Mentoring the Next Generation of Scientists

Pictured above from left to right: Peter Ricci, Julie Le, Pranati Dani, Emily Cross, Finola Schmahl-Waggoner, Arwa Iqbal

Mentorship is an integral part of science.  Each summer, scientists at PNRI mentor college students as part of our eight-week Summer Undergraduate Science Internship Program. As PNRI interns, students not only perform research under the supervision of an experienced scientist, but they also participate in journal clubs, scientific seminars, laboratory group meetings, networking, and career development activities.

This summer students came from as far away as London and as nearby as Seattle, with equally diverse educational goals. However, they all had one thing in common: a passion for improving human health. Last week, each intern presented the findings of their projects to the scientists at PNRI, and we are thrilled to introduce each of them now:

Arwa Iqbal studies public health at the University of Washington. Arwa has her sights on medical school and was drawn to the Dudley lab’s work using yeast as a model for human diseases. Her internship focused on a class of diseases called Urea Cycle Disorders, severe inherited diseases that are sometimes fatal in newborns.

I learned how to speak about science, and it was interesting to see how the concepts I learned in class work in real life. – Arwa

Emily Cross traveled to PNRI from Imperial College London, where she is a biomedical science student. She hoped the internship would help her decide whether to pursue an advanced degree in biomedical research. During her internship in the McLaughlin lab, Emily examined transposable elements, pieces of virus-like DNA that can be harmful, and how our immune system can fight them off.

I’ve learned what it’s like to be a scientist day-by-day. There are loads of things that can go wrong, so you have to do a lot of reading and planning. – Emily

Finola Schmahl-Waggoner is a cell and molecular biology major at Seattle University. She was drawn to the internship because she saw a focus on accessibility and good alignment with her plan to pursue an advanced degree in genomic medicine. Finola likened her internship in the Metzger lab to a scavenger hunt: searching for select protein-coding genes and observing what they do.

I feel like science isn’t always super accessible, but the people I’ve gotten to work with here made me feel very comfortable. – Finola

“Throughout the internship I met a lot of people with different career paths. Seeing so many career options is helping me see which one I might pursue.”

Julie Le
2022 Summer Undergraduate Science Intern

Julie Le is a chemistry major at the University of Washington. She applied to the internship to get a sense of the different types of research that she may want to pursue after completing her undergraduate degree. Julie’s research using yeast to study Urea Cycle Disorders in the Dudley lab was more heavily focused on biology than her past coursework.

Throughout the internship I met a lot of people with different career paths. Seeing so many career options is helping me see which one I might pursue. – Julie

Peter Ricci studies molecular biology at the University of Washington. Peter came to the program because he was interested in transmissible cancers, and the Metzger lab is one of only a few places in the world that studies this phenomenon. Peter’s project explored the conditions under which virus-like cancer cells can jump from one clam to another, offering clues to how cancer spreads in humans.

I’ve gained a lot of organizational skills from my first job working in a lab that will help me no matter what I do after I graduate. – Peter

Pranati Dani is a computer science major at the University of Washington. Pranati chose PNRI’s program to learn more about how the fields of biology and computer science intersect, with her eye on a possible career in biotech and computational biology. During her internship in the McLaughlin lab, Pranati explored jumping genes and whether they’re responsible for unexpected causes of diseases like infertility and cancer.

I learned a lot about computational tools, but I also realized science is a lot about persevering. – Pranati

Please join us in celebrating the achievements of our summer interns! We know that science is critical to understanding our present, but even more vital to shaping our future. We look forward to watching their careers develop and to cheering them on as they make new discoveries.