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Bob Zahorchak, Ph.D., working with a student during BioTrain boot camp.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology kicks off the summer with its sixth year of BioTrain, the Institute’s signature internship program. More than 200 high school and college graduates applied for the prestigious program, but less than 15 percent were chosen.

Adam Hott, Ed.D., coordinator of educational outreach for HudsonAlpha, said that 26 applicants were selected.

“This year, the BioTrain group seems much more confident in their ability to tackle complex thinking tasks,” Hott said. “Additionally, this year’s group was able to form together as a cohesive group quicker than groups from the past.”

Jonathan Trinh is from Huntsville, Ala., or “The 256” as he likes to call it, and is currently studying Biology at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Trinh is working in Conversant Bio and says the associate company is showing him a different side of the biotechnology field.

“In our lab, we are learning more about the business side of things instead of just the science,” Trinh said.

Conversant Bio provides biospecimens and ancillary services to researchers focused on oncology, hematology and immunology research.

Also working in Conversant Bio is Birmingham Southern Biology student Samantha Manzo. “I am looking forward to seeing how what I learned in the classroom about the biomedical field applies to what they do here in lab,” Manzo said, “and also finding out if I am really interested in the field, how I can pursue it, and what they have to offer.”

When selected for BioTrain, all interns, regardless of the type of internship, are required to go through a one-week training process, also known as boot camp.

At BioTrain boot camp, interns are taught the basic skills and techniques that will be applied to their everyday work in the lab and the field of biotechnology, such as writing in their lab book, how to correctly measure liquids, basic pipetting skills, and using Microsoft Excel to graph lab data. Interns also put their skills to use by performing various lab activities including extracting DNA from strawberries and growing bacteria.

Shri Rajan is a Biomedical Engineering major at The University of Alabama in Birmingham and is relieved to have made it through the first week. “Boot camp was rough!” she said.

Rajan is now working in the Cell Bio Lab at CFDRC, where they make micro-models of blood vessels called SynVivo devices. Rajan hopes to get a better understanding of her chosen career.

“I hope to take away from the BioTrain experience a sense of professionalism and use this time in the lab as a stepping stone to make sure I’m headed in the right path,” Rajan said. “I know I love the field in books, but I want to make sure I love it in practice as well.”

BioTrain ends July 31 with interns hosting a poster session that is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the HudsonAlpha atrium.

Author: BioTrain Intern Margetta Thomas

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