2014 Alumni Journals

Gabriela Balicas – Rice

To say that this summer has been unpredictable would be an understatedly crude description. Frankly, I did not expect this experience to impose any meaningful impact on my personal nor professional goals. Before starting this program, I had already acquired a year and a half of research experience and I, reasonably, believed that a mere ten more weeks could not and would not trigger any significant change in the way that I perceived myself nor my academic ambitions. If asked to identify the exact root of this shift in mentality, I would accredit it to the interpersonal interactions and enriching conversations I have held with those whom I have met throughout this program.During this time, I have come to believe that the beauty of SRIP lies, arguably, in the program’s facilitation of a variety of interpersonal interactions among people from diversified backgrounds. I have spoken to MDs, PhDs, MD/PhDs, post-docs, PhD students, MD students, MD/PhD students, undergrad graduates, and other undergraduates about their career elects and ambitions, conversations which I can only describe as invaluable. These discussions sparked in me profound introspection as to how I should realistically intend to pursue a career within the STEM field. For instance, I was originally considering attempting to go into an MD/PhD program, but after this experience I realized that MD/PhD is, inarguably, not for me.
The research aspect itself was on par with working in any research lab as an undergraduate; it’s what you make of it. You have to trust your inherent machinery and free yourself from hardwired abstractions to be able to truly reap the rewards of research. A cookbook procedure may get you through an operation, but unless you’re ready to question and critically analyze yourself every step of the way, there will be no improvement; no innovation. Only once you can research with confidence, to truly experiment, will you be able to feel the joy that comes with the work.
I conclude this entry by saying that SRIP is an experience that everyone interested in the medical and biological research fields should participate in. The opportunity I have been given through this program is something I have benefitted from wholeheartedly, and I believe anyone else would do the same.

Samantha Batista – Vassar

My summer with SRIP was wonderful. I wanted to do this program mainly to get an idea of what it is really like to do research before jumping into grad school. Though your individual experience is definitely dependent on your mentor, the lab dynamics, and the type of lab you’re working in, this program does give a realistic idea of what research is like, and what graduate school will be like. We were exposed to many different kinds of people with varying levels of experience and with different perspectives on research. Personally, this summer confirmed for me that I do want to go to graduate school and have a career in research. I definitely learned a lot. I feel much more confident in my bench skills, but the mentors also push you to gain a deeper and deeper understanding of the subject material, so I also feel that my knowledge base has expanded immensely in such a short period of time.The people in the program were absolutely fantastic. I was surprised by how close everyone got so quickly; we were like family by the end. I think it helps that we all lived together on the same floor. It is a unique and fun experience to be surrounded by people who all bring different things to the table, but who all share a keen interest in science. Being able to talk about your research and lab experience with people who not only care, but understand, is a great thing. Charlottesville is also a very cool place with a lot to offer.Overall this was a great way to spend a summer.

Alyssa Brunal – Virginia Tech

The SRIP program was the best experience of my life so far. I learned so much in the 10 weeks I was at the University of Virginia and I am so thankful to have been given this opportunity. Coming into this program I did not know what to expect. I was a little nervous, as I had just finished my first year of college, but everyone at the University of Virginia made me feel welcome and at home. I was unsure if I wanted to do biomedical research in the future but this program helped me determine that research is what I want to do. I had a great time working in Dr. Li’s Pharmacology lab and I now feel that I would like to do neuroendocrine research in the future.
Thanks to everyone in the SRIP program for this wonderful opportunity.

