palmitoylation may differentially affect neuropilin trafficking and localization. The project I am working on will assess how S-palmitoylation of transmembrane cysteine residues affects the total cell surface expression of Npn-2 and Npn-1. 

Favorite thing about Baltimore: My favorite thing about Baltimore is its proximity to Washington, D.C. My suitemate and I traveled there on July 4 to see the fireworks near the Lincoln Memorial.  

Why she chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: I joined the summer CARES program because I wanted to gain further research experience in neuroscience. My participation in the program has confirmed my desire to attend graduate school for neuroscience and pursue a research career.

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Michelleine Modeste

Michelleine Modeste – University of Trinidad and Tobago

Project details: The research project that I am working on while here deals with evaluating the effects of ECM stiffness on c2c12 myogenesis for optimization and application of ASCs myogenesis in a two-dimensional culture. This c2c12 study will provide a standard model to confirm not only a suitable ECM stiffness that expresses myogenesis, but to give a working gel system that is easily reproducible in the hope of accelerating the research for the use of ASCs for muscle growth and regeneration.

Favorite thing about Baltimore: It is my first time being in Baltimore, so I will have to say everything.

Why she chose to do a summer internship at Johns Hopkins: Dr. Warren Grayson, director of the Laboratory for Craniofacial and Orthopaedic Tissue Engineering, extended this opportunity to one student from the University of Trinidad and Tobago to have an internship of a lifetime. I decided to apply because of Johns Hopkins’ excellent reputation as one of the world’s best training institutions in many disciplinary research areas. I believe that this internship will offer values that align perfectly with my career goals. This internship program also serves as an inspiration entity, because the field of research on tissue engineering is not available in Trinidad and Tobago.

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