More than 20 UC Merced students have contributed to the research of 13 JGI scientists since the program’s inception.
In 2014, JGI’s Zhong Wang and Science Programs Deputy Axel Visel teamed with University of California (UC), Merced assistant professor Suzanne Sindi from the School of Natural Sciences and started a program that offered a handful of graduate students summer research experience at the JGI. On July 26, 2018, the JGI celebrated the culmination of the fifth summer of its flagship education program with UC Merced. JGI Director Nigel Mouncey and program organizers Wang, Visel and Sindi, along with UC Merced Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center coordinator Jorge Arroyo lauded the partnership. Sindi also shared a message from Betsy Dumont, Dean of the UC Merced School of Natural Sciences in honor of the occasion.
To a packed conference room of this year’s program cohort, mentors, alumni, and other JGI staff, Mouncey explained: “One of the hallmarks of JGI is our diverse workforce and our diverse collaborators around the world. That said, we recognize that workforce in genomics, including JGI, is not representative of the diversity in the population, especially here in California. The opportunity to tap into the diverse talent that UC Merced has is tremendous for us, and we are very grateful for this opportunity.”
Originally conceived as a graduate student summer research experience at the JGI, the Genomics Internship Program expanded to include UC Merced undergraduate students through the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) program, a statewide initiative funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that supports underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
More than 20 UC Merced students have contributed to the research of 13 JGI scientists, and a few of the mentors shared their thoughts on the students’ efforts. Ben Cole, a project scientist in Visel’s Genomics of Plant-Microbial Interactions Group who has mentored several of the students including 2018 intern Candace Cole, noted that “each year, they bring an invaluable benefit to our group’s research program.” Jess Jarett, a postdoctoral fellow in Tanja Woyke’s Single Cells Group who mentored 2018 intern Akshay Paropkari, echoed the sentiment, saying, “I wish Akshay could stay at the JGI for another 6 months! In a very short time his incisive questions, methodical problem-solving, and hard work have carried it through the difficult early stages, so I can begin biological analysis of the data sooner than I anticipated.”
In her message, Dumont reminded the audience of the internship’s import. “Let us not forget that UC Merced is still a young institution, and this internship program has existed really for a significant part of UC Merced’s history and already in its five years has made a really strong impact,” she said. “I look forward to seeing this internship program continue and I’m excited about what it will bring to the future of JGI, UC Merced and our student trainees.”
Several alumni of the JGI-UC Merced Genomics Internship Program attended the event and shared updates. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Mario Banuelos (2017 graduate intern): Assistant Professor of Mathematics at California State University, Fresno (Fall 2018)
- Cristhian Gutierrez Huerta (2015 undergraduate intern): Just graduated from UC Merced and starting the Helena O. Mishoe Post-Baccalaureate Research Fellowship at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in August 2018
- Travis Lawrence (2014 graduate intern): Accepted a post-doctoral position with the Plant and Microbe Interaction group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he will be working on the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change (SPRUCE) project
- Melanie LeGro (2016 graduate intern): Currently serves as the graduate student president of the Women in STEM campus organization and is involved with multiple outreach
programs promoting the advancement of women in STEM.
- Lisette Manriquez (2016 undergraduate intern): Applying to UCSF’s graduate program for a masters in nursing with an interest in the genomic basis of health, illness, disease risk, and treatment response due to fungal genomics internship with Igor Grigoriev.
- Portia Mira (2016 graduate intern): Just started postdoc at UCLA and also received the UCLA Postdocs Longitudinal Investment in Faculty Training (UPLIFT) fellowship
- Sabah Ul-Hasan (2015 graduate intern): In her final year in the Quantitative & Systems Biology PhD program at UC Merced under the coadvisement of JGI’s Tanja Woyke and UC Merced’s Clarissa Nobile, investigating interactions between microbes and venomous hosts. She also facilitates the non-profit science communication and education organization The Biota Project (http://thebiotaproject.org/) and is involved with the initiation of the Venomous Host-Microbe Consortium. Data produced during Ul-Hasan’s JGI internship led to her co-authorship on a 2017 Plos Biology “The JGI-UC Merced Genomics Distinguished Graduate Internship Program has been a pillar stepping stone in my bioinformatics learning and career development,” she noted.
- 2018 JGI-UC Merced interns: Access to Rock Star Scientists
- 2017 JGI summer interns: A Social Science Experience
- 2016 video of UC Merced undergraduate and graduate interns
- 2015 UC Merced interns and other JGI summer interns: DOE JGI Interns Share Their Summer Experiences and videos at http://bit.ly/JGI15summerinternsvids
- 2014 UC Merced interns: Training the Next Generation of Talent