Description of Internship Opportunities Internship Opportunity

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					Description of Internship Opportunities
Internship Opportunity #1
University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health, Brownsville
Regional Campus (located on UTB Campus)
Title: Youth Physical Activity and Policy Research
Mentor: Cristina Barroso, DrPH

People who are physically active are at decreased risk of obesity, certain
cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. For this reason, legislation is
enacted to encourage children to become physically active.

Texas Senate Bill 530 requires that elementary and middle school students
participate in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day or a total of 135
minutes per school week.

Intern’s responsibilities:
This internship will examine measures of school-based implementation of
physical activity. The intern will be responsible for conducting and reporting
descriptive statistics (frequencies, percentages, means, standard deviations,
etc.) from various data collection tools. The intern should have a strong interest
in math, physical activity, and nutrition. The intern will hone communication
(written and verbal), computerized data analysis and presentation skills.
Internship Opportunity #2
University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health, Brownsville
Regional Campus (located on UTB Campus)
Title: Association Between Diabetes and Tuberculosis
Mentor: Blanca I. Restrepo, PhD

    The current pandemic of type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) is accelerating in a
world where approximately one third of the population is latently infected with
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB). Recent studies along the US/Mexico border
indicate that rates of DM are disproportionately high among Hispanics, mostly
Mexican-Americans, with TB.
    DM has long been known to modify and complicate the presentation,
prognosis and treatment of TB. We recently examined 6 years of retrospective
data from more than 5,000 TB outpatients seen in TB clinics both sides of the
US/Mexico border. Self-reported DM was 27.8% among Texan patients,
significantly exceeding background rates in the same population. When
compared to TB-non DM patients, those with DM were more likely to present
drug resistant infections. Furthermore, TB-DM patients were more likely to have
a positive smear and culture at diagnosis and during the first two months of
treatment. These observations suggest that DM patients respond less well to TB
treatment, and may present a higher risk for transmitting M. tuberculosis in the
community. A prospective study we are currently conducting indicates that our
retrospective findings are underestimates, with fully 40% of TB patients with DM

Aim 1. Estimate the prevalence of DM according to American Diabetes
Association (ADA) criteria among TB patients from the Texas-Mexico border.
Aim 2. Determine the impact of DM on mycobacterial clearance from sputum
during the course of DOTS treatment, when compared to TB patients without DM
or other underlying risk factors.

Intern’s responsibilities:
      1.     Learning the basics of tuberculosis as well as its diagnosis and
               management in the United States and the Rio Grande Valley.
      2.     Assist with data collection of the patients identified and enrolled in
               the research study.
      3.     Become familiar with data management software in order to assist
               with data entry, cleaning and analysis.
Internship Opportunity #3
University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health, Brownsville
Regional Campus (located on UTB Campus)
Title: Cervical Cancer and Human Papillomavirus Research
Mentor: Rose Gowen, MD

Cervical dysplasia is a precancerous change in the cells of the cervix that can
lead to cervical cancer if left untreated. It has been proven that the acquisition of
the Human Papilloma Virus is related to, and in fact, causative of Cervical
Cancer in up to 85% of cases.

This project involves the evaluation of abnormal pap smears and cervical
dysplasia in adolescent women in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Our objective is to retrospectively determine whether cervical dysplasia in
adolescent Mexican-American women following an abnormal Pap smear occurs
at a high frequency and/or an earlier age than in the United States nationally.

Intern’s responsibilities:
The intern will assist in the performance of a retrospective chart review in three
gynecological clinics covering a period of 2 years from 2005- 2007. De-identified
clinical and pathological data recorded during routine clinic visits will be extracted
and recorded in a single comprehensive database. Primary analysis will be
based on severity/type of cervical lesion obtained by colposcopic biopsy as the
dependent variable. Independent variables will include age, Pap smear cytology,
gynecological cancers and genital warts.

Additionally, the intern will observe the care and course of adolescent Mexican -
American women including any and all surgical procedures required. The
student will interact with me each day and will become closely familiar with the
concepts of gynecologic care. They will also gain an intimate understanding of
risk factors related to cervical dysplasia and its prevention.
Internship Opportunity #4
Jointly offered by University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health
and The University of Texas at Brownsville/ Texas Southmost College
Title: Adult Diabetes Research
Mentors: Susan Fisher-Hoch, MD, M.Sc. and Anne Rentfro, B.S.N.

