JJ Vance Internship Program Immerses High Schoolers in Biological and Computational Sciences
Eleven of South Florida’s brightest high school seniors successfully completed a challenging eight-week summer internship program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics. The 2014 JJ Vance Memorial Summer Internship in Biological and Computational Sciences provided the students a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience and be directly involved in scientific research.
“Part of our mission at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics is to train the next generation of researchers,” said Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genomics and Director of the Hussman Institute. “We strive to create a passion for science and research.”
“We want to enable high school students to experience not only the creativity of science, but understand what career steps it takes to get them there,” 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.
The JJ Vance Memorial Summer Internship in Biological and Computational Sciences incorporates each high school intern into the working research group of a Hussman Institute faculty member, with daily supervision by a post-doctoral fellow or senior technician. The internship program separates students into two tracks — biological sciences and computational sciences.
The interns who participated in the biological sciences track of the internship were introduced to a variety of molecular laboratory techniques while working 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. Those who participated in the computational sciences track of the internship became familiar with programming, bioinformatics and statistical analysis methods currently used in genetics.
The interns pooled data from their time spent at the Hussman Institute and worked with their faculty mentors, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and senior technicians to make sense of their findings and prepare an oral presentation.
On August 8, the 11 interns presented and shared their results at a research luncheon attended by dozens of friends, family members, teachers, mentors, Hussman Institute staff, and fellow interns.
“I was really excited to be able to present what we learned to everybody who played a part in our journey,” said Giovanni Chiarella, a 2014 JJ Vance intern and student at North Miami Senior High School. “I’m really proud of everything that we got to accomplish these eight weeks.”
“I know this internship has left me with skillsets that not only apply at the bioinformatics level, but will help me throughout the rest of my schooling and into my career,” said Antonio Menarde, a 2014 JJ Vance intern and student at Archimedean Upper Conservatory.
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. The Vances have seen a dramatic growth in local interest since they first established the internship at UM. In 2009, six students applied for five possible positions. In 2014, 63 exceptional students from 30 high schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties applied for the internship.
The 2014 JJ Vance Memorial Summer Internship was made possible with funds from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the JJ Vance Foundation, the Hussman Foundation, and other generous donors.