Sean Christy, left, a summer intern was assigned to do research with microbiologist Lloyd Rose, Ph.D., at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Dental and Trauma Research Detachment. Photo by Steven Galvan
By Steven Galvan, Public Affairs Officer
U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research
2 SEPTEMBER 2014
While some college students spent their summer relaxing and recharging by the pool or beach, the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (ISR) hosted nine undergraduate college students for internships to conduct combat casualty care research for 10 weeks.
“The purpose of this program is to give students exposure to the lab environment and invaluable research experience,” said David M. Burmeister, Ph.D., an ISR staff scientist and lead intern mentor. “Hopefully this not only helps them clarify what their goals and aspirations are for the future, but also facilitates reaching those goals.”
The interns were paired up with ISR researchers who served as mentors to work on projects to further the Institute’s mission of optimizing combat casualty care.
“This program introduces Army programmatic research to students who are interested in careers in science and medicine,” said Maj. Stuart Tyner, ISR’s deputy director of research. “Unlike an academic research setting, the research performed at the ISR is geared towards solving a military important medical threat and develops products, things or knowledge that solves that problem.”
Sean Christy, a sophomore at Southwestern University and biology major was assigned to do research with microbiologist Lloyd Rose, Ph.D., at the ISR Dental and Trauma Research Detachment. Christy’s project involved the use of skin cells and the healing process after a burn.
“I’m taking samples of tissue to determine what happens to genes that leads to good or bad healing,” said Christy.
Rose added that genes play a major role is how a burn patient heals and the scarring associated with the healing.
“Every burn patient heals different,” said Rose. “We’re breaking down the genes to determine what it is in the DNA that determines the healing and scarring pattern.”
Research runs in the family for Christy. His mom and dad both hold Ph.D.’s and involved in research. This is the second summer that Christy has spent at the ISR. He said he enjoys this type of research and something that he is going to pursue as a career.
“Yeah, I guess you could say it’s in my blood,” said Christy.
While research is something that Christy has always been around, it’s not the case for all interns. Claire Caldwell, a sophomore and chemistry major at Texas A&M said that she had no idea that combat casualty care research existed. She learned about the ISR undergraduate internship program by chance. While waiting at a barber shop for a friend to get a haircut she met the ISR Joint Trauma System (JTS) director of trauma care delivery who told her about the program and suggested that she apply for it.
She did and was assigned to intern with the director of the JTS. Caldwell learned the JTS mission and how data is used to identify shortcomings in military medicine and care, and to create new guidelines to improve those shortcomings.
“This has been a great opportunity for me,” she said. “When I look at the data, I don’t see numbers. These numbers represent people and I get to work on a project that can save lives.”
Caldwell, a cadet at A&M is on contract to join the Air Force when she graduates. She said that after having been exposed to combat casualty care research she now has a new perspective on her career.
“Now I want to go to medical school,” said Caldwell.
The interns’ time at the ISR was more than learning about combat casualty research. The interns attended weekly seminars; each intern led a journal club session, and attended Burn Center rounds. Their summer work culminates with a poster presentation on the research they conducted.
“Everyone is welcome to stop by and see specifically what they have done this summer,” said Burmeister. “They were extremely active in the lab and there was added benefit to advancing the research performed here.”