Vimbai Mawoneke ’21: MD Anderson Cancer Center

Name: Vimbai Mawoneke
Class Year: 2021
Major: Chemistry
Hometown: Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Internship Organization: MD Anderson Cancer Center
Job Title: Research Trainee
Location: Houston, Texas


What’s happening at your internship?

I am working with the Department of Cancer Systems Imaging to study the metabolomics of Glioblastoma (brain cancer) in treated, untreated and normal brain cells. My role is to analyze Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectra of the brain samples then quantitatively and qualitatively use observations to make deductions on the behavior of cancerous cells.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied for this internship because of two reasons.

1. After taking organic chemistry at Bryn Mawr, one topic that stuck with me from the class was that of spectroscopy. I view spectroscopy as the bridge between theory and practice for a chemist. Theory tells us of the interaction of molecules and helps in the prediction of reactions, but spectroscopy is to me the confirmation of the existence of the molecules that theory tells me of. In this internship we use nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to analyze samples.

2. I wanted a research experience outside of Bryn Mawr. In my freshman year I shadowed in the lab of Dr. Malachowski and I enjoyed the experience very much. My mind pondered on whether this was something I could do for the rest of my life — a 9 to 5 in the lab. I saw this internship as a window of opportunity to test this.

Was this internship what you expected it to be?

My summer experience has been everything I expected it to be and more. My lab’s Principal Investigator/Mentor has gone the extra mile of setting up informational interviews with some of the faculty at MD Anderson and shadowing a neurosurgeon. Through these opportunities, I got to shadow in the operating room and clinic. I also learned more about the field of radio pharmaceuticals.

Vimbai Mawoneke

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

My favorite part of this internship has been rooming with Bryn Mawr women. It feels like I am still at Bryn Mawr and I couldn’t be happier. My roommates and I were fortunate enough to gain summer housing from Hannah Curry McDougald ‘10, who is part of the Bryn Mawr Club of Houston through connection with Sarah Sarnelli, who is the president of the club. We get invited to events with other alumni and this I feel has expanded my network.


Vimbai Mawoneke

Gaoan Sheng ’21: Loma Linda University School of Dentistry

Name: Gaoan Sheng
Class Year: 2021
Major: Chemistry
Hometown: Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

Internship Organization: Center for Dental Research, Loma Linda University School of Dentistry
Job Title: Research Intern
Location: Loma Linda, Calif.

What’s happening at your internship?

I am working in the Center for Dental Research in Loma Linda University. I have been involved in ongoing research and daily tests relevant to infection control in the dental health care unit.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I am considering the field of dentistry after college, so I am actively exploring different areas in this field. Loma Linda University has been working closely with many hospitals affiliated with Zhejiang University, where my parents work. I had heard about dental research that was going on in their laboratory, which bore significant health importance. After my microbiology class, I was aware of the frequent biofilm formation in dental settings. As a chemistry major, I was curious about chemical ways of removing microorganisms, so I applied for this internship.

Was this internship what you expected it to be?

I have been looking forward to living in different cities. I moved to California this summer. To be specific, I lived in Loma Linda for a month. It is a rather small city located in southwestern San Bernardino County. Loma Linda in Spanish means beautiful hills, and the city is exactly as it sounds. I lived with one of the visiting scholars from China. She has been there for one year, and she not only taught me research but also brought me to many places around there. Because of her, I had a great time.

Loma Linda University has been working closely with hospitals affiliated to Zhejiang University, where my parents work. I had also attended several academic workshops in China given by doctors from Loma Linda University, which made me want to be there and explore more.

Even though I have heard about infection control, and I have seen some efforts in clinic, I was not aware of the waterline tests that were performed to check water quality or spore tests to check sterilization until I actually saw them.

There were also some pilot studies to test antimicrobial effects of new dental materials. I was learning new research methods, which will be helpful to me in learning chemistry. In general, it was a great opportunity for me to be in the Center for Dental Research in Loma Linda University.

Katherine Mallea ’20: Chemistry Research, Stonehill College

Name: Katherine Mallea
Class Year: 2020
Major: Biology
Minor: Chemistry
Hometown: Brockton, Mass.

Internship Organization: Stonehill College, Department of Chemistry (under Professor Louis Liotta)
Job Title: Bio-Organic Research
Location: Stonehill College (North Easton, Mass.)

What’s happening at your internship?

I am learning how to organically synthesize/create compounds of interest. Each day I am tasked with continuing the synthesis, in that I am purifying, extracting, reacting, etc., my compound from commercially available sugars in hopes of obtaining pure novel (either never been synthesized or never been documented) sugar analogues. In that with each new synthesis I begin, I am continually documenting observations of the reaction, while using my data to modify the reaction in a way that produces either a purer product, or a product with a better yield, than in a previous written producer of the reaction. Each day differs from the previous and is ever changing.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I had been wanting to work in a laboratory as a researching student, whether that be in biology or in chemistry. But, during the middle of my first semester of organic chemistry, I was falling in love with the subject. While in lab, I felt as though I was not truly able to enjoy the synthesis process as much, as my main goal in the course was to do well, in juncture with my group. I felt comfortable in the lab setting as I had volunteered in an organic chemistry lab one summer during high school. The organic chemistry labs were either at capacity or had chemistry majors in queue (as I am only a minor). Thus, I used one of the connections I had made previously and with the help of LILAC I was able to apply to my first internship!

Was there anything special about how you found this internship?

Yes! As I mentioned previously I was given the amazing opportunity to volunteer with the ACS program project SEED a summer in high school! Although as a high school student who had never taken an organic chemistry I was not able to truly grasp the work that I was doing. But then, as I was using the laboratory equipment during the lab course of the organic chemistry course, I recalled first learning how to use the machinery years prior, and took a chance by emailing the professor of the lab I was able to volunteer in.

Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?

Having the opportunity to work in a research laboratory, I will be able to solidify my understanding and knowledge of the mechanisms I had studied in class. I will be able to go beyond the classroom and lab, in that I will be able to run the machinery and lab tools independently, as well as work independently (although the professor and lab students are present), which allows me work on problem solving, as organic synthesis is truly a puzzle. Where the mechanisms are the puzzle pieces, and the solutes and solvents are the images on each piece, that guide you to piecing everything together. But also, I am gaining experience in how to operate in a lab, which will be a stepping stone for many other opportunities and internships in the near future.