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8.18.2015

2015 JJ Vance Memorial Summer Interns Gain Valuable Research Experience

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics hosted 14 of South Florida’s top high school seniors for the 2015 JJ Vance Memorial Summer Internship in Biological and Computational Sciences. The program, which received a $500,000 five-year summer training grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, provides high school students with the unique opportunity to be directly involved in scientific research.

“We are fortunate to be able to bring this program to the South Florida high school students,” said Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genomics and Director of the Hussman Institute. “The opportunity to facilitate the next generation of scientists in biomedical research is of critical importance to both our state and the nation.”

The interns were selected from a highly competitive applicant pool of more than 135 students representing 60 high schools across Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The interns spent eight challenging weeks working alongside Hussman Institute faculty and staff, whom they assisted with ongoing research and worked with their mentors on their own personal summer projects.

“The focus of our program is to allow students to experience and understand how researchers work and the passion they have for their research,” said Jeffery M. Vance, M.D., Ph.D., professor of human genetics and neurology and Director of the Hussman Institute’s Center for Genomic Education and Outreach. “Our focus is not only on the science, but also on the mentoring relationships that last way beyond their eight weeks.”

The program pairs each student with a faculty mentor and his/her research study team consisting of postdoctoral associates, graduate students and staff at the Hussman Institute. The program offers two tracks — biological sciences and computational sciences. The interns who were involved in the biological sciences section worked with DNA, RNA and stem cells, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA purification methods, gel electrophoresis, DNA sequencing by capillary electrophoresis and Taqman allelic discrimination assays. Other interns focused on the computational sciences track of the internship where they learned how programming, bioinformatics, and statistical analysis are involved in genetics research.

On August 7, the interns presented their findings to more than 70 attendees, including family members, teachers, mentors and Hussman Institute staff.

“This internship gave me the opportunity to further my goal of becoming a medical practitioner,” said intern Linda Shahin, a student at Archimedean Upper Conservatory. “I gained invaluable experience in a laboratory setting working alongside professional scientists.”

“This summer’s internship was an amazing experience overall,” said intern Mariam Farag, a student at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School. “What I liked best is seeing that all the subjects I have been learning and memorizing in school were actually very applicable in the field of research.”

Drs. Vance and Pericak-Vance began the internship program in 2002 at Duke University, in memory of their son, Jeffery Joseph (JJ) Vance, and brought it with them when they relocated to the University of Miami in 2007.

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