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University of Utah Summer Research Internship

Thursday, August 16, 2018
Waterford Students at their University of Utah Presentations
Jihu, Eliza, R.J. and Paige all Class of ’19 and Interns at the University of Utah in 2018

The University of Utah Summer Research Program, in its 4th year running, had another amazing group of students participate with the internship this summer. The internship is coordinated with the Pharmacology Department at the University of Utah and is run by former Waterford parent and chair of the Pharmacology Department Karen Wilcox, along with professor William Crowley. 

This incredible opportunity allows our students to be directly involved in high-level research in an academic lab. While the students do not choose their own projects, they are given some choice into whose lab they join. We have had students work on projects from mouse behavioral studies for epilepsy, screening drug sensitivities of cancer cell lines, to mining various fungi and bacteria for natural products of medicinal use. This list is not even close to exhaustive! 

The students work closely with the head professor of the lab or a post-doc or graduate student. They are hands-on all summer for eight weeks. The experience culminates in a presentation to faculty of the University of Utah, Waterford faculty and staff, and friends and family. These are professional presentations that are very similar to what you would see at a scientific conference. While eight weeks is not a long time in science research, the students are often able to put together a coherent presentation displaying their work over the course of the summer. 

Eliza H. ’19 presenting at the University of Utah
Eliza H. ’19 presenting at the University of Utah

To select students, we put out a call to rising seniors during spring term. We typically have 4-5 slots available, and after receiving their applications, Harmony Button, our Academic Dean, and I invite them in for interviews. While we assess the whole candidate, we look particularly for students who are passionate and excited about science, who will also represent the school well in a professional lab setting. 

Sending students into an academic lab to do cutting-edge research is a monumental challenge. The students only know the basics of some sciences and are being thrown into a lab experience that studies science at the highest level. It is a huge transition for the students, and the growth I see in them over the summer is indescribable. To help them with this transition, I act as the mentor-behind-the-scenes. I'm available for conflict resolution, answering any questions they have, and am just an overall go-to person for anything they might need. I meet with them a few times a month while they are in the internship and we often converse on how they are adjusting, or they tell me what they have been doing in the lab. 

We are so proud of our 4 students who participated this year:

Paige Anderson on the “The Versatility of Antibodies in Conjugate Systems”
Mentor: Dr. Shawn Owen of Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Eliza Huefner on the “Attenuated Synaptic Plasticity in the IAK Model of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy is due to Saturation of LTP at the Perforant Path-Dentate Gyrus Synapse”
Mentor: Dr. Peter West of Anticonvulsant Drug Development Program

Jihu Lee on the "Characterization of the Marble Burying Task: A Mouse Model of Repetitive & Perseverative Behavior”
Mentor: Dr. Misty Smith of Anticonvulsant Drug Development Program

R.J. Shreeve on the “Developing Microorganisms for Drug Discovery”
Mentor: Dr. Jaclyn Winter of Medicinal Chemistry


 

Daniel Osipovitch
Dr. Daniel Osipovitch, chemistry teacher at Waterford, received his Ph.D. in Experimental and Molecular Medicine from Dartmouth College (NH) in February of 2015. His thesis research used protein engineering/bioengineering to develop new ways of treating drug-resistant Staph. infections with engineered enzymes. Daniel also has a B.S. in chemistry and a B.S. in forensic science from the University of New Haven (CT). Daniel spent much of his life (from tenth grade on) as a tutor, either working independently, for a school, or for a tutoring company. It was through this work that he developed his passion for teaching and recognized that he needed to be in the classroom inspiring our future scientists and engineers; he hopes to show students that chemistry, although challenging, is a beautiful and exciting view into how the world around us works. Daniel believes that science is one of the best ways to connect to the world around us. Other passions of his include playing competitive Scrabble, cooking (which includes canning jam, baking bread, and making cheese), hiking, and traveling. Daniel brings these passions into the classroom--his Scrabble club at Waterford helps to build critical thinking skills. At Waterford, Daniel regularly teaches sixth-grade chemistry, honors chemistry, and AP chemistry. In 2016, he worked alongside Dr. Pope to create a pharmacology senior elective, a topic that is relevant to everyday life, and that helped to unite all areas of science that the students have learned at Waterford. He has also developed a forensic science summer class for class VI titled “Solving Mysteries with Chemistry.” This engaging class has allowed students to explore how chemistry can be used beyond the classroom, providing an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience in many lab activities including fingerprinting, casting footprints and tire tracks, identifying art forgery, and analyzing potentially poisoned samples. It is Daniel’s goal to develop in his students a curiosity about the world, and he hopes his students leave with a true understanding of Rosalind Franklin’s poignant statement, “science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.”