The National Institutes of Health have funded the School of Public Health to carry
out a research project entitled Project EXPORT: Creation of a Hispanic Health
Research Center in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. One part of this research is
associated with examining factors that contribute to diabetes among Hispanic
        Type 2 diabetes mellitus undeniably poses major health burdens for
individuals, families, and populations. Particular populations appear to be
especially vulnerable to type 2 diabetes. Among these is the Mexican American
population which not only bears a disproportionate burden due to diabetes, but
the burden will only increase as a result of rapid population growth and aging of
this relatively young population. Susceptibility to type 2 diabetes mellitus has long
been known to have a substantial genetic component, but the number of genes,
their locations and mechanisms of action remain to be elucidated. Substantial
progress in this regard has been made with the completion of several complete
genome scans (including our own) and our recent identification of calpain 10 as a
susceptibility locus. In the course of this experience, it has become clear that a
rate limiting step hindering gene identification is the availability of appropriate
samples and phenotypic data. To this end, the Diabetes Core project establishes
a cohort representative of the Mexican American population, as well as, an
enriched sample of young onset (prior to age 30) type 2 diabetics, and molecular
studies to establish a valuable research and training infrastructure.

 Intern’s responsibilities:
        1. Assist with enumeration of households and individuals in the household
to determine age, gender and diabetes status based on history.
        2. Assist in the recruitment and examination of study participants, the
identification of individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus who are under the age
of 20, including exams such as height and weight, body fat analysis, blood
pressure and phlebotomy.
        3. Assist with interviews to collect data.
        4. Assist with data entry in an electronic database.
        5. Assist with data analysis and reporting of results.
Internship Opportunity #5
The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College
Title: Neuroscience Research in Epilepsy
Mentor: Emilio Garrido, MD, PhD

The Garrido laboratory is located at the University of Texas Brownsville Texas
Southmost College and is dedicated to investigating the basic mechanisms
provoking epilepsy. Several molecular biology and electrophysiological
techniques are used to understand which ion channels and receptors are
affected in chronic epilepsy. Epilepsy is a devastating neurological disease and
our major goal is to develop pharmacological and genetic treatments for

Intern’s responsibilities:
The intern will work with Dr. Garrido to conduct experiments.

For more information visit our website:
Internship Opportunity #6
The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College
Title: Sedimentology of the Lomas in Bahia Grande
Mentor: Elizabeth Heise, PhD

The federal government has funded the Department of Chemistry and
Environmental Sciences to monitor the restoration of the Bahia Grande
Wetlands. One part of this research is to re-vegetate the shores and lomas of the
wildlife refuge to prevent erosion. The aim of this study is to determine the
differences in the sediment in the vegetated and unvegetated uplands of the
Bahia Grande, so that the revegetation project will be successful.

       Aim 1. Determine the amount of organic matter in sediments of
unvegetated lomas.
Goal: Assess the amount of organic matter to enable more successful
transplanting of native vegetation.
       Aim 2. Determine the amount of organic matter in sediments of vegetated
Goal: Assess the amount of organic matter to determine what the necessary
levels are to support plant growth.
       Aim 3. Plan a strategy for transplanting native plants on the lomas.
Goal: The successful transplanting of native plants will slow down the erosion.

Intern’s responsibilities:
The scope of the student’s internship will entail working directly with the
environmental science faculty and students as we collect sediment cores, sample
the cores, and run the analyses. Specifically, the intern will collect samples in the
field and data in the laboratory on South Padre Island. The fieldwork will include
using a GPS to locate the sample location, collection of field data such as
temperature and vegetation cover, and coring of the sediments. Additionally, the
laboratory work will include sampling the cores, using a muffle furnace to
determine the amount of organic matter in the sediment samples.
Internship Opportunity #7
University of Texas Pan American
Title: A Search for Bacterial Proteins, Toxic to the House Fly, Which could
be used to Control the Pest in an Environmentally Friendly Manner
Mentor: Joanne Rampersad-Ammons, PhD

The soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), produces a crystal comprised of
different proteins, each of which can be toxic to a specific species of insect, yet
harmless to anything else that consumes them. Because these toxins will kill only
specific species of insects, Bt toxins are used as an ecologically friendly
alternative to chemical insecticides on everything from backyard gardens to large
scale forestry applications. The genes that code for these proteins have also
been cloned into commercial crop plants to help protect them from pests.

