Student assists in finding cure for skin cancer while interning at NIH
Through Liberty University’s Washington Fellowship program, 34 students were given the opportunity to bring the spirit of Liberty to the heart of Washington, D.C., this past semester, gaining experience in their respective fields while at the same time living out Liberty’s mission as Champions for Christ.
One of those students, senior biopsychology major Rachael Glavin, was not only able to improve upon her skills while interning at the prestigious National Institute of Health (NIH), but also significantly contributed to research in the area of skin cancer treatment.
Glavin worked alongside Tara Gelb, a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Cancer Institute, to catalog the effects of a variety of different medications and molecules on the tumor cells of a specific type of skin cancer.
“It was so amazing and such fulfilling work,” Glavin said. “At the end of every day and week, and now, at the end of the semester, I can look back and say, ‘These are all the things that I have done — I did this, I accomplished this.’ And it’s so cool knowing that what I did could really help someone.”
It was that aspect of her job — being able to tangibly help people in need — that she enjoyed most about her internship, and it is has made her recently consider medical research as a long-term career. Glavin was able to meet and talk to skin cancer patients. She said it was a huge wake-up call to the kind of impact that medical research can make.
“I think when you’re an undergraduate student and you want to help people, everyone ends up saying, ‘You should be a doctor,’” Glavin said. “People have tended to think that research cannot directly help people. But with this internship, I wasn’t just helping people, I was trying to help out someone like ‘Mr. Smith,’ who I see every other week.”
Following her internship at the NIH, Glavin said that she hopes to present some of the findings of her skin cancer research at a conference in the spring.
The Washington Fellowship is run by Liberty’s Career Center and allows students in the program to live in the capital for a semester while they work at internships and take classes online. The program is designed to equip students with the necessary tools to obtain an internship in a professional environment that could lead to a full-time job.
Glavin said that Liberty has given her the needed skills and knowledge to excel in a high-level internship. Specifically, she loves how Liberty’s biology and chemistry professors take the time to connect with their students.
“Even in the really small labs with 20 students, you always have a professor there, and they’ll answer any question you have, and they were always so accessible,” Glavin said. “I learned how to ask the right types of questions, and they give you attention so it helps you make connections with professionals in the field.”
She credits Liberty biology professor Paul Sattler with helping her obtain the internship. Because of the dedication by many Liberty professors to mentor their students, doors to internships and jobs are frequently opened.
Glavin said she is excited to spend the last semester of her undergraduate career back on Liberty’s campus, and is currently considering applying to medical school.
“I can see God using me here, in this area of medical research,” Glavin said. “There’s so much of an impact you can make, and I have really felt God leading me here.”