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Internship Spotlight: Zoey Miller '20, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Zoey Miller

Zoey Miller '20 is spending her second summer in a row at CHOP as a research intern, sharpening the skills she's learned in the labs at Dickinson.

Major:

Biochemistry & molecular biology.

Internship title and location:

Research intern, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Pathology and Immunology Department, Burkhardt Lab.

How I got this internship:

I had an internship in the Burkhardt Lab last summer and was invited back to intern again.

What I do, day to day:

My research project for the summer focuses on how immune cells migrate through the body in relation to their cytoskeleton. We are interested in knocking down proteins that are in the signaling pathway that leads to actin organization by using CRISPR-Cas9. Every day is different depending on which stages I'm in during an experiment. I usually start a round of experiments with culturing cells, and then I'll move into cloning my gene of interest into a vector. Using the vector and cells, I produce a virus that is able to deplete our protein of interest in mouse T-cells. I then take those cells and run live cell migration, stiffness response migration and actin polymerization assays. By analyzing the data from these experiments, I am able to note the differences in migration patterns between normal cells and knock-out cells.

Other internships:

I worked at CHOP last summer in Burkhardt Lab through the CHOP Research Institute Summer Scholars Program. It has been a dream come true to be able to return to the same lab this year. I have a sense of familiarity but am still being pushed to learn so much. I hope to attend graduate school following graduating Dickinson, but if that doesn't work out, I would love to come back to CHOP in the future and do research as an intern again!

Most valuable part of this experience:

Last summer the most useful part was learning a whole new set of lab skills. This time around, I'm learning more about the relationship and communication side of science. I'm starting to understand that, like math, science is a universal language. Researchers in Japan or Germany could be working on similar projects as you, and you have to be ready to communicate and collaborate halfway across the world. Being in my lab and talking with colleagues from Israel, China and France has reminded me of a lesson that Dickinson teaches all of its students: Having global experiences and views are crucial. In fact, I have been using my own global experience of studying abroad in Italy to help my lab communicate with an Italian lab that they collaborate with. I now understand that building relationships, networking and communication are vital in research in order to progress. I feel so grateful to be in a position where I'm beginning to do so.

Advice for students considering internships:

Leaving a good impression on your boss and colleagues can go a long way! I made sure to get to know everyone in my lab and truly understand what they work on. I met with my principal investigator weekly and touched base with my primary mentor daily. Once the summer was over, I continued to keep in contact with the lab by asking about research updates and telling them what I was working on at Dickinson. I even sent them a postcard while I was abroad in Italy! When it came time to figure out what I wanted to do for the summer, the answer was easy. Once again, I emailed them about a summer position, and in minutes I got a very enthusiastic response! I learned that it is important to build connections in your workplace and carry them with you in life.

How this internship has helped me:

After two summers of lab work, I feel ready to tackle an honor's project for my senior year. I also feel that this experience has given me insight to what graduate school is like and how to navigate it.

Post-Dickinson plans:

After graduating from Dickinson, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in pharmacology. Long-term, I hope to get a faculty position at a university or college and teach while continuing my research.

Learn more about internships at Dickinson.

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Published August 5, 2019