BioTrain interns making most of summer program

While many students are enjoying their summers poolside, 34 are working at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. They are members of the fourth class of BioTrain, HudsonAlpha’s signature internship program.

“We are blessed with an amazing group of students who are mature beyond their years; confident, yet humble; and very personable,” said Adam Hott, Ph.D., coordinator of educational outreach. “The group has banded together, supporting each other and building professional relationships. I am very proud of our students and cannot wait until our poster session on July 31 highlighting the students’ accomplishments over the summer.”

Those accomplishments began June 4 with biotech bootcamp, an intensive and mandatory week of training that preceded the actual internships. Those internships include assignments in nonprofit and commercial research labs, as well as positions in educational outreach and communications.

Chris Plott was one of this year’s 348 BioTrain applicants. He didn’t make the cut when he first applied in 2009, but decided to try again this year. He is glad he did.

“I was so excited when Dr. Hott called me,” said Plott, who is interning in the Genome Sequencing Center. “I was absolutely ecstatic. The GSC was my first choice and HudsonAlpha is such a wonderful place. I love the combination of ideas and people.”

Abby Shelton, a Sparkman High grad, is going to be a sophomore at the University of Alabama this fall. The biology major is working 40 hours each week this summer at resident associate company Clarient, a subsidiary of GE Healthcare.

“I plan on going to graduate school,” said Shelton. “I want to get my masters and Ph.D. in genetics. This is perfect for me because I want to pursue a career in research.”

But not every intern is focused on research. Hema Pingali, for instance, wants to go into medicine.

“This is such a such a great opportunity and I am grateful for it,” said Pingali, a rising senior at Randolph, who is participating in Sample to Sequence. “The education team is teaching me so much. I didn’t even know what PCR was until biotech bootcamp. I do now: polymerase chain reaction.”

PCR is just one nugget Pingali and the other interns glean from their BioTrain internships. The program also covers other important areas, such as professional development, workplace etiquette and networking.

“Each year is different from the one before,” said Hott. “We are continually assessing and analyzing the program to make it as beneficial to the students as possible.”