Name: Anna-William Kornberg
Class Year: 2023
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Internship Organization: MD Anderson Cancer Center
Job Title: Summer Trainee
Location: Houston, Texas
What’s happening at your internship?
I’m working with Dr. Elizabeth Chiao, an epidemiologist who studies virally mediated cancers. My projects focus on Human Herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8), the cancer causing agent of Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), the most common cancer in the HIV-infected population in the U.S. Despite a decline in KS incidence in the U.S. overall, cases in Texas are actually rising. This summer, we have been gathering preliminary evidence and reviewing the current literature on HHV-8 in anticipation of applying for a grant to study the virus in Texas in the future. I’m working on a systematic review of HHV-8 transmission globally and on the background research for a paper on HHV-8 seroprevalence in the U.S. Mostly, day to day, this means reading articles about HHV-8 and determining whether they will be helpful in our work. In the next few weeks, however, we are hoping to get seroprevalence data from a cohort of young men who have sex with men in Houston and Chicago.
Why did you apply for this internship?
I applied for this internship because I wanted to broaden my horizons about what a career in medicine might look like. The work I’m doing is not seeing individual patients, but in understanding cancer on the population level which fits really well into my interest in public health. When I applied, I didn’t really know what studying virally mediated cancers would look like, but I’ve really enjoyed learning about a new kind of research and diving deep into many different aspects of one virus and the cancer it causes.
What has been your favorite part of this internship?
Even though my internship is remote, I was able to go in one day to help prepare samples for shipment between labs. It was really interesting to see all of the thought that goes into study design and execution. Because of careful organization during original specimen collection, we were able to quickly access and identify over 600 samples to be sent to a different facility for testing. While it may seem like a small thing, this experience showed me that it is precision and attention to detail at every juncture that make collaborative science possible.
Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?
One skill I’m developing through this internship is how to do literature research. I have been astounded by how many scientific articles there are on just the narrow topic of KSHV. As the summer has progressed, however, I’ve gotten way better at quickly identifying relevant articles which will be helpful in future researching endeavors. But also, I think being able to quickly mine information online is super important for everyone in our time of excessive media.
Visit the Summer Internship Stories page to read more about student internship experiences.