New College’s partnership with the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI) and Mind Research Network (MRN) offers a chance for immersion in leading edge biomedical research and the scientific process – one which often proves invaluable for those interested in graduate school or careers in science. (Read about what this year’s interns have been doing.)
This program of summer internships and research was initiated eight years ago by professors Sandra Gilchrist and Pat McDonald. Each year, students attend an introduction to the program by Robert Rubin, CEO of LRRI and former New College professor. LRRI researchers present their work in the fall or during ISP. In the spring, students are matched with interested mentors and fitting projects.
Projects generally run through June and July, with housing and stipend provided by LRRI. During this time, students meet with mentors for regular feedback and guidance. The summer culminates in a final presentation to Dr. Rubin, project sponsors, and faculty mentors, and communication and related work continue in tutorials in the following year.
Preparation largely depends on projects, and many areas of respiratory research and computational neuroscience are represented. Students at MRN are often well-served by linear algebra, MatLab, and discrete math. Students at LRRI often apply or develop R and Bioconductor packages for biological and bioinformatic projects. A common theme is that many projects are computational; these can naturally be extended in the following year or developed as a thesis.
Project topics are equally varied. Students have worked on distributing computations with privacy for medical information, interplay between cigarette smoking and cellular aging, cellular mechanisms involved in lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and many others. The websites for LRRI (www.lrri.org) and MRN (www.mrn.org) offer more background on current projects.
Students have taken full advantage of the opportunity for focused research over the summer, and outcomes have been positive. Four presented at professional conferences last year, and for those with continuing or thesis projects, authorship on publications is common.