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Cute Geckos and 'Juicy Sequences' in My Genomics Internship

by Benjamin -- Dec 21, 2016
Boy with black hair and glasses and a red polo shirt standing in front of deer antlers.

My name is Benjamin, and I am a high-school senior in Washington, D.C. I was a YES! Global Genome intern in 2016. I’m interested in how diseases spread and...

YES! Global Genome intern Benjamin uses a pipette to transfer liquids in the Smithsonian’s Laboratories of Analytical Biology. Smithsonian photo.
YES! Global Genome intern Benjamin uses a pipette to transfer liquids in the Smithsonian’s Laboratories of Analytical Biology. Smithsonian photo.

From the first weeks of my YES! Global Genome internship at the National Museum of Natural History’s Laboratories of Analytical Biology, I knew the experience I was going to have would be invaluable.

The first two weeks were called “Bootcamp,” and fittingly so! We were given a lot of information. Though it was exhausting at times, it really did prepare us for the journey ahead. Throughout Bootcamp we used the Iva annua (marshelder) plant to learn how to extract and sequence DNA. It was an experience unparallel to anything I had done before. There were times in which I made mistakes (such as accidentally throwing away my DNA sample), but it was through these mistakes that I learned valuable lessons. When the results came back to us, it was such an empowering moment, seeing the fruits of our efforts! In this case, it was the juicy sequences!

After Bootcamp we moved on to our mentorships. It was here that our knowledge and brief experience from the first two weeks were put to the test. My mentor, Dan Mulcahy, really opened my eyes to what barcoding DNA was about. It was his guidance that truly completed the mentorship experience. From working with tissue samples of amphibians and reptiles, to looking at sequences and chromatograms in Geneious, I really enjoyed learning the ins and outs of using the machines and software utilized in DNA barcoding.

My pivotal moment came at the YES! program’s Community Day, at which we told the public what we did over the summer. It felt amazing being able to tell people from all walks of life about the very cute geckos – including two new species – I focused on over the summer and why it was important to do so.

Categories: YES! Teen Interns