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Summer Internships: Sarah Walker '26

July 27, 2023
Student working in a lab.

Name: Sarah Walker
Class Year: 2026
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Hometown: Bridgewater, NJ

Internship Organization: Child Health Institute of New Jersey 
Job Title: Summer Student Research Intern
Location: New Brunswick, NJ

What's happening at your internship? We would love to hear what kind of work you are doing!

This summer, I am interning in a molecular biology lab at the Child Health Institute of New Jersey. I am working in Dr. Arnold Rabson's lab which focuses on the HTLV-1 human retrovirus and its regulation. The project I am working on looks at a protein called HuR that plays a role in RNA stability and the development of cancer. Before I started in the lab, the team found that knocking down the HuR protein actually decreased the RNA stability of the tax rex complex, which was highly unexpected. In order to learn more about this finding, we need to create clones with plasmid DNA that contains a vector and a shHuR. We first worked on finding a control vector. Once we verified the vector cut at the proper restriction enzyme sites, we were able to add in the HuR insert through a process of annealing and ligation overnight. Annealing uses heat to open up a location for the insert to attach, while ligation uses overnight incubating in a cool environment to seal these attachments. The vector was then sent out to be sequenced to ensure the insert had properly ligated to the vector. Once this was confirmed, we were able to precipitate the DNA to use in downstream experiments. We are next going to start working on creating tissue cultures and transfecting them with the DNA we have prepared.

Open lab notebook.
This is my lab notebook! I am analyzing the images from a digestion I ran.

Why did you apply for this internship?

Throughout my first year of college, I really enjoyed my intro to chemistry and biology classes, especially the lab portions. I loved being able to use the knowledge that I had learned in class in a fast-paced, hands-on environment. My passion for lab classes sparked my interest in potentially starting to do research. I knew I wanted to stay close to home this summer and start to research, which led me to look into opportunities at Rutgers University. My neighbor, who is a chemist, informed me about the research being done in Dr. Rabson’s lab, and I reached out and was able to secure a position as a summer research intern.

Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?

This summer, I am learning so many different skills and techniques through doing research. I am learning many different experiments like cloning, mini prep, making gels, digestions, polymerase chain reactions, and western blots. All of these experiments are very important in molecular biology. Dr. Rabson even said that cloning is one of the quintessential parts of molecular biology. This is very important to me as I plan to pursue a career in either molecular biology research or as a doctor. Both of these career paths involve research, therefore, learning how to set up all of the different experiments is highly important. Another skill I am learning is the thought process behind being a scientist. I am learning how to determine what is an important find, why we do certain experiments, and what the expected outcome is. This will also be very important for my future career by providing me with the tools to fully think through all of the processes and results occurring in a lab.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

I would say that the biggest challenge I have faced is getting adjusted to the pace at which the lab moves. In the lab, you are constantly learning new protocols and information. There are lots of readings prior to each experiment. In the beginning, I felt as though I was not keeping up with the pace of the lab. However, the more and more immersed I became with the instruments and language used in the lab, I was better able to comprehend the majority of the techniques and information. Now, I am able to understand the new experiments we are going to conduct and why after talking to my lab supervisor for just a few minutes. I am learning more than I ever thought I could through doing experiments and constantly talking about the what, how, and why of what we are doing.

Visit the Summer Internship Stories page to read more about student internship experiences.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology