Recent Tufts graduate Julia shared the following about being a Research Assistant and Clinical Shadow with the Tufts Medical Center in Boston …
What did you do as an intern at this organization?
I started as a clinical shadow for 3 weeks of rounds, lectures, and patient care observation in the Tufts Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I got to observe and learn in the same capacity as 1st-year medical students. I continued the summer as an assistant in the Dr. Jill Maron lab and the Dr. Perrie O-Tierney-Ginn lab. For Dr. Maron, I independently performed RNA extractions from neonatal salivary samples to support her clinical trial of a feeding training device called the N-TRAINER. The RNA isolated in the saliva is then sequenced and correlated with success on the device. For Dr. O’Tierney-Ginn, I performed literature reviews to compile a glossary of micro-RNAs that may be involved in the pathogenesis of gestational diabetes mellitus.
How did you find this internship?
I found the internship through the advice of my Tufts biology professors — they told me to email labs at the Medical School that looked interesting, and it worked! I interviewed with Dr. Maron and she welcomed me to the summer team.
What did you enjoy most about your internship?
I most enjoyed working in my exact field of interest. I want to be a Obstetrician/Gynecologist, so observing care for women and babies and participating in research to advance their care was amazing. It was also really fun to be surrounded by people more advanced in their careers who had the same scientific interests as I do because I learned a lot just from talking to them.
What did you find challenging?
This position was challenging in that it was fairly self-directed. I was invited to “join the group,” but beyond that, I had to put myself out there to ask different researchers if they could use my help. It was nerve-wracking at first, but eventually I felt very welcome and found useful projects in the group. It was also challenging because I was not paid, but I had flexible hours and was been able to earn money on the side.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to make the most of an internship like yours?
I would advise reaching out confidently and early. I emailed Dr. Maron in November, and I believe my success was partially attributed to my enthusiasm and proactivity. Most Tufts Medical Center researchers take on very few summer students, so early is always best. Email many people whose research looks interesting — I reached out to 5 or 6 and only heard back from Dr. Maron. I would also advise reading up before you arrive for the summer. Check out the publications of the group so that you can be an informed helper and understand the greater scope of the specific project you are assigned. I would also advise people to be brave! Older scientists seem intimidating, but they were college students once too, and they love interacting with young, motivated, excited people.
About the Organization
Our mission is to transform the health of the next generation by integrating fetal information from pre-conception onwards to diagnose and treat illnesses that affect people throughout their lives. Medical research has already established that events that occur at critical stages of human development in the womb influence the later occurrence of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and inflammatory disorders, such as asthma, in both childhood and adulthood. The in-utero environment has a profound influence on the developing fetus, altering his or her gene expression and therefore affecting lifelong health. Pregnancy is also a “stress test” for later health problems in the mother, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.