Brandy Burgos – The Ohio State University

The Summer Research Internship Program (SRIP) at the University of Virginia was an enlightening experience that gave me a new perspective on the realities of science. Prior to coming here, I had no laboratory experience or real knowledge of the scientific process other than what I had been taught from my undergraduates courses. This program taught me a most valuable lesson which no class room has ever exposed me to: tests will come out negative and experiments will fail.
In my lab, I was challenged to think creatively as there were many times where I had to troubleshoot and modify my experimental designs. This exposure to failure was exciting though! I wasn’t just performing experiments and getting expected results. Instead, there were times where my experiments yielded no results but taught me something new about the system I was working with.
Whenever stifling obstacles arose, my mentor and those around me were always very encouraging and motivated my persistence. The knowledge and experience possessed by others in my lab, and even my peers in the program, introduced me to a network of ideas that helped move forward with my work and reinforced the importance of communication in any profession.
The Distinguished Lecture Series portion of the program provided valuable supplementary information that allowed me to grow and become an even better scientist over the course of 10 weeks. Additionally, some of the faculty and graduate students touched on matters beyond research topics and contemporary methods. People shared their personal stories and allowed us to get a peek at what life as an MD, PhD, or MD/PhD student is like. This was a particularly attractive component as it allowed me to figure out what program I would fit into best.
Overall, I feel honored and thankful to have had the privilege of coming to this institution where I gained so much more than I had ever expected. Considering how strongly SRIP has impacted my personal and professional growth, I recommend it to all students who are considering pursing an education beyond a bachelor’s degree.

Nijah Burris – Spelman

My summer experience in SRIP has been an amazing and enriching summer. I have learned skills in the lab that can be translated to my academic growth and personal well-being. I learned the importance of being completely knowledgeable about the research I was doing and being placed in such an academically stimulating environment I was encouraged to seek alternative perspectives and opinions on my research. Personally, I learned never to accept things at face value and to be willing to challenge others’ opinions respectfully and professionally.
With the guide of my awesome mentors, I learned several techniques and their applications in research. My lab mates were willing to assist me in experiments, promote personal growth, and ensure I was comfortable and knowledgeable of all aspects of my research. I was able to conquer my fear of handling mice and learn techniques that would be beneficial to a career in medicine. This experience was an extremely well rounded experience!
Outside of the lab, I developed valuable friendships from individuals representing all walks of life. Each person was able to teach me so much and we were able to make the most out of Charlottesville. The food here is amazing and the small college town has a “make your own fun” atmosphere and that is exactly what we did.
I thoroughly encourage anyone who is contemplating this internship to apply! You will definitely receive an internship experience that can benefit you in all aspects of life! Also the people that you meet here (students in your program, mentors in your lab, graduate\medical students, your primary investigator, etc.) will be connections that you make forever so do not miss out on this awesome opportunity!

Kamyra Edokpolor – Bryn Mawr

The Summer Research Internship Program at UVA is truly wonderful. I was a bit intimidated as to what to expect because this was my first lab experience and I was coming from a small liberal arts college. However, I had a great a experience with a phenomenal PI and a patient graduate student mentor who was really dedicated to me learning and taking away as much as possible.SRIP is wonderful at introducing and furthering the interests of students who are considering pursuing a career in the scientific field. Each of the seminars and panels provided by the program, and the additional exposure provided by the labs, is priceless. I really got an understanding of what life in research is like and what to expect as I continue in my academic career. I am grateful for all of the intelligent, bright minds I have encountered during my time and the friends and memories I have made.


Richard Flores – UCLA

I had a great experience here at UVA. My fellow classmates, although somewhat shy at first, turned out to be incredibly fun and interesting people. I was pleasantly surprised that so many of them were eager to ask me questions about my research. That was so encouraging!Meeting my SRIP friends was a very rewarding experience because I knew that I was talking to future scientists and it’s an inspiring thought to know that these highly motivated people will be my colleagues.


Damaris Gachungi – Lawson State

My experience as a participant in the Summer Research Internship Program at UVA was incredible. Before coming to Charlottesville, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what the city would be like, what kind of people I would meet or even what kind of experience I was about to gain. As a researcher, I learned new lab techniques and also got to research in an area I didn’t know much about prior to the internship.The people that I worked with in my lab were more than willing to help. They made my experience in the lab worth-while. I enjoyed being in a program away from my hometown. The friendships and memories I made are treasured. Everybody being from a different background also made the program so much more interesting. This is definitely a program worth applying to.


