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Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Fellow
Donald C. Phillibert
Carlos M. Gonzalez
Laura M. Yudt
Colin A. Lathrop
Tracy Parker-Pritchett
Donald C. Phillibert Photo Donald C. Phillibert

Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Fellow
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
2nd year University of Pittsburgh Medical School
Graduated from Dartmouth College, B.A. in English Literature
Hometown: Westchester County, NY

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica. I moved to Brooklyn, New York at a very young age. To provide my younger siblings and me with a better education, my parents moved to Westchester County where I attended Scarsdale High School.

I have a B.A. in English Literature from Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. An undergraduate friend named John Chang, who went to Johns Hopkins University, said NIH had a great program to get some more research experience under your belt before going to medical school.

I have spent the past year in the Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch of NICHD. Dr. Juan Bonifacino leads the Protein Trafficking group and is chief of Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch. My mentor, Dr. Markus Boehm, and I investigate the role of adaptor protein (AP) complexes (specifically AP-4) in mediating the exchange of materials among the trans-golgi network (TGN), endosomes, lysosomes, and plasma membrane using transgenic knockout mice.

My prior research experience was in physiology. I researched nitric oxide release in pulmonary arteries. I wanted to learn some more 'hard core' bench techniques on a cellular level. My research training here at NIH also has had a genetics component, so it suited my interests well.

A typical workday at NIH varies. I often go to the animal facility to observe the transgenic knockout mice. In this facility talented researchers like Dr. Rall taught us how to perform blastocyst harvesting. We often perform DNA mouse-tail preps. We perform PCR and we are also doing southern blotting. We also transfect various cells to look for co-localization of specific proteins using immunoflourescence.

Since coming to NIH I have developed a deeper interest in academic medicine, and I hope to take advantage of more research opportunities during medical school. I will attend the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine starting in the fall of 2002 as a candidate for an M.D. I have not yet made a decision regarding a specialty within the field of medicine.

I do envision returning to the NIH for a year off during medical school or for a fellowship following medical school.

Dr. Markus Boehm has always made me feel comfortable asking questions. His discipline, time-management skills, and multitasking abilities are just some of the lessons that I believe I will carry with me outside of the laboratory as a medical student and in the laboratory as a scientist. I truly valued our afternoon discussions over coffee. It was at times like these that I learned the most about my research, my mentor, and the larger scientific community.

I think it is very important that trainees are bold in asserting their desire for knowledge. I highly recommend that trainees ask questions and voice their thoughts. Even if one is incorrect in an assertion, there is a wealth of information to be acquired through discussion. Understanding the scientific theory underlying a project makes a trainee feel like a part of the research team, and makes research protocols less perfunctory. Laboratory endeavors are much more exciting when one reads the literature surrounding a research project, rather than simply learning laboratory techniques.

I love the fact that the NIH is an international conglomerate of scientists. I have learned about different cultures as well as different scientific disciplines. If you have a question in almost any field related to your research, there is an expert in that field at one of the institutes. Award-winning scientists are always visiting to give seminars. It is an amazing and unique experience to be in this kind of learning environment.

Finding housing was not a problem. I found housing in two days. If possible I would recommend taking a little more time than I did. I think renting a bedroom in a house is the most cost-effective way for an IRTA to live. If one is lucky enough to know some friends who are going to be in the area, then a two- or three-bedroom apartment is another affordable option.

I live close enough so that I can ride my bicycle to work. The metro is very convenient, but I also have an automobile.

In my spare time, I play rugby for the Maryland Exiles who are a major league rugby team. I also volunteer my time to tutor high school students in Silver Spring. I sometimes volunteer in a soup kitchen for the Fish and Loaves Program with other postbacc IRTAs. I also like to play tennis and read fiction.

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Carlos M. Gonzalez Photo Carlos M. Gonzalez

Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Fellow
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
B.S. in General Sciences/Biology. University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus
2nd year graduate student- University of North Carolina
Hometown: Trujillo Alto, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico

Please list the degrees that you have earned since high school and the institutions where you earned them and your academic major. B.S. in General Sciences/Biology. University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus

If you are pursuing a degree while in training at the NIH, please identify the program and the institution. N/A

How were you informed about research training programs at the NIH? Personnel from the Office of Intramural Research came to my campus to inform students about the training opportunities the NIH had to offer.

Briefly describe the research in which you are currently involved. Although, I work on several projects, my main area of work is an effort to understand the biology of a Hepatitis B virus mutant as the causal agent in the development of Ground Glass Hepatocytes and hepatocellular carcinoma.

How did you develop an interest in this area? Virology is at the heart of my two fields of choice, microbiology and evolutionary biology.

