Biology students have more than a new science building to enjoy. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Derek Beahm, research assistant professor of biology, students also have some exciting new internship opportunities.
The Biology Department offers three concentrations: aquatic biology, biotechnology, and integrative biology. Because of the Great Lakes Center and its scientists, aquatic biology majors have had several internship opportunities. Beahm is focusing on developing internship opportunities for the other two concentrations.
“Students tell me what their interests are,” said Beahm, “and I try to find them internships that will help them reach their goals.” Beahm said that internships expose students to work activities that can help guide their career choices. “And of course,” he said, “any student benefits from working off campus and developing a professional network.”
Beahm, who joined the Buffalo State faculty in fall 2012, is focusing on several categories of internships, including internships in the medical or allied health fields, in basic or applied research, in zoo or museum work, and in biotechnology firms.
One such firm is CH3 Biosystems, an award-winning supplier of high-performance molecular tools and services used in research, including medical research. Director of research John M. Aletta, Ph.D., who co-founded CH3, is the site supervisor for interns.
“I’ve been very happy with the students from Buffalo State,” said Aletta. “Last semester, a student helped a great deal with early experiments, and this semester Kayla Schaeffer picked up where he left off.” As the owner of an early-stage company, Aletta especially appreciates students who are interested in the intersection of biology and business.
Schaeffer said that she’s learning a lot at CH3. “I’m getting a lot of hands-on experience working in a lab and learning new techniques and equipment,” she said. Schaeffer, who became interested in biology in high school, said that she doesn’t want to be a doctor. “I’d rather help people behind the scenes,” she said.
Anthony D’Auria, a senior, has been interning at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in a lab that’s focusing on a particular protein, NADPH oxidase, and its importance to the immune system. “I majored in biology because I want to become a surgeon, but this experience is making me consider a career in science,” he said.
D’Auria has learned a lot, beginning with a crash course in the immune system. “I’ve learned a lot of different lab techniques,” he said. “For example, PCR—polymerase chain reaction—is a technique that allows you to amplify DNA. I learned to use a confocal microscope, which gives you a three-dimensional image of a cell. Plus, I’ve learned what it’s like to work in a lab, and to see how people collaborate and bounce ideas off each other.” He is also included as a coauthor on a paper published in the Journal of Immunology.
To ensure that each student has a meaningful experience, Beahm customizes a learning plan for each intern. “Students send me a weekly log, and I make site visits to see what’s going on,” said Beahm. He plans to incorporate resume preparation and interview skills into the internship program.
The number of internships in the integrative and biotech concentrations has tripled this year. “We have affiliations with seven new partners,” said Beahm, “and we’re working on developing more with partners who want to help us prepare tomorrow’s scientists."