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An intense summer for interns

Bio-med interns clockwise from top left: Daniyal Amirhamzeh, Adrian Paz, Christopher Martinez, and Christine An.

For many college students, summer means a break from study...or a chance to earn money before classes resume in the fall.

For a group of Mission College students, it meant an intense internship with scientists in the bio-medical field. And, by all accounts, everyone involved got their money’s worth, so to speak.

“The summer program was a resounding success,” said Mike Reynolds, Mission College biology instructor and co-director of the program. “The students learned how science really works by carefully designing experiments and carrying them out under professional supervision.”

Last spring, 10 students were selected from more than 20 applicants to take part in the TRAILS (Team Research Approach in Laboratory Science) program. TRAILS is made possible by a three-year, $322-thousand grant awarded to Mission College by the U.S. Department of Education. Its goal is to help guide students toward careers in the bio-medical and bio-technological fields.

Under the program, two interns were placed at Valencia-based MannKind Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company that develops therapeutic products for diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Eight other interns were placed with scientists and professors at California State University, Northridge.

The work was intensive, some of it graduate level. The students explored chromatography, gel electrophoresis, tissue culture, flow cytometry, syngeneic mouse tumor modeling, and the mapping of the start site of genes.

The summer interns included Christine An, Daniyal Amirhamzeh, Roberto Cabrales, Larry Joe Douglas, Lorena Raquel Lopez, Robert Lozano, Christopher Martinez, and Adrian Paz, all of whom worked with scientists at CSUN. Two other interns, Jennifer Herrera and Mario Roldan, worked at MannKind Corporation.

The scientific mentors contacted by Reynolds after the summer agreed on the program’s success.

“This is a valuable program,” said Dr. Michael Summers, associate professor of microbiology at CSUN. “The students gain research experience and confidence...and the program also benefits the progress of my research program.”

The students’ work did not end with the summer. Most are writing original research articles based on their experiences, to be included in a scientific journal due out soon.

Reynolds is equally excited about another component of the TRAILS grant. It provided funds to create an advanced class in molecular biology, and to properly equip the lab necessary for such a class.

Summer 2005 TRAILS interns included (front row, left to right) Lorena Raquel Lopez, Jennifer Herrera, Christine An, Adrian Paz, and Mario Roldan; (back row, left to right) Christopher Martinez, Roberto Cabrales, Daniyal Amirhamzeh, Robert Lozano, and Larry Joe Douglas.

“The ‘Science of Biotechnology’ class is a great advancement for Mission College,” said Reynolds. “Students who take the course will have a much more compelling resume when they seek research opportunities, and when they apply for university transfer.”

The internship program will continue for at least two more summers. Information about applying for next year’s internships will be released during the spring 2006 semester.

– BY EDUARDO PARDO / Photos: Mike Reynolds