Montgomery County High School Interns Showcase Their Achievements

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Local students complete a biotechnology summer internship program and present their research projects in a poster session.

The University of Maryland Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) solicits applications each year for summer and year-long internships open to Montgomery County high school juniors (age 16 and over).  Summer interns are paid, while the year-long interns are rewarded with academic credit, and both gain a real-world perspective of careers they are considering in biotechnology, medicine, information technology, or facilities management and operations.  From approximately 100 applications received annually, 8-12 students are interviewed and selected to work with IBBR faculty members and staff.  This year, promising students from four high schools were offered one of these coveted spots.

“Students with an interest in biology, chemistry, engineering, medicine, facilities management, or information systems comprise our typical applicant pool,” says Dr. Zvi Kelman, Research Biologist and Director of the Biomolecular Labeling Laboratory at IBBR and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  “It’s a great way for them to test the waters of the career path they are considering.  For example, they may find that experiencing the laboratory environment and doing bench work reinforces their interest in the biotech industry, or they may find this to be great experience, but decide to move towards a different future.”

Each student is assigned a small project within a faculty mentor’s laboratory or department, and while their work is closely monitored, they actually work independently towards their own goal in support of a larger IBBR project.  Year-long interns are evaluated every three months and their progress is reported to the DNA Resource Center at Thomas S. Wootton High School.  The program began in 2003 in collaboration with Wooten High School, but is now open to all Montgomery County high schools.  Over 150 local students have benefitted from the program since its inception.

On Wednesday afternoon, August 16, this year’s summer interns presented their findings via posters they created, as IBBR faculty, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students and staff talked with them about what they had learned.  They were asked about their projects, what the experience taught them, and how their project supported larger research goals.  The poster session was held at the IBBR facility, at 9600 Gudelsky Drive, Rockville, MD 20850.

 “The IBBR internship program provides a wonderful opportunity for local students to explore careers in the biotech industry, gain experience with lab equipment, learn about laboratory protocol and techniques, enhance their college resumes, and practice professionalism and teamwork,” says Ms. Lesli Adler, of Thomas S. Wootton High School, who coordinates the science internships.  “Montgomery County schools are located within one of the largest centers of the biotechnology-related industry in the world.  Valuable programs like this provide a hands-on way for our students to learn how biotechnology influences the State of Maryland and the world.”

 “IBBR is a joint federal-state partnership between the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  We have about 350 scientists, engineers, staff and students, and the Institute is ideally located in the center of Montgomery County’s biotechnology corridor.  Our mission is to apply cutting edge scientific research and technology to address major scientific and medical challenges such as new or improved vaccines, next generation therapeutics, and novel drug delivery techniques,” said Thomas Fuerst, Ph.D., IBBR Director and Professor. “It is very satisfying to impart knowledge and mentorship to the next generation of biologists, chemists, doctors, and engineers who have an interest in STEM-related fields.”

Montgomery County high school students seeking additional information about the IBBR Internship Program should contact Ms. Lesli Adler:  Lesli_A_Adler@mcpsmd.org.