JIFSAN’s internship program gives students the opportunity to conduct research in a laboratory or a regulatory office, work with skilled professionals in the field of food safety, and further long-term education and career goals.
JIFSAN will provide programs and mentorships for new and returning interns this summer. Meanwhile, past interns have used their experience with the program to achieve graduate and post-graduate aspirations.
Former intern and 2015 UMD graduate, Kelsey Kanyuck, said her internship with JIFSAN played an important role in her academics and her career development.
"I have found that laboratory classes in school are much different than ‘real’ research,” Kanyuck said. “I have received invaluable laboratory experience and data processing skills which will be essential in graduate school."
Kanyuck double majored in Chemistry and Food Science and will attend graduate school at North Carolina State University in Fall 2015 with a research assistantship through the Food Science Department.
“After graduate school, I would like to have a career in food research and development and work to make food products that are healthier and more exciting for consumers,” Kanyuck said.
The graduate’s internship consisted of finding improved ways of detecting toxins in seafood using analytical techniques. She prepared samples, used surface plasmon resonance (SPR) instruments, and analyzed data as a part of her research.
"This program allowed me many valuable experiences from gaining basic research skills to broadening my awareness of the food industry," Kanyuck notes.
Another former JIFSAN intern and 2006 University of Maryland graduate, Jay Worley, has come back to JIFSAN as a Postdoctoral Scientist.
“Before I was a JIFSAN intern, I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my microbiology degree, and was considering medical school, teaching high school, or some industry related jobs. The internship helped me realize that not only did I have knack for lab work, I found it very rewarding,” Worley said.
Worley emphasizes that his time in the program was essential for graduate school. “By the time I entered grad school, I knew how to be a good lab member, how to keep good notes, and many common lab techniques,” Worley said. “Graduate schools will usually only take students that have real lab experience, and my experience here was very positive.”
Worley is working on analyzing a large set of E. coli O157:H7 genomes, a food-borne pathogen group that can cause major health concerns.
“We'd like to know just how variable this group of pathogens is, how variability within them impacts human health, and whether we can link specific variations to increased or decreased disease symptoms,” Worley said.
“There is always more to learn while continuing here. With every new project we tackle, I get to learn new procedures and expand my knowledge on different pathogens,” Chase said.
Although Chase is still considering her options after graduation, she has looked into applying to medical school, taking a gap year to gain clinical experience, and applying to a MD/Ph.D. program.
After starting her internship with JIFSAN, Chase said, “I learned a lot about myself and became much more confident in my capabilities as a researcher.”
JIFSAN will also see new faces this summer. Sara Kreshpanji, a rising senior and Biochemistry and Economics major at UMD, began her internship at the beginning of June.
“I hope to gain experience working in the new field of risk analysis and learn more about what the FDA and JIFSAN do to help the community,” Kreshpanji said.
She hopes to attend pharmacy school and earn a PharmD after she graduates to become a pharmaceutical researcher.
Kreshpanji, along with other current and former interns, will have the chance to spend time in the laboratories and work closely with JIFSAN researchers.
Overall, one of the most valuable things the JIFSAN internship has given students is a mentorship. Worley worked with Keith Lampel and Palmer Orlandi, both CFSAN members.
“They gave me a chance to grow as a scientist and they both gave me valuable lessons in mentorship,” Worley said.
Kanyuck had Dr. Betsy Yakes as a mentor. She said her personal relationship with Yakes served as a learning resource and as a valuable recommendation for future internships and graduate school.
"Even after leaving the JIFSAN program, having this personal relationship with someone in a position similar to my career goals was helpful in planning my career regarding internships and graduate schools and an overall great learning resource," Kanyuck said.
Chase continues to work with her mentor, Dr. Ben Tall. Chase notes that her mentor offers support and guidance while also allowing her to be independent and conduct or analyze research on her own.
“I cannot thank him enough for all of the opportunities and support he has given me since my start here at the FDA through my JIFSAN internship,” Chase said.