Nita Gombakomba – Montgomery College

This summer with SRIP was truly the best summer yet. From meeting the interns for the first time to my first day in lab to my final presentation, this was an absolutely amazing experience. I mastered a number of new techniques in the lab and I became better at articulating my research at our Friday roundtable meetings. I also learned a lot about the many opportunities that UVA has to offer through the many training grants that the school has, and I got a better understanding of what it takes to be in graduate school. Being exposed to different areas of research at all our meetings definitely opened my eyes to the many roads that science can lead me down and I have certainly added UVA to my list of potential graduate/professional schools because of this.While everything about the program, including the lovely city of Charlottesville, was great, the one factor that made this experience the very best was the people. I became good friends with many of the interns, all of whom were a pleasure to spend time with. I especially enjoyed spending time with my wonderful suitemates whose positive energy and willingness to share in my successes and failures this summer gave me the drive to keep going when things got difficult. I will indeed cherish all the moments that we shared together. I would highly recommend this program to people who not only love science but who also want to help others and love being around other young scientists who share their interests.

Marshall Goodwin – Florida Gulf Coast

The SRIP program at UVA is really great. It exposed me to a graduate level research environment and reinforced my determination to pursue a career in research. If you are considering a similar path, a SRIP program is the perfect way to determine if you have what it takes.
After ten weeks of intense research, you will know for sure if you want to attend graduate school in the basic sciences. Summer programs like this are also a great way to see new places and make a good amount of money. I would definitely recommend it to any undergraduate with a love for science.


Kevin Lopez – University of Virginia

SRIP is a magnificent program, and I would recommend that anyone interested in it should apply. During the semester I only had a limited amount of time to work in a lab, but by working in the summer I had enough time to produce some valuable data.
A very unique part of the experience was being in an environment where everyone was interested in the same subject. Other interns were able to understand the research I explained, and I also learned about many different fields of research by listening to what they did. These relationships with the other interns became some amazing friendships as we spent time together outside the lab. The program was an overall great experience that motivates me to possibly continue performing research in the future.

Michaela Mertz – University of Arkansas

I have had an amazing summer being a part of the Summer Research Internship Program (SRIP). Through this summer I have been exposed to many research fields and opportunities within those fields. I was truly impressed with the variety of research being done at UVA. It has helped me decide I would like to pursue cancer, infectious disease, or cardiovascular fields in graduate school. Not only that, but this summer has taught me what to expect in graduate school and beyond. It has showed me the atmosphere I would like most in graduate school.
Dr. Janes’ lab had an amazing dynamic that was very representative of the biomedical engineering department as a whole. Being in this program has helped encourage me to pursue the PhD program here at UVA for biomedical engineering. Aside from the research aspect this program has really showed me how much I enjoy this area in general. The Charlottesville area is teeming with opportunities like hiking, kayaking, fishing, and more. For an outdoors person like myself I know I would always stay entertained here.
The final thing I really enjoyed about this program was the other participants. At first when I heard I was living with 5 other people in the same suite I was a bit apprehensive. As we all got to know each other it turned out to be one of the most fun experiences I have ever had. I have gotten to meet people from all walks of life and from different countries. They were such a great group of people. I hope that I am able to keep in contact with them or maybe even see them again in a graduate program.

Krystal Roggerson – Hampton University

The Summer Research Internship Program here at the University of Virginia was a great opportunity for me to meet students who are interested in research just as I am. Faculty and students helped me gain some insight into the wonders of research. This program has also helped me gain a better understanding of Graduate school and what is involved in getting in and being successful.
I would definitely recommend SRIP to any undergraduate student who wants to explore biomedical research in different areas and from different perspectives. This was a great experience and I will definitely cherish the memories that I have shared with my lab and with the students from the program.

Cheregn Tegegn – University of Maryland Eastern Shore

I had a great summer research experience at UVA. It was an incredible opportunity for me to learn and use the different lab materials and research models which I had never used before. This program helped me to understand better about graduate school. The seminars and lectures given each week were great.
Besides the summer research, I developed relationships with SRIP students who made me comfortable during the entire summer. I would like to thank the SRIP director and coordinator who gave me this opportunity to be part of this program. Generally, the program was so amazing and interesting. I encourage all those who love science to apply.