MCB Bids Farewell to the Summer 2015 Interns

This summer, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences had the pleasure of hosting three summer interns. These outstanding undergraduate students culled through proposals, awards and annual reports to identify trends related to informal science education, minority involvement in broader impacts, and the impact of statistical and quantitative analyses on MCB-funded projects. The preliminary data produced by the interns generated several follow-up questions to be explored in the future.

Anita AlbanFullSizeRenderese, a rising senior at the University of Nevada, Reno, investigated informal science education in  active awards in the division. With the help of her mentors, she created a working definition of informal science education as any educational activity the PI participates in outside of the required curricula. These activities included training graduate and undergraduate students, K-12 outreach, lectures or blog posts targeted toward the public, and creating workshops and conferences. In addition to investigating the types of informal education, Anita also considered the length of time that principal investigators were funded, as well as their institutional resources. The division will use these data to continue to investigate what environments influence successful informal science education activities.

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Melissa Sam, a rising junior at Northeastern State University used her love of math and statistics to learn more about the use of Big Data analyses in MCB-funded projects. Melissa included the use of both statistical methods, such as the Markov Model, network analysis, bioinformatics, and principal component analysis, and quantitative methods, such as mass spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy, ChIP-sequencing, and next generation sequencing, to define “Big Data Analyses” for her research this summer. She investigated the number of different statistical or quantitative methods per proposal, the costs associated with employing these methods, as well as the impact on the scientific community ( ie. papers, presentations, and book chapters).  Her research findings will be useful to the division whose priorities for research support include quantitative and predictive cell and molecular biology.


Mikah Barrueta,a rising senior at Otternbein University, spent her summer investigating minority involvement in the broader impacts of MCB-funded research by comparing promises to include underrepresented groups in proposals to reported outcomes in annual reports for a representative sample of awards. In addition, Mikah surveyed program directors and principal investigators to learn more about how the involvement of underrepresented groups is reported to NSF. She evaluated several topics including ways to improve reporting to better capture the demographics of participants in broader impact activities. Mikah’s data and analysis will be considered by the division, as it conducts follow-up research to address questions which emerged as a result of her research.

Meet the Summer 2015 Interns at MCB!

Each year the National Science Foundation hosts summer interns from across the United States. This summer, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences staff is excited to welcome three interns. Throughout the summer we will share updates about their projects. Read below to learn more about these dynamic undergraduates.


I am Anita Albanese, and I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. I am a rising senior attending the University of Nevada, Reno studying chemical engineering and neuroscience. I want to pursue an MD/PhD and am fascinated by degenerative disease research including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, diabetes, lupus, and arthritis. In my free time, I like to go to concerts and enjoy trying new food! This summer, I am researching the percentage of Principle Investigators that participate in informal science education within MCB. Furthermore, I will assess the mechanisms these Principle Investigators use to engage the public in MCB supported science.

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My name is Melissa Sam. I am from Baldwin Park, California and I am a rising junior at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I am pursing a Bachelor’s of Science degree in mathematics. In the future, I hope to work with Native American communities nation-wide. I chose to apply through the Washington Internship for Native Students program  to get internship experience and to network with other native students. Also, I feel like this experience will better prepare me to effectively contribute to native communities.

Aside from my coursework, I work at the Indigenous Scholar Development Center on the Northeastern State University Campus as an Academic Peer Consultant. I tutor students mainly with College Algebra homework. I am the treasurer for the Native American Student Association (N.A.S.A.), and the vice president and treasurer for American Indian Science and Engineering Society (A.I.S.E.S.). During my free time I like to bead jewelry, read, and hang out with friends.

This summer, I will be researching MCB funded proposals that incorporate big data and statistics. I will also investigate whether the results of these projects are more impactful and more reproducible than those that do not use these techniques.


My name is Mikah Barrueta. I am a rising Senior Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major with a French minor at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. I was born in Merida, Mexico and moved to the U.S when I was 18 years old. I have a strong interest in Public Health with a focus on minority health. I am planning to get my Master’s in Public Health with the Peace Corps “Masters International” program following my graduation. As a summer intern at NSF, I will be working on a project that reviews proposals that include Broader Impacts for minority involvement in the past, and compares them to the follow-up Broader Impact statement in the Annual Report.

Summer Interns Shine at MCB

Last summer the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences hosted 3 summer interns pictured above. NSF’s Summer Scholars Internship Program (SSIP) is designed to develop undergraduate and graduate student potential through exposure to relevant science and engineering policy, research, and education issues and programs. The students come to NSF for a ten-week summer experience to work in an office that aligns with the students’ academic interests.

Summer 2014 MCB Intern Ariel Parker (second from the left above) shares her experiences:

What was your project while at NSF?

My project was to study the representation of underrepresented minorities (URM) in MCB proposal submission and award allocation. In addition, I began to collect data about the increasing number of proposals submitted by PIs who choose not to report their gender or race/ethnicity.

How did your experience enrich your university experience?

This internship provided my first experience in science policy.  Before this past summer, all of my science experiences were in laboratory research; I had no knowledge of how science policy and funding worked.  This summer at NSF taught me that science is not just the research but is also about outreach, education, and ensuring that research can be funded.  This internship expanded my ideas about what science entails and about science careers. At my college, I now have a greater appreciation for basic science research and am exploring some of the alternative science careers I learned about at NSF.

What was your favorite part of the internship?

I enjoyed everything about the internship – the helpfulness of all my mentors, the openness of the program directors, the group meetings, and the division retreat.  However, I think my favorite part was the trip to the Plant Biology 2014 Conference in Portland.  It was here that I saw how important NSF’s and specifically MCB’s work is: many of the posters were possible due to funding from MCB/NSF, and a great number of principal investigators came to the NSF co-sponsored workshop to learn about funding opportunities.  I learned a lot on the sixth floor of the NSF building, but it was not until I went to the conference that I saw first-hand how far-reaching MCB’s work is.

Do you know a graduate or undergraduate student who might be interested in a summer internship at NSF? For more information on the Summer Scholars Internship Program, please contact Sherrie Green, Program Manager, at or visit: