For nine weeks this summer, Judson College junior Shelby Lauzon will gain valuable, real-world experience in genetics research through the BioTrain Internship Program at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.
Out of hundreds of applicants nationally, BioTrain accepts 25 to 30 undergraduate or master’s-level graduate student interns each summer. BioTrain interns are selected to work in HudsonAlpha’s nonprofit research labs, educational, economic development and communications departments, and associate companies. Lauzon, a junior biology and chemistry major from Picayune, Miss., was the top choice of nearly 500 applicants to her lab: HudsonAlpha’s Kailos Genetics research lab in Huntsville, Ala.
Kailos Genetics is a personalized medicine information company offering leading-edge gene-based testing. Lauzon will participate in a one-week Biotech Boot Camp before beginning her eight-week paid internship in May. As part of her summer research as a Kailos Genetics Molecular Diagnostics Intern, Lauzon will perform clinical and/or human identity assays and develop and utilize laboratory skills in support of DNA variant identification, epigenetic (methylation) changes, and potential applications for new sequencing devices.
“Through BioTrain, students have the opportunity to connect classwork with real‐world job experience and gain skills and knowledge that will prepare them for careers in biotechnology and related fields,” said Michele Morris, workforce development lead for educational outreach at HudsonAlpha. “The experience they gain during BioTrain could be the launchpad for their career.”
This fall, Lauzon plans to apply to Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTPs) in pursuit of an M.D./Ph.D. She aspires to conduct clinical research in the field of hereditary diseases. “Summer research has become a vital component in gaining acceptance into medical and/or graduate school,” Lauzon says. Citing the competitive nature of summer research programs, particularly in genetics, Lauzon said she owes much of her success to her experiences as a student at Judson. “The critical thinking skills that my professors have always incorporated into their curricula is, in my opinion, what has made me a competitive candidate for summer research programs,” said Lauzon. This spring Lauzon was accepted into both the HudsonAlpha program and the Summer in Biomedical Sciences (SiBS) program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Lauzon has already participated in one summer research program; in the summer of 2017, she completed a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) program at Samford University. Her work for that program included exploring the genetics properties of worms living in harsh hydrogen sulfide-rich environment in a sulfur spring in north Alabama. Lauzon has continued this research over the past year and recently won the undergraduate poster competition for her research presentation at the Alabama Academy of Science’s 2018 Meeting.
Dr. Kristopher McConnell, Associate Professor of Biology at Judson, said it is “exceptionally rare” for an undergraduate student to participate in two summer research programs during his/her college career. “This is a wonderful opportunity and honor for Shelby,” McConnell said.
“It is such an honor to be the first Judson student to be offered a position at HudsonAlpha for undergraduate summer research,” Lauzon said. “I am confident that my college has prepared me well for the summer ahead.”
In addition to her studies as a biology and chemistry major, Lauzon serves as Senior Class President and a Judson College Student Ambassador.