NSF interns hope to find discoveries

NSF Interns Hope to Find Discoveries

By Ashlee Hespen

The interns enjoy their time at the Welcome Picnic with program director Max Rothschild and graduate assistant Justin Rice.

For 10 interns at Iowa State University, the National Science Foundation’s slogan, “Where Discoveries Begin,” rings true.

This summer, students from the United States and Puerto Rico have been conducting research as a part of the Research Experience in Molecular Biotechnology & Genomics program. Students in biology, molecular biology, biotechnology and chemistry fields participate in this internship, which is funded by the NSF.

Max Rothschild, distinguished professor in animal science, has been the director of the program for five years. David Oliver, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor in the department of genetics, development and cell biology, created the program in 1998.

“I love working with the students and offering them the opportunity to do real research,” said Rothschild. “It is great fun to see how they respond to the challenges and discovery associated with doing genomics and biotechnology research.”

Students participating in the internship are: Justin Anderson, Gustavus Adolphus, Senior; Kanwarpal Bakshi, University of Maryland, College Park, Senior; Emma Balfanz, St Olaf College, Senior; Angelica Bjorkquist, St. Cloud State University, Senior; Gabrielle Daniels, Iowa State University, Senior; Lucas Hemmer, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Junior; Angela Mensah, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Sophomore; Connie Santana Gonzalez, University of Puerto Rico, Senior; Junmarie Soto Burgos, University of Puerto Rico, Senior; and Senyo Whyte, Iowa State University, Junior.

These students are working in many areas, researching on topics ranging from how cells divide in an organism similar to a fruit fly, to muscular dystrophy, to looking at a gene in pigs to improve salmonella resistance. Students are working with nine ISU faculty from June 1 through August 7.

“I grew up on a seed corn farm and have a strong background in biology. This internship finally brings that knowledge together,” said Justin Anderson, who is working on mapping a gene on the corn genome related to sterility.

In addition to conducting research, the students have a variety of activities set up for them. These activities included visiting Pioneer, the Science Center of Iowa, an Iowa Cubs baseball game and Mayo Clinic to see the research labs.

“This experience has given me a lot of confidence in a science career. We don’t always have somebody right there telling us what to do and it’s taught me about the way I learn about science,” said Angelica Bjorkquist. “I really like the professors here because they are encouraging. This experience would not be the same without other interns who are excited about what they are doing.”

“It’s a great experience to see what research entails and to learn more about your interests,” said Angela Mensah. “It is interesting to see how broad research can be and how there is always something more to discover.”

Students work 40 hours per week and receive a stipend, free on-campus housing, meal allowance and travel support. The College of Agriculture and Life Science’s research program (the Experiment Station) and the Center for Integrated Animal Genomics provide additional funding.