Can you describe a typical work day at the NIH? The typical day can include harvesting lymphocytes, while preparing several constructs by standard cloning techniques, maintaining cell cultures or performing myriad other molecular biology techniques.

What are your future education and/or career goals? Earning a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences.

How can trainees maximize the mentor-mentee relationship? Be up front and honest about what your goals are, as well as your expectations of the mentor-trainee relationship. Always keep an open and clear channel of communication with your mentor. Even if you aren't the best of buds you do depend on each other.

What have you found to be most impressive about the NIH? The wealth of resources available to student here, and the space to grow in all aspects--educational, professional, and beyond.

Was finding housing a problem? If so, what advice would you have for students who plan to come to the NIH in the future? Do some web surfing to find out about good deals and roommate opportunities.

What mode of transportation do you use to get around the area? (automobile, metro, bicycle, etc.) I took the metro for the 1st year, then I bought a car.

What do you do in your spare time? I am raising two wonderful kids! Of course I also have to get out, way out, to the great outdoors for some hiking, mountain biking, and white water rafting.

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Laura M. Yudt Photo Laura M. Yudt

Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Fellow
National Human Genome Research Institute
BA in Biology Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN
Hometown: Valparaiso, IN

Only two years ago, in May 2001, my life was full of uncertainty. I was anxiously awaiting graduation day and nervously anticipating my move east. I attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology. During my last semester of school, I was quite unsure what direction my life would follow. I had taken the MCAT and planned to apply to medical school, but I started to consider other options. Having not done research while an undergraduate, I wondered if graduate school would be the best option. My advisor encouraged me to spend time doing research and to look into the IRTA program.

I joined a laboratory in the Cancer Genetics Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute. My work in the laboratory has focused on finding novel genetic mutations in melanoma cell lines and tumors. We have studied a few genes to elucidate either their role in the progression of melanoma or their effect on the function in melanomas. I worked directly with a postdoctoral fellow who offered me excellent one-on-one training and guidance.

Over the course of my time at the NIH, my career path has become much more directed. I have realized the challenges and satisfactions that one can gain from research, as well as my own love of sharing knowledge with others. Shortly after starting at NIH, I recognized a passion for teaching while tutoring high school students. In the fall of 2003, I will begin a PhD program at Duke University in the Cell and Molecular Biology program. Eventually I would like to return to a small college or university as a professor, where I may fulfill my interest in teaching and continue my own research.

I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to take part in the IRTA experience. While the research exposure I had has helped to shape my career, the environment at the NIH has helped my interest in science and research to flourish. Opportunities abound to attend lectures, seminars, and poster presentations. I enrolled in FAES evening courses to further explore my interests; one course was entitled Demystifying Medicine for PhD Students and the other was an introductory immunology class. Being able to interact with scientists who are prominent in their field and who are eager to advise students about professional schools and subsequent careers is the most valuable part of the experience.

Not only has the IRTA experience been exceptionally rewarding, so has living in Bethesda. I enjoy being able to bike to work from my apartment in Bethesda. Then, I can easily drive or take the metro into Washington DC in the evenings or on the weekends. Transitioning out of the college life where friends are ever-present into a less social life was slightly difficult and lonely. This change was made immeasurably easier by having had a roommate to share my apartment. Living so close to Washington DC has been an adventure itself. I appreciate the diversity of people, places, and events that make this place unique. I spent a lot of time, especially during my first summer here, visiting all of the familiar tourist spots. Then, as I med more people, I began exploring less well-known places, including the wide variety of restaurants. I am most fond of the green space in the metro area, whether sitting on a bench…a park or having a picnic with friends during my first winter here. I traveled the vast array of bike paths and trails while training for the first Washington DC marathon.

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Colin A. Lathrop Photo Colin A. Lathrop

Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Fellow
Craniofacial Developmental Biology and Regeneration Branch, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
DDS/Ph.D University of Texas Health Science Center - Houston
Graduated from Houston Baptist University, BS in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and Biology
Hometown: Fulshear, Texas

A couple of summers ago while surfing the internet looking for research opportunities for my undergraduate classmates, I came across the training page for NIH intramural programs. At the time I was the President of the Pre-Dental chapter of the American Student Dental Association at Houston Baptist University (HBU), filling out applications to dental schools around the country. Months passed and I still had not been accepted to a dental program and was faced with the uncertain reality of graduating from college. I remembered the NIH page and decided, on a whim, to apply for a postbaccalaureate IRTA position. Four months later, after graduating with honors from HBU as a double-science major in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and Biology, I began the 1500-mile move from Fulshear, TX (pop. 714) to Bethesda, MD, just outside of Washington, D.C.

