Related: Academics, Education, Higher Education, Students, Women

Voices of Trinity: Charlene Valdez ’17 at the National Institutes of Health


Valdez At GeorgetownUndergraduate Researcher Charlene Valdez ’17 in a Georgetown lab during her NIH summer internship

In July, I published a blog about the remarkable trip of Junior Airen Washington to Israel.  Her story generated a great deal of interest among other students eager to share their summer experiences as well — and what an ambitious, talented and interesting set of stories these are!  In this blog I feature the report of Sophomore Charlene Valdez who spent the summer on a research program at the National Institutes of Health.  For all the new first year students out there, listen up!  THIS CAN BE YOU NEXT SUMMER!  Charlene became a candidate for this program as a result of her fine work in freshman year with Dr. Moss.

Here’s Charlene’s report in her own words:

“Over the past few months, between June and mid-July, I was attending the Advanced Research Technology Corps program at the National Institute of Health, in partnership with Georgetown University. The program was brought to my attention by my amazing Biology 111 professor Dr. Patrice Moss, who throughout the entire time I’ve worked with her at the Ladies FIRST Math and Science Club has demonstrated her faith in me as a science student. As a rising sophomore at Trinity, the prospect of attending such a prestigious program made be a bit nervous at first. I had declared my major to be Biology during the spring semester, right before the start of the program. Needless to say, I was not ready for what was coming up next.

“The internship started off with a 1-week course schedule where students from UDC, Georgetown and Trinity, had come together to learn about Pluripotent Stem cells and how to differentiate them. We learned about Immunohistochemistry, Flow Cytometry, Protienomics, Cell Culturing, and many other amazing techniques that we could use for future internships or our own laboratory research. Following the 1-week long program, we were also given the opportunity to do a six-week internship following a poster session at the end of the program.

Valdez At NIH(Charlene Valdez ’17 in her lab at the National Institutes of Health)

“After the lab and lecture courses were over, it was time to enter my practice internship. Lucky for me, I got a chance to work at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center with Dr. Jan K. Blancato as my P.I. Once at Georgetown, Dr. Blancato tasked my colleagues and I to work on Inflammatory Breast Cancer as a part of my official research project. The objective of my project was to find amplifications of a mutated gene called ALK1 in these IBC tissues using a technique called Fluorescence in situ Hybridization. This technique is often used when localizing specific genes of interest on intact chromosomes.

“My favorite part was the knowledge and insight I gained through this experience. I had always been unsure if Biology was the true path I wanted to take for the rest of my life, but I came to realization that I love it. I have a strong passion for doing work that can make a difference in humanity. My P.I. and my colleagues were a tremendous help when it came to explaining the science and techniques behind the work I was doing. They all taught me to be meticulous yet curious, and to accept any possible outcomes in my research results.

“I am currently in the process of completing the poster for my presentation at Georgetown and I will do my utmost best to make Trinity, my Mother, professors, and peers, proud of my work.”

(Charlene Valdez, ’17, Biology major, Undergraduate Research Scientist)

Charlene, we are so tremendously proud of you!  Thank you for sharing your story!

PS:  It wasn’t all serious science, check out the great friends Charlene made during her summer internship!

Valdez Blancato Lab PotluckI will blog about another student in a few days. If you’ve already sent me your story and photos, rest assured it’s coming to this website! If you have a story of your summer work that you’d like to share in this space, send it to me via email at  Photos are always good to include with the story.

Future blogs:  I will also be calling for your thoughts on the many issues involving Ferguson, Missouri, the shooting of Michael Brown and the police actions afterward, the issues of racism and race relations today, press freedoms and so much more coming out of that story.   I will use that topic as the focus of this year’s Constitution Day observance in September.  As I’ve done in the past, I will invite your comments and brief essays on the topics, so please start thinking about how you’d like to participate.

I wrote a blog about Ferguson on the Huffington Post this week, please see Ferguson’s Lessons for the Fall Semester

Follow me on Twitter @TrinityPrez

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: