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Indiana INTERNnet celebrated internship excellence on Feb. 5, 2014, at the 8th Annual IMPACT Awards luncheon. Though the event is over and the winners have been announced, we are continuing to celebrate the nominees’ successes.

Shawna McLetchie graphic

When Shawna McLetchie began a grant-funded internship with the School of Medicine at IUPUI in 2012, she had minimal lab experience.

Now, she can “wow” you with all that she’s picked up.

“My time in Dr. [Janice] Blum’s lab has allowed me to learn techniques like ELISIA, Western Blot and qPCR,” she said. “I have also been able to communicate in science by the writing I am starting to do as well as presenting my research project in lab meetings or even just talking to Dr. Blum about my data.”

Scientific lab work was not the first career path she chose, however. She graduated from Hanover College in 2011 with a degree in biology, and began teaching middle school science and math at a local magnet school as part of the Indianapolis Teaching Fellows program.

“Like many other graduates, I wanted to make a difference as soon as I could and decided to teach in a high-need area,” McLetchie explained. “However, I quickly found it was not the path for me. There was very little science because managing the classroom and disciplining the students often took precedence.”

It was this career realization that led her to IUPUI. Dr. Blum helped her write a grant proposal to the National Institutes of Health to fund her internship. Through this internship, she discovered her passion for research.

“She arrives in the laboratory each day, sets up her studies, collects results and writes reports on her findings, as well as giving formal presentations of her results to our laboratory team,” Dr. Blum wrote in Shawna’s IMPACT Awards nomination. “She often works weekends and nights, with the goal of gaining as much experience as possible in her research studies.”

SM lab USE

Shawna said the lab works with cells from chronic granulomatous disease (CGD) patients. CGD is an inherited disorder where patients do not have a functional enzyme called NADPH oxidase that helps clear pathogens from the body. She has been focusing on proteins in the immune cells that recognize viral and bacterial RNA and DNA and their response in the CGD patient cell lines.

“Originally, Dr. Blum helped me plan my experiments and others in the lab have helped me analyze and graph the data as well as determine next steps,” Shawna noted. “But now I feel more comfortable and confident to do these things myself.”

Shawna is still deciding whether she wants to attend graduate school or professional school upon completing her internship in May. She said she is hoping to find a job in a lab doing similar work until she can apply to graduate school.

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