Intern in Immunology
Anticipating a career in medicine, Rachel Bailey ’19 interned at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, conducting microbiology research as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research program.
Where did you intern?
I worked on an independent project under the supervision of my mentor, Felix Aggor, in the Sarah Gaffen Lab in the Department of Immunology. My project was titled “IL-22 signaling gives insight into protective mechanisms against oral fungal infection” and studied the role of a specific cytokine during oral fungal infections.
What were your responsibilities?
My responsibilities were conducting research for my project, collecting and analyzing data, attending weekly lab meetings, writing a final abstract, and preparing and giving a final presentation for the department of immunology. During the program, I went to several seminars about graduate school research, MD/PhD programs, the latest research happening at UPitt School of Medicine, and keynote lectures from Nobel Laureates.
What was the most meaningful, relevant, or educational part of your internship?
I have learned more within those 10 weeks than I ever have in my life. My biology and chemistry classes at WAC prepared me with all the background knowledge I needed to be a successful student in the lab. Since I had a strong foundation, I felt comfortable asking questions, taking on new lab techniques, and working on aspects of immunology I haven’t seen before. I had such a rich learning experience that taught me and inspired me in ways I never could have imagined.
Will this work inform your senior capstone? How so?
The work I did during the summer will inform my senior capstone experience not in terms of my topic, but concerning how to tackle primary articles. To prepare for my summer project, I had to catch up on the studies done around the topic. This required me to read, analyze, and understand scientific primary articles every day. Having done this all summer, I feel way more prepared to sift through the many primary articles I need to do research for my senior capstone.
Why should prospective students consider studying biology at Washington College?
I benefited greatly from the one-on-one time I received with my biology professors here. The lectures and labs are small, and we are able to truly understand what we are learning. I always felt comfortable asking questions and participating in class. It is common to have your lecture professor as your lab instructor which is extremely helpful when it comes to applying lecture knowledge to lab. The biology faculty not only have an obvious passion for their field of study but also a passion for teaching. This makes learning such complex topics like those in biology more exciting. Whenever I had trouble understanding a complex, difficult topic in my biology classes, I knew I could always find help outside of class from my professors. Your professors are also your academic advisors which enhances their ability to guide you since they know the field and you as a student.