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Helios Scholars at TGen Biomedical Internships Start Today

Author: Steve Yozwiak, TGen Senior Science Writer

Posted on: June 5, 2017

Today’s start of the 2017 Helios Scholars at TGen includes one returning intern with her sights set on becoming a physician-scientist, the rare breed of doctors who also are biomedical investigators.

“The Helios program at TGen is remarkable because of the people you get to work with, the way you become part of a team, the responsibility you are given, and the fact that, even as a student, you are helping understand diseases that wreak havoc on patients and families,” said Stephanie Casey, one of 45 Helios interns employed this summer at TGen.

Helios Scholars at TGen is an eight-week paid summer internship in which students are paired with TGen's world-class scientists on research projects that aim for new molecular-level discoveries about neurological disorders, infectious diseases and many types of cancer.

“TGen is a different place in the summertime,” said Julie Euber, TGen Manager of Education and Outreach. “Helios Scholars fill our halls with an exciting energy that wouldn't be possible without dedicated mentorship from TGen scientists.”

This summer, Stephanie will work in Flagstaff at TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division, under the guidance of Dr. David Engelthaler, an Associate Professor and Co-Director of TGen North.

As a medical student specializing in Osteopathic Medicine at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz., she is honing her biomedical research skills at TGen North’s Center for Public Health and Clinical Pathogens. Her career quest is to improve how the medical field identifies and treats disease.

“Working at this center will allow me to be a part of the collaborative efforts and learn more about infectious disease processes, which will translate into my understanding of future courses and future treatment plans,” said Stephanie, who attended high school and did her undergraduate work in Texas.

As a 2014 Helios Scholar, she worked in TGen’s Neurogenomics Division under Associate Professor Dr. Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen. Stephanie’s efforts to find a biomarker that could be used in the detection of Alzheimer’s disease was her first exposure to a lab outside a classroom.

“Working in a lab was completely foreign to me,” said Stephanie, who majored in Honors Arts and Letters at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. “By the end of the summer of 2014, I had learned so much about how labs function, and the collaborative approach to research. Kendall was always there to help me when I got stuck on my project and patiently answered all of my numerous questions.”

Stephanie also worked with fellow Helios Scholars and TGen’s research associates to gain a better understanding of various experimental protocols.

“The more that you ask to be involved, the more you will get out of your work. I asked a lot of questions. I asked for people to show me what they were working on, asked for explanation of concepts and asked if they needed any help. Through my curiosity I learned more than I could have imagined.

“My work with TGen confirmed my desire to pursue a career in medicine. As a future physician, I hope to continue to gain competency in the research and clinical realms; to provide the best possible evidence-based patient care,” she said.

Eventually, Stephanie wants to work in international medicine: “TGen has provided a platform for me to learn how current research will influence the healthcare field, both on a local and global scale.”

Since its inception in 2007, Helios Scholars at TGen has been the research institute's flagship internship program, graduating more than 400 Arizona students looking to further their interest in bioscience and medicine, and creating the next generation of Arizona biomedical scientists.

Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation, said Stephanie Casey is a key example of how Helios Scholars at TGen helps develop student potential.

“Through the Helios Scholars at TGen program, these students gain first-hand knowledge in a professional scientific laboratory, preparing them for success in college and career,” Luna said. “The expert mentorship provided by TGen scientists helps Helios Scholars hone the skills they will need to become the next generation of physicians and researchers in Arizona’s burgeoning bioscience sector.”

More than 60 percent of Helios Scholars alumni reside in Arizona. And of those who do not, 46 percent report being likely to return in the future to the Grand Canyon State.

Scholars boast an array of impressive accomplishments including acceptance into top tier graduate and medical schools, unique career developments, national awards and scholarships, and authorship credit in numerous scientific publications.

In addition to patient-focused research, Helios Scholars participate in professional development seminars, including science communication, public speaking, and basic business etiquette, as well as social activities to build and strengthen relationships between students. The program concludes each summer with a scientific symposium highlighting their research findings.

Helios Scholars at TGen is open to students who have attended an Arizona high school or college. It is open to undergraduate and graduate level students, including those in medical school.

Applications for next summer’s 12th class of Helios Scholars at TGen will be accepted starting in January 2018 at www.tgen.org/intern. More than 500 students applied this year for the 45 available internships. For more information, contact Jen Jenkin, TGen Education and Outreach Specialist, at 602-343-8830, or jjenkin@tgen.org.

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