Well at least trying….
Hi Everyone, My name is Kimmy Leverenz. I am a junior with a Biochemistry major and a minor in Economics and Management and a member of the Gerstacker Institute. I am currently halfway through my internship this summer at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor. This is definitely an amazing experience for an undergraduate student and I feel very lucky to have been awarded this opportunity! The skills that I have learned are invaluable and it is extremely hard to share everything that I have learned over the last 5 weeks.
There are eight students that take part in the Cancer Research Summer Internship Program (CaRSIP) through the Cancer Center. Although I do not work directly with any other undergraduate students, the time spent working with Ph.D.’s and graduate students has allowed me to grow educationally. I work directly with a medical school professor on a daily basis. Our lab works in the Thoracic Surgery department, dealing with esophageal and lung cancer. This summer, my research is focused mainly on esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is a deadly disease and has survival rate of less than 10% for 5 years. Recently, the prevalence of esophageal cancer has increased 5-fold, due to the large increase in obesity
Every day brings something new and I never know what I am going to see and do when I arrive at work. This is my favorite part of my internship because I am not doing the same thing day after day and I’m always learning new things. The very first day my mentor and I walked to the Cardiovascular Center to pick up tumors from surgery department. We would then spend the next two weeks isolating RNA from human tumor cells. Each tumor was sectioned and frozen. After we would take a small sample and isolate the RNA from the DNA and proteins in the cells. After we isolated RNA from 102 tumor samples, we analyzed the data and compared that information to the patient’s survival information. This way, we could see immediate results of any genes that were over-expressed in the tumor and deduced, seeing which genes were present in the poorest outcome group.
Although my internship is heavily science based, there are definitely areas that can be tied back to the business aspect of the job. I have seen first-hand the difficulty of getting funding to continue and complete research experiments, especially with downturn of the economy over the last few years. In order to gain necessary funding, ideas need to be creative and innovative, along with having a clinical aspect tied in. In the end, everything comes down to the funding available.
My experience in the classroom has prepared me for the challenges that I have faced throughout the internship. My classes at Albion have definitely pushed me to think outside the box and think of things in a new light. When I graduate from Albion I plan to go to medical school, so this experience is helping to put me in the right direction. Many medical students learn the skills that I am developing now much later in their career and I feel like I have a leg up now because I am learning these skills early. On the first day, my mentor told me to think of this internship as a learning experience, not a job. This couldn’t be more true. I’m excited to see what the next 5 weeks have in store!
Albion College 2013