INBRE Internships at WVU Initiate Research Interest


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Most college students would gladly trade in their books for the beach once summer rolls around.  But for many undergraduates from smaller West Virginia institutions, the so-called lazy days of summer are spent in the fast-paced laboratories of West Virginia University’s Health Sciences Center.

WVU is one of two schools housing interns through the West Virginia IDEA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), a grant project of the National Institutes of Health and the West Virginia Experimental Project to Stimulate Competitive Research.

“INBRE makes research opportunities more accessible to students who don’t belong to a major research institution,” said Robert Griffith, Ph.D., associate professor of medicinal chemistry at the School of Pharmacy. 

 Jonathan Proto, a Wheeling Jesuit University senior, conducts research in a WVU School of Pharmacy lab as part of the INBRE internship program. The INBRE grant allows students from the state’s smaller colleges to complete hands-on internships at either WVU or Marshall University, the state’s largest institutions.

“When you perform a lab experiment as an undergrad, you don’t really see the science behind it,” said Jonathan Proto, a Wheeling Jesuit University senior.  “In a research laboratory here, the theory behind each procedure becomes evident.  It’s nice to see that the procedures I perform in my undergraduate labs are actually important.”

This hands-on approach is one of the main draws for student participation.

“Seeing the work we do in the labs provides a lot of validation for the techniques we use in undergraduate research,” said Sarah Reinhardt, a senior at Shepherd University.

WVU graduate students work with faculty to assist and train the interns with lab workand procedures.

“The students gain the confidence in their ability to conduct meaningful biomedical research,” said James Sheil, Ph.D., vice chairman of the department of microbiology, immunology and cell biology.  “They learn that conducting biomedical research can be a realistic career choice.”

A few of the students were so impressed with the experience; they decided to return for a second year.  Returning students, like Proto, claim they have put their INBRE obtained knowledge to use when returning to school last fall.

“I was able to bring my research back to Wheeling Jesuit and personalize it towards my senior biology thesis,” he said.  “This program has definitely enhanced my performance as a researcher.”

Proto noted WVU’s partnership with INBRE “provides an opportunity for biomedical and cancer research which a smaller university is unable to provide.  Even if a particular procedure isn’t being performed in the lab I work in, I can still learn about it from the other interns’ presentations.”

“Only the best students are accepted into the internship program,” Griffith said.  “What we’re finding is that the best and the brightest students aren’t just at the top universities.”

However, INBRE’s opportunities are not limited to students.  Professors at smaller schools can apply for research grants and join in on collaborative research projects with WVU and Marshall faculty members.

 Members of WVU’s branch of WV-INBRE participate in research projects at the Health Sciences Center in Morgantown.
Participants hail from Alderson-Broaddus, Bethany, Davis and Elkins, Glenville State, West Liberty State, and West Virginia Wesleyan colleges.  Shepherd, Fairmont State and Wheeling Jesuit universities also send students to the program.

Other summer internships taking place in the WVU Health Sciences laboratories include the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Forensic Internship Program, Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center internships, Research Experience for Undergraduates, Summer Undergraduate Research Experience and WVNano SURE.

For more information on the WVU Health Sciences Center, visit www.hsc.wvu.edu.  

- WVU -

For more information:
Cassie Waugh, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
cw: 07-03-07

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