Hussman Institute Hosts Gifted High School Students for JJ Vance Memorial Internship

The John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the Miller School hosted eight high school interns for the 2013 JJ Vance Memorial Summer Internship in the Biological and Computational Sciences, which offers rising seniors from Miami-area high schools a unique opportunity to be directly involved in scientific research.

The interns, selected from a highly competitive applicant pool of nearly 60 students representing 24 high schools, spent eight intense weeks working alongside faculty, postdoctoral associates, graduate students, and staff at the Hussman Institute, where they assisted with ongoing research and worked with mentors on their own individual projects.

In the lab, the students worked with stem cells and learned about the Hussman Institute’s research on the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Parkinson’s disease, hearing loss, and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. They also developed skills in laboratory and statistical analysis techniques, such as Sanger sequencing, polymerase chain reaction, genetic analysis, and gel electrophoresis.

Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the JJ Vance Foundation, the Hussman Foundation, and other generous donors, the paid internship, now in its fifth year at the Miller School, offers students from all backgrounds a chance to participate.

“Being a minority in my community and coming from a low-income family, I never thought that these types of opportunities existed,” said Julie Luo, from Miami Lakes Senior High School. “This internship has opened up a lot of options for what I can do with my future.”

Kassala Collington from North Miami Beach Senior High School said it was an amazing eight weeks. “I improved my lab skills, experienced a new way of thinking, and met really awesome people,” she said.

The program also made a lasting impression on Sachin Parekh from Gulliver Preparatory School.

“Researching at the Hussman Institute has given me the unique experience of applying knowledge in functional and practical ways,” said Sachin. “It was interesting to observe the manipulation of how cells and nature work to achieve a common goal through transformations, molecular cloning and viral treatment.”

At the end of the program, the students presented their projects to family, friends, and mentors at an August 7 celebratory luncheon.

The JJ Vance Memorial Summer Internship was established by Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genomics and Director of the Hussman Institute, and Jeffery M. Vance, M.D., Ph.D., professor of human genetics and neurology and Director of the Center for Genome Education and Outreach at the Hussman Institute, in memory of their son, Jeffery Joseph (JJ), who died of thrombotic storm, a rare blood clotting disorder, when he was 14.

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