Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, January 2013

Mandi Skilton, Sr., Biology


"Last January I had the opportunity to intern in the Biological Systems core capability at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, WA.  The sixteen week internship is part of a program funded by the Department of Energy for STEM undergraduates interested in research.  The Systems Toxicology group focused largely on the impact of low dose ionizing radiation (LDIR) on cellular protein expression, morphology, proliferation, and differentiation in human tissue.  Using in vitro three-dimensional human epithelial tissue models researchers are studying how tissues interact following varying lengths and types of LDIR exposures.  My work included immunostaining and epithelial tissue analysis of in vitro 3D human skin tissue equivalents following varying doses and qualities of LDIR.

My time at PNNL provided me with a greater understanding of the work environment and professional responsibilities required in research. I had to write several different abstracts with varying audiences in mind, a full research report, various small reports, and give a presentation regarding my research.  Each intern works under a mentor who helps them develop their project while encouraging them to independently investigate the topic. I would highly recommend the internship for anyone considering a career involving research."

Research in South Africa, 2012

Amy Tan, Sr., Biology

  "I spent October and November 2012 in Mossel Bay, South Africa, in an internship program with Oceans Research. Oceans, founded in 2008 by Ryan Johnson and Enrico Gennari, works on a wide variety of marine-related research projects in South Africa as well as outreach education programs with local schools. As a research intern with Oceans, I helped with the various studies being conducted. This included tag-and-release efforts with the small benthic shark species in the bay, monitoring cetacean populations and habitat use, and shark dissections.

     Oceans also operates a small research aquarium and the interns are responsible for feeding, cleaning, and general aquarium husbandry for the sharks and fish. Of course, what drew all of the interns, including myself, to Mossel Bay in the first place is the research which Oceans does on the population of Great White Sharks in the bay. As such, the most highly anticipated job assignment was always chum trips. The goal of chum trips is to collect data that will allow us to identify individual sharks in the future. We recorded light and dark colorations on the dorsal fin, any scars or amputations, the size and gender, and photographed the dorsal fin. Using a combination of the verbal description and a visual comparison of the photographs, it is possible to track precisely when and where each shark was spotted. Altogether, this data is helping to build a more comprehensive view of the shark populations in the bay, the possible risks they are facing, and will hopefully point towards ways these animals can be preserved."

Research in Germany, 2011

Cedric Thiel, Soph, Biology

"I spent the summer of 2011 in Munich, Germany, at the Comprehensive Pneumology Center, part of the Helmholtz Zentrum. I investigated the role of microRNAs in the process of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic lung disease. This condition is marked by excessive deposition of connective tissue in the lung, leading to reduced respiratory capacity and other respiratory trouble. My project looked at microRNA regulation of the WNT signaling pathway, a pathway implicated in the process of pulmonary fibrosis. I extracted and amplified the mRNA precursors and measured the regulatory activity in vitro in both established and primary cell lines. Results showed that microRNAs could have potential use in treatments for pulmonary fibrosis."