BioTrain intern contributes to GeneCapture study: Auburn grad examines environmental applications of core technology


A HudsonAlpha BioTrain intern identified a potential new application for one of the institute’s associate companies. During her summer internship, Alicia Hereford worked with  GeneCapture. She focused her project on examining the environmental applications of the company’s core technology as a potential alternative or secondary market. “Although we knew our core technology could be used for environmental testing, our company had not looked deeply at those applications,” said Paula Koelle, the senior scientist at GeneCapture. “Having an intern take the lead did not distract us from our main focus, but allowed us to guide her through doing the work herself.”

Real-world research experience

Hereford, the BioTrain intern, said the experience was valuable for her as well. “The most important lesson I learned during my internship with GeneCapture was to always ask questions in order to fully understand my responsibility in the project,” she said. “This also enabled me to gather as much knowledge as possible to enlighten others, when questioned, about my research.”

Connecting research and business enterprise

Hereford’s project connected HudsonAlpha, GeneCapture, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). GeneCapture’s core technology is a portable, rapid, in vitro diagnostic for point-of-care infection identification. Leland Cseke, PhD, associate professor of biology at UAH, was interested in potentially applying that technology to bacteria in soil. Working with Dr. Cseke and the GeneCapture team, Hereford developed an assay for those soil bacteria and tested for that bacteria using GeneCapture’s technology.

GeneCapture’s Koelle was pleased with the internship. “The energy from a college or graduate student is terrific to add to a company’s team,” she said, “Additionally, the intern and the intern’s circle of friends become potential new hires.”

For her part, Hereford said the internship will help propel her toward achieving her educational and career goals.

“I’m currently in the medical school application process and this internship has provided invaluable research experience toward reaching that goal,” she said.  “I would definitely recommend the BioTrain internship to my friends and other students as it is NOT only a great research experience, but also a valuable networking tool with professionals in all fields of study.” Hereford, who graduated from Auburn University in 2016, completed post-baccalaureate courses at UAH this fall. She has also continued working at GeneCapture after finishing the BioTrain internship.

In the HudsonAlpha BioTrain Internship program, students have the opportunity to connect classwork with real‐world job experience and gain skills and knowledge that will prepare them for careers in biotechnology and related fields. The paid internship is available to undergraduate through master’s level graduate students, providing experiences that range from in‐depth laboratory research to biotechnology marketing, communications and business strategy. Internships are offered through HudsonAlpha’s nonprofit research labs; educational outreach, economic development and communications departments; as well as many of the associate companies on the campus, such as like GeneCapture. Applications for HudsonAlpha BioTrain Internships open January 15.