Bridget Mayer, a third-year student at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, won top poster honors among graduate students at the highly competitive National Institute of Health Summer Internship Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
Mayer’s poster presentation, “A comparison of sustained release tramadol and buprenorphine as analgesics in rats,” explained her work involving analgesics and rodents.
“This entire process at NIEHS has been an amazing journey of discovery,” says Mayer, who said other veterinary students as well as Dr. Rick Fish and Dr. Phillip Sannes recommended the program. “Most of my veterinary experience prior to school was with lab animals, and I wanted to explore that field a little more in a research setting.
“I was fortunate to work with veterinarians who encouraged me to participate in all aspects of their typical work day,” continues Mayer. “In addition to learning specific research methods applicable to pharmacology, I was able to perform rodent surgeries and necropsies. I even did a vasectomy on a mouse!”
Mayer’s research involved studying the pharmcokinetic differences between sustained release doses of tramadol and buprenorphine in rats. There is a need for a longer-lasting analgesic in lab rats that undergo potentially painful procedures, like surgery. Current pain management involves frequent dosing and handling, which can be stressful to the animals. My project found that tramadol was less persistent and effective than expected, but buprenorphine showed promise as a long-lasting rat analgesic.
“I am interested in pursuing lab animal medicine as a career,” says Mayer, “but hope to spend a few years immediately after graduation working in small animal practice to hone my diagnostic and medicine skills.”
The core component of the internship program is its commitment to giving students hands-on experience in a world-class biomedical research setting, by pairing them with members of the NIEHS intramural research team. Through this mentoring partnership, NIEHS interns learn, first-hand, what it means to conduct experiments and analyze data.
“The purpose of this program is to have fun, do a little science, and get students exposed to what it’s like to conduct research in the real world,” said NIEHS Deputy Scientific Director Bill Schrader. “That said, these projects take a lot of time and hard work, and these students should be proud of what they’ve accomplished here.”
The Summer Internship Program at the NIEHS is part of the National Institutes of Health Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research. Scientists at the NIEHS, located in Research Triangle Park, are committed to sharing with students and educators the intensity, excitement, sense of discipline, and tremendous satisfaction that careers in science can impart to those who pursue them.
Participants are expected to work a minimum of eight continuous weeks, full-time between May and September. The research mentoring experience is supplemented by a series of seminars and workshops featuring leading researchers and staff to provide participants with an overview of environmental health sciences.