When filling out the online application, I chose research areas closely related to my chosen profession of dentistry which paid off when my mentor contacted me about a position with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research studying the growth and development of mouse salivary glands. Typically, I have bi-weekly microdissections of murine submandibular glands along with subsequent organ culture to study different aspects of normal or experimental growth utilizing lab techniques such as immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, RT-PCR, gelatin zymography, and inhibitory experiments.

The experience here at the NIH can be summed up with one word: Amazing! I realized after beginning my appointment at the NIH that I enjoyed research and would like to augment my dental education to allow me to combine my interests in clinical care, research, and teaching. My experiences reinforced my interest in research and academics as a career and were instrumental in my acceptance into a DDS/PhD dual degree program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. I will definitely keep an open mind to returning to the NIH campus after I have completed my studies so that I can gain additional clinical or research training in the intramural program.

Another great aspect of the time spent here has been the interaction with, and support of, my mentor, Dr. Matthew P. Hoffman. I have learned more than just science from Matt. He's been a great friend and guide from the first day in the lab to the last, not only in my research endeavors, but also in preparation for graduate school. His guidance by example will prepare me well for my future as a dental scientist and clinician.

The NIH is a great place to study and grow for a year or two before embarking on a professional degree or two. The people here, from all corners of the world, have been inclusive and friendly since the first day. I had no idea where I was going to live, or how to get around town in my car or on the Metro (subway), or even what there was to do in my spare time before I arrived. After enrolling in Club PCR off of the Pre-IRTA webpage, I received advertisements for housing, concerts, volunteer as well as social events that helped me to find a place to live and meet some great new friends. All in all, it's been wonderful to be here in the shadow of the nation's capital, working with some of the finest scientists in the world and making some amazing friends while preparing myself for dental and graduate school. I took the road less traveled to a career in dentistry, and it has made all the difference.

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Tracy Parker-Pritchett Photo Tracy Parker-Pritchett

Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Fellow
National Cancer Institute
BS, Major Biology, Virginia State University Petersburg, Va 1st year Graduate Student Boston University Molecular Cell Biology and Biochemistry
Hometown: Hampton, Va

During my time at Virginia State University (VSU) I was able to do summer internships at Universities, Virginia Tech and Thomas Jefferson University. During my time at these schools I noticed that I felt comfortable and enjoyed spending time in the laboratory. At the closing of my senior year I wanted to take a year or two off to prepare for graduate school and learn more about what it takes to do research. Searching the web for internships after graduation I located the postbaccalaureate program here at the NIH. My experiences at the NIH has only increased me interest in pursuing my Ph D.

I worked in the Laboratory of Cellular Carcinogenesis and Tumor Promotion (LCCTP) located at the National Cancer Institute. Our laboratory in LCCTP focuses on identifying cancer susceptibility genes to be isolated and characterized as tumor suppressor genes. Our group concentrates on lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer related mortality in both men and women in the United States. Currently I have been involved in two projects and assisting others in the group. The first project involves isolating genes from the short arm of chromosome 9 that may be potential tumor suppressor genes. The second project was to use a bacterial two-hybrid reaction to find proteins interacting with the tumor suppressor gene deleted in liver cancer-1 (DLC-1). A typical work day here at the NIH for me consist of caring out experiments, analyzing data, reading and update myself on new findings, and taking care of the lab manger duties such as book keeping, stocking the lab, etc. As a mentor, Dr. Wiest has given, and is giving me every opportunity to expand my knowledge in the field of cancer research. He has been supportive in the work that I have been doing giving me constructive feedback and being able to share the wealth of knowledge he has gained over the years. Before I started my work here at the NCI I wanted to study genetics but after my two years here

I have become interested in cell biology. I want my PhD work to revolve around the study of cellular processes and pathways. Through these studies I want to better understand the processes and pathways that cells take to become cancerous. The opportunity to be here at the NCI has not only influenced me to pursue a career in cancer research but also to get involved in minority education. As my time goes on in the sciences I notice that there are very few minorities involved in research, medicine, and clinical trails. In my immediate family I am the first person to receive an undergraduate degree and in my known family tree I am one of four. Once I have finished my education I want to help educate other minorities. Possibly returning to my undergraduate institution and bringing in grant funding for the biology graduate studies program the university is developing. If I were unable to achieve this goal I would want to remain at the NCI working towards a position as a principal investigator and helping develop the minorities programs in the institute. The most impressive thing about the NIH has been it infinite resources and I want to be able to take advantage of them. My ultimate goal is to get a message to minorities about the different careers in science and the benefits of things like clinical trails to help the minority community end cancer related death.

The Maryland / D.C. area is a great place. Finding house was no problem. I suggest students try to share housing and apartments. While here at the NCI I have been able to use the metro for transportation to get wherever I need to go. In my spare time I have been able to see many of the great sites in our nation's Capitol, read, see movies and plays, and from time to time dust off my clarinet.

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