Medicinal and biological chemistry major Carissa Iverson was researching internship opportunities online last spring when one in particular caught her eye.
She applied to The Scripps Research Institute’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows program, and she later learned that she was one of 12 students from across the United States and Puerto Rico chosen for the Institute’s program at its main campus in La Jolla, Calif. The program also is offered at The Scripps Research Institute’s site in South Florida.
|PBA student Carissa Iverson works in a genetics lab at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. Photo by Skip O'Donnell, The Scripps Research Institute.|
Iverson spent a total of 10 weeks in a genetics lab studying proteins involved in protecting the ends of chromosomes.
Part of her duties involved working with cells in culture, such as growing cells and staining them so that they could be seen using a fluorescent dye. "It was amazing to learn the different techniques and to see them under the microscope," said Iverson, a native of Fort Myers who is now in her senior year.
In addition to working alongside two postdoctoral researchers and an undergraduate research assistant, Iverson was able to interact frequently with the principal investigator, Dr. Eros Lazzerini Denchi. "I felt that he honestly wanted to teach me," Iverson said.
The students in the program attended group sessions and also made a presentation at the end of the internship. They lived nearby on the campus of the University of California-San Diego.
"They provided so much for us," Iverson said. "They had different activities they would plan for us."
Iverson said her experience has given her an interest in the field of genetics. She plans to attend graduate school.
At PBA, she works part-time as a lab assistant, preparing laboratories for classes and putting away the equipment afterward.
Professor of Biology Dr. Peggy VanArman describes Iverson as both an excellent student and a proactive planner.
"She had the desire to search for and locate a summer internship, and the determination to follow through with the application and recommendations," Dr. VanArman said.
|These images are of a cell shown under different filters. The red dots represent the protein being studied, and the green dots represent the ends of chromosomes. The objective was to see if the two overlap.|
In turn, Iverson now has a better idea of options relating to opportunities for graduate school, networking in her chosen field and experience that provides an advantage for her over other students entering grad school, Dr. VanArman said. "She is an exemplary role model for other students," she said.
Iverson also is a tutor and works an off-campus job, as well as volunteering a few hours a week for the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation. The foundation, which is dedicated to Everglades restoration, recently awarded Iverson a scholarship.
Iverson said she first developed an interest in science after taking a course in human anatomy and physiology as a high school student at Southwest Florida Christian Academy.
She said she would recommend her internship experience to other students. "It just exposed me to a different world," she said.