Summer is drawing near, and as students begin to consider what they might do during this time, we invite you to read about the program Allie Lipshutz '18 took part in last summer at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research. And if this sounds like something you might like, you can pursue applying to their summer program.
Last summer I was fortunate to be one of eight high school and college interns at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, working alongside world-renowned scientists and researchers for a month. As interns in this program, we got an exclusive glimpse into the world of cutting-edge science as we rotated through the Institute's laboratories and experienced the world's largest biobank and a well-known research facility. We received individualized instruction from a group of expert Coriell staff mentors and had access to state-of-the-art equipment and technology. This experience further kindled my love for science and opened my eyes to the world of research.
Each day, my cohort of interns and I were treated to a unique lecture on a specific area of research being done at Coriell. The lecture served as preparation for the day's work, which included the performance of various hands-on processes and data analysis in the laboratory. The lab protocols we performed closely resembled the lab technicians' daily processes. The afternoon labs involved more independent work, and were an opportunity for us to translate the lessons we had learned in our lectures directly to the bench.
Our hosts were committed to creating space for us to network and get to know the staff at Coriell, and about halfway through our month together, we were invited to join Coriell staff on a professional day cruise. We were encouraged to use the time with lab technicians, IT staff, project managers, and Institute leaders, such as the CEO, to workshop ideas for our final presentations.
My final presentation looked at the role Coriell could play in the treatment of epilepsy, an ongoing passion of mine. Presenting my topic and ideas to a room of a hundred highly educated, respected scientists was deeply validating.
Of all the labs, including Cell Culture, Molecular Biology, Cytogenetics, and Stem Cell, the Stem Cell lab was undoubtedly the most complicated, consisting of topics and lab protocols foreign not only to me, but newly discovered, and therefore foreign to much of the world, as well. Conversely, although the content of the Cytogenetics lab experiments referred most directly to my previous basis of knowledge, by allowing us to make educated judgements, see all of our work in front of us, and then check our answers, the work was equally gratifying. Although in some ways simple, our detailed lab work took exquisite focus and determination, since every move and decision we made affected the next.
This internship not only offered me high-level, practical experience but also introduced me to loads of new material. Perhaps more importantly, I realized the benefits of taking risks, pushing myself to ask questions, overcome my fears of sounding "dumb" or not knowing something I should. In the classroom setting, I am rarely afraid to speak my mind, but mustering the courage to ask a potentially "dumb" question in the lab setting was difficult.
Germantown Friends School has helped me to become a strong, independent thinker, but being immersed in a real-world setting with little knowledge of how to mentally prepare myself was shocking—in a good way. I can confidently say that I grew as a thinker and a learner, and more generally, as a person. I drove myself to my internship daily, navigated the Ben Franklin Bridge and a crowded parking garage at rush-hour, used a key-card to enter the building, and most notably, got paid. GFS has taught me not only that I am valued in the classroom, but also in the world; that my work and my learning has economic value. Between GFS's core philosophy of equality and Coriell's stipend, I firmly understand that despite my gender, despite my age, despite any other preconceived notions of who I am, I deserve to learn and grow just as much as the next person. For that I am forever grateful.