Tuesday, July 23, 2013

GCC interns learning an 'incredible amount in a very short time' at NIH

Sara Tenda, a 2013 Germanna Community College graduate, is spending her summer as part of a group working on developing better treatments for high-risk neuroblastoma patients.
She’s doing lab research at the Cell & Molecular Biology Section, Pediatric Oncology Branch of the National Cancer Institute, near Bethesda, Md.  According to the National Cancer Society Web site, neuroblastoma is a form of cancer that develops in the nervous system of embryos and fetuses and affects young children.
Sara Tenda

Tenda and fellow Germanna student Ulisses Santamaria are part of the 2013 National Institute of Health Community College Summer Enrichment Program. It’s intended to boost the number of community college students who plan on careers in health care and research as they transfer to four-year colleges and universities.
In addition to doing full time research in a laboratory or on an NIH project, they take courses and attend workshops.
Tenda and Santamaria are early success stories for Germanna’s new Experiential Learning internship program.
“It’s much more intense than I expected it to be,”  Tenda, who is transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University says of her internship. “There has been quite a learning curve for me. It’s an incredible amount in a very short amount of time. That makes it very intense.”
She says she hadn’t decided whether she wanted to go into medical research or become a practicing physician. Now Tenda is leaning toward clinical research or becoming a physician. She plans to apply to medical school after getting her bachelor’s degree at VCU.
Tenda, who is 36 years old, lives in Spotsylvania County. She’s a graduate of Potomac High School in Dumfries.
Ulisses Santamaria
She said Cathy Walsh, her Biology 101 instructor at Germanna: “was extremely helpful. She wrote the letter recommending me-- and she must’ve done a very good job, because I’m here.”
Santamaria, an 18-year-old Spotsylvania County native and Courtland High graduate, is being mentored by Dr. Alon Poleg-Polsky in research involving the structure and function of the retina at the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke in Bethesda. The work involves investigation into how the retina performs preliminary image processing and transmits visual information to the brain.
In an email, he says he’s been studying contrast sensitivity in mouse retinal ganglion cells.
The work is not for the squeamish.
Santamaria writes: “We take mice and we unfortunately do kill them (very quickly, I promise), and then we extract their eyes and place them in a petri dish full of a saline solution and a carbogen (carbon and oxygen) tube to keep the cells in the eye alive. Then we cut open the eye and clean it out until only the shell of the eyes and the retina is left. Then we cut the retina in half to have two specimens to work with per eye. Then we take the retina and mount it onto a harp (A square wire of platinum with nylon strings going across it to keep retinas in place), and then put it into a profusion chamber (means that it's kept at the body's temperature, and constantly having saline solution in the chamber using a setup akin to a drip IV in a hospital) under a confocal microscope and view it using a monitor.”
Like Tenda, Santamaria says he’s learning a lot in a short time and he loves it.
Santamaria says Dr. Trudy Witt, an assistant professor of biology at Germanna,  is one of the teachers who made a difference for him.
For more information on Germanna’s internship program,  email Cheri Ober, its coordinator,  at cober@germanna.edu or go to http://www.germanna.edu/Students/Experiential_Learning_Center/for_students/

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