In our laboratory we have a library of different Bt strains, each producing a
different set of toxins. At present, we do not know which insects each bacterial
strain is toxic against.

Intern’s Responsibilities:
The student’s internship will be to determine if any of the isolates in our library
are toxic to the house fly and if so, time permitting, to identify and characterize
the genes responsible for the toxicity. This project will expose the intern to
techniques in a wide range of fields, including microbiology, biochemistry and
biotechnology. Our objective is to find a toxin that can be used safely and
effectively to control the population of the disease carrying house fly.
Internship Opportunity #8
University of Texas Pan American
Title: Design, Synthesis and Mechanism of Action of Novel Anticancer
Mentor: Bimal K. Banik, Ph. D. F. R. S. C., President’s Endowed Professor,
Science and Engineering; Professor, Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry at UTPA is committed to the mission of providing
quality education in the process of preparing students for graduate work or
careers in biology, chemistry and biomedical sciences.

My specific aims are:

1. Chemistry, Biology and Pharmacology of Novel Anticancer -Lactams

2. Organometallics in the Synthesis of Biologically Active Compounds

3. Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds as New Anticancer Agents

4. Medicinal Chemistry by Microwave-Induced Reactions

This project has been funded by National Institutes of Health, UT M. D. Anderson
Cancer Center and Private Foundations.

Intern’s responsibilities:
The internship will entail working directly with the chemistry faculty and students
to design, synthesis and find a mechanism of action of novel anticancer drugs. A
particular focus of the internship will be to understand the interaction of organic
drug molecules with living systems. The intern will conduct literature reviews, run
experiments, analyze data, summarize results and present research findings in
professional meetings.
Internship Opportunity #9
University of Texas Pan American
Title: Plant Stress and Physiology Research
Mentor: Michael Persans, PhD

The main topics of my research are: the isolation and characterization of genes
involved in heavy metal tolerance in plants, the metabolism of herbicides by
plants and the use of remote sensing to monitor environmental pollution caused
by heavy metals using plants as a model indicator organism. These projects also
relate to human health in that they are involved in the sensing and fate of toxic
chemicals in the environment

The herbicide metabolism project involves the study of Cytochrome P450
enzymes in plants and how they detoxify herbicides. By studying these enzymes
in plants we hope to learn more about the mechanisms of toxin metabolism and
apply these results to further understand the mechanisms that plants may use to
detoxify drugs.

The tolerance of plants to heavy metal toxicity is another project in the lab. By
understanding the mechanisms by which heavy metals are tolerated, a possible
scheme could be devised for the phytoremediation of heavy metals. In addition,
plants genetically engineered to hyperaccumulate large amounts of heavy metals
could be used for phytoremediation purposes to clean up toxic sites which may
be health threats.

The remote sensing project seeks to study the effects that stress such as
pathogen attack and heavy metal poisoning has on the spectral properties of
plants. By observing the effects that stress has on plants early, plants may be
used as early indicators of metal toxicity in the environment and/or indicators of
pathogen attack.

Intern’s responsibilities:
The intern will assist with experiments and data analysis in the projects
mentioned above.
Internship Opportunity #10
University of Texas Pan American
Title: Microbial Ecology and Evolution Research
Mentor: Anita Davelos Baines, PhD

Our research focuses on investigating microbial interactions in terrestrial and
marine environments using genetic and biochemical approaches. Ongoing
projects include local adaptation of bacterial communities in the Laguna Madre,
associations of microbial communities with plant communities of different ages
and characterization of bacteria that may be useful in biological control of plant

Intern’s responsibilities:
The intern will choose one of these projects and then work with Dr. Baines and
other students in the laboratory to learn methods, conduct experiments, and
analyze and interpret results. Methods used in the lab include PCR, gene
sequencing, inhibitory assays, TLC, and nutrient utilization profiles.

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