W&J Students Take on New Research in Challenging Biomedical Internships

Created: March 29, 2016
Last Updated: August 3, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (March 29, 2016)— Seven Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) students are the recipients of awards from W&J’s Merck Internships for Excellence in Science program. The awards will help provide funding for these students as they complete biomedical research internships with organizations throughout the United States this summer.

The recipients of this internship award are W&J students Kassandra Baron ’17, cell and molecular biology major; Harley Bobnar ’17, biochemistry major; Aric Brown ’17, cell and molecular biology and German major; Michael Chepanoske ’17, biochemistry major; Grace McCarthy ’17, biochemistry major; Hillary Pratt ’17, chemistry major; Hannah Swearingen ’17, neuroscience and German major.

The program was initiated in 2007 by the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) to help W&J students fund off-campus summer internships in the biomedical field. Students apply for the internship award and are selected by a committee of W&J science faculty.

“Internships are of great benefit to students in that they are forced to integrate their knowledge from a wide variety of subjects, and apply a wide variety of lab and field techniques,” said Candy DeBerry Ph.D., a professor of biology at W&J. “Almost all of our students return from internships with stories of how well-prepared they were, or how much more they knew, than undergrads from other institutions. They get to see exactly how much more they learn, and do, in a W&J education.”

Bobnar will be interning with Brock Lindsey, M.D., in the Department of Orthopedics at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W. Va. Her research will focus on immunotherapy for metastatic osteosarcoma by using a mouse model to study the effects of slow-release IL-12 on stimulating the immune system to fight the cancer.

“I am extremely interested in the field of orthopedic surgery and treatment so I am most excited to be working with a form of cancer that affects that area of medicine. Cancer is also something that I am passionate about and I am hoping that this will help me further my knowledge in this area,” said Bobnar.

Brown will intern with Laurence Rahme, Ph.D., in the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Brown will focus on bacterial pathogenesis as he investigates anti-virulence compounds to target the ability of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to develop tolerance to antibiotics.

“One of things I am most looking forward to is the multi-disciplinary work of the Rahme lab. I know it will be very rewarding to be able to experience researching in a lab which has multiple focuses, including pathogenicity and drug development, as opposed to a lab that focuses only on one subject,” said Brown. “I hope to use the knowledge I gain during my internship to make more real-world applications and connections in the classroom.”

Baron will intern in the laboratory of Jack Gilbert, Ph.D., in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago in Chicago. Baron’s research will focus on the influence of microorganisms in the gut on structure and function of the nervous system. Specifically, she will use rats to study the connections between gut microorganisms, stress, and social behavior.

“I am looking forward to learning more about how stress influences social behavior and anxiety and to see if we can find a correlation to the gut microbiota,” said Baron. “I am excited to meet and work with the research group I will be working with and I am also excited to explore the city of Chicago.”

Chepanoske will intern at the University of Pittsburgh, investigating a possible functional link between the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase pathway and the atypical protein kinase C family member PKC iota. McCarthy also will intern at the University of Pittsburgh, researching the effect on communication between neural stem cells and brain microvasculature endothelial cells.

Pratt will take on an internship at the University of California San Diego, where she will use computational and biophysical methods to characterize the binding of antibodies to neuraminidase and hemagglutinin proteins on the viral surface. Swearingen will intern at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I., where she will collect clinical and neuroimaging data from patients to evaluate the efficacy of a new, noninvasive brain stimulation therapy.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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