Friday, December 6, 2019

What an AWSM Opportunity

Did you know that Girls in 10th and 11th grades have the opportunity to apply for a summer internship at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in partnership with Advancing Women in Science and Medicine (AWSM)? Those picked for this program work side by side under the mentorship of AWSM Faculty and research a topic of their choice. Hear firsthand from Girl Scout Katie G. as she shares about her experience. 

How did you hear about this opportunity?
I had originally known only about the regular Feinstein high school internship program, and had no idea a specialized GirlScout opportunity existed until a friend of the family—who happens to be a troop leader—told me about it over summer break. She knew I loved research and thought it would give me a chance to take part in it on a professional level.

How did you get to be a part of this program?
First, my mom and I attended the open house and information session in October to find out more about the program. After what I knew I definitely wanted to apply, so I accessed the online application and began the process of filling it out. Any questions I had were quickly answered by either the Girl Scouts or Feinstein staff!

What research topic did you work on? 
I researched red blood cells, particularly their development from hematopoietic stem cells into mature red cells, and how disrupting this process affects the cell cycle as well as the growth late. Research is fluid, and ever-changing, so there is always another variable to be explored.

Why did you choose this one?
My own personal research delves into looking at biology from a computational standpoint. I felt that this could be applied to red cell research, particularly in the growth plate where there is a lot of movement that has the potential to be modelled and analyzed. The red cell field seemed less defined than others, as red cells are so inherently unique, and I wanted to be a part of this emerging research, and learn about these principles of biology.

Who did you get to work with?
I worked with an MD/PhD student from Hofstra named Elena Brindley. In the lab there were other PhD candidates all working under Dr. Blanc. Additionally, the lab works with the clinical side of anemia research, as the diamond blackfan anemia registry is in an adjacent office.

What did a typical day look like?
I would arrive anywhere from 9:00-10:00 and begin to work. My work depended on what part of the procedure I was doing, but I would often use machinery like the Western blot imager or microscope. I would have lunch at around 12:00, and over lunch I would occasionally attend educational seminars highlighting other medical research. After I was done for the day, usually between 3:30 and 5:30, I would go home.

What are some skills you gained from this experience?
I gained essential skills and learned many new things, refining my science and math skills. I became what can be called “lab-literate”, understanding how to conduct professional grade research, follow detailed procedure, and learning how to analyze and interpret results to draw conclusions and new hypotheses.

How do you plan to use these skills in the future?
These skills are essential considering I plan on pursuing math and science as a career. I intend to major in physics and computer science, and being able to work in a lab, having this real-life experience, gives me a huge advantage.

What advice do you have for a younger girl who might be interested in the STEM fields?
My advice for girls interested in STEM is that you must be confident in your abilities. Never

be discouraged if someone tells you that “it’s too difficult”, or implies that because you are a girl certain fields are too hard for you. That is absolutely wrong‑You have the power to do anything you believe you can do so set your expectations high. If you remain confident in your success, other people will be confident in you as well. Today, there is much less stigma against girls in science, but there remains an enormous gap between the number of men and women pursuing careers in STEM, particularly the applied sciences and engineering. Become a role model for future generations of young women so that they do not think twice about going into STEM, and remember that you are just as capable of succeeding as anyone else.

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