With the help of her high school science teacher, Joshua Farr, a Cienega High senior, Elisa McRae became one of 1318 students from around the nation to receive a prestigious internship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. High school, college, and graduate school students all applied. High school students made up roughly 30 percent of those accepted.
While attending a genomics teacher camp at the NIH in 2016, Farr met Dr. Belen Hurle and became aware of internship opportunities for students. Upon learning in December of 2017 of Elisa’s interest in the NIH internship, Farr wrote a letter of recommendation and put her in contact with Hurle. Dr. Hurle discovered Elisa’s desire to work with auto-inflammatory diseases and found her a mentor, Dr. Amanda Ombrello. After weeks of anticipation, Elisa learned she had been accepted as Ombrello’s intern.
Elisa’s internship ran from May 28th to June 20th. While at the NIH, she learned about the diseases Ombrello and her team have discovered and met several of their patients. She also searched for DNA mutations to help diagnose and discover diseases, and performed a study on deficiency of adenosine deaminase 2, a recently discovered auto-inflammatory disease.
This experience helped solidify what Elisa wants to do in and after college. “I was trying to find out if I wanted to work with patients when I go into biomedical sciences or work in the lab, and I think I want to have a balance between patient and lab interaction,” she said. “It’s really cool if you know how what you’re doing in the lab will affect an actual person as opposed to just a petri dish.” Elisa said the internship taught her: “ways of thinking about problems that would, at first glance seem unsolvable.”