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The Q? Blog

How I Learned to Barcode Lizards during My Internship

by Camile -- Dec 21, 2016
A smiling girl with long brown hair, red shirt, and gray sweater.

Hi! My name is Camile, and I am a high-school senior in Northern Virginia. I was a YES! Global Genome intern in 2016; that's when I learned how to work in a...

YES! Global Genome intern Camile gained experience working in a lab and learned how to DNA barcode lizards. Smithsonian photo.
YES! Global Genome intern Camile gained experience working in a lab and learned how to DNA barcode lizards. Smithsonian photo.

This summer, I was a Youth Engagement through Science (YES!) 2.0 Global Genome intern at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The internship began with a two-week "bootcamp," during which we sequenced the DNA of the Iva annua plant (commonly known as the marshelder) in order to figure out what genes were involved in the plant’s domestication.

A girl in white lab coat and blue gloves kneels next to a table as she uses a pipette to transfer liquid into a tube. The Iva annua is a plant native to the eastern and central United States. It was domesticated as a seed crop, and it’s a close relative to the sunflower. My favorite part of this research opportunity was being able to have the hands-on experience working in the lab (pipetting, running Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR], etc.) and trying to answer a research question. It is wonderful to know that our work during the bootcamp will go to actual research and that I was part of that process.

Bootcamp definitely helped me during the next phase of the internship when I worked with my mentor. Our work consisted of genetically barcoding lizards from the Puerto Rican Bank (a group of islands). Specifically, we worked on genetically barcoding Ameiva exsul lizards, which are found on Puerto Rico as well as on Desecheo Island, which is located 13 miles off the west coast of Puerto Rico.

I would highly encourage other students to apply to YES! 1.0 in order to qualify for YES! 2.0 Global Genome. Even though at first you may not understand the majority of the processes, it is definitely a great experience, because you learn a work ethic and lab skills that will help in the future. I assure you, by the end of the internship you will understand the processes that were confusing at first (such as how to complete PCR). More importantly, you become aware of the intricate world of biology by witnessing firsthand the work of scientists around you.

Categories: YES! Teen Interns