Assistant Researcher at the William Montague Cobb Research Laboratory
“I think it is very important to introduce diversity in the various databases on the human genome. Many of the original genome projects centered on European-descended populations and this project is one of the first steps to unlocking questions like “Why are Black women 243% more likely to die in childbirth (compared to White women”? Or “Why are African Americans prone to hypertension, diabetes, etc.?”
How did you find your internship? Dr. Jeremy Ward.
What was your work like? One of the main projects I worked on was Petrous Bone Extraction of the bones in the William Cobb Collection. William Montague Cobb was the first African American to get an MD/PhD and went on to found a lab. He studied over 100 African Americans who died between the 1930s and 1960s and conducted autopsies on each of the individuals. My research included extracting over 200 petrous bones–a dense region on the side of the skull next to the ear canal–in order to sequence the DNA of the individuals who passed. After extracting the petrous bone, we found susceptibility genes for the diseases the individuals died from. Among the diseases were tuberculosis, diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, and more. A lot of the diseases are still the main cause of death of Blacks today. After the DNA is sequenced, we cross matched their genes with the susceptibility genes to see if there were matches. In the future, we will be able to address the weaknesses that may or may not have to do with our genetic codes. Ideally, we will be able to have prenatal testing where we identify these genes and advocate a healthy lifestyle that will suppress the likelihood of these diseases manifesting and taking the lives of our people.
How did CCI help you find this opportunity? Funding, advising, moral support, EVERYTHING!
What advice do you have for Middlebury students looking for an internship? Think outside the box! Don’t think that the organized programs are the only internships you have available to you…there are countless others you can make up or find anywhere.
What was the most rewarding aspect of your work? Being surrounded by black scholars.
And to add to this question from Megan’s interview in the Cobb’s Corner News: Seeing people in positions of power in STEM that are Black is what I will cherish the most. Carter [Clinton, Assistant Curator] is a great example as well, with both of us being from Brooklyn. I’m reading a book by Elaine Welteroth called More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) where she mentions that it is “important to leave signposts along the journey of success for those that come behind you.” I believe there will be another young girl like me who is obsessed with science like me but needs a role model to show her that women and people of color can succeed. I really want to be that guiding light just like this experience has illuminated my journey.
Did you have a mentor that helped you get to where you are today? If so, who? Jeremy Ward, Susan DeSimone, and much much much more.
Interested in getting help with summer internships? Come meet with one of the Peer Career Advisors (go/pcas) to learn more about how to search for internships, and how to apply for funding.
Are YOU interested in being in the Internship Highlights? Tell us about your internship experience here.