Inside My Internship at the Biodesign Institute

Student, Bayyinah Dream Program

May   2016



Glass architecture, cool and glistening, surrounded me. My footsteps echoed on the clean marble surfaces. Butterflies in my stomach, I took a step inside a room and beheld goggle-eyed individuals in white lab coats, pristine glass beakers lining the shelves, and metallic equipment with unknown capabilities. I could hardly believe this was real—that this was the place I was going to spend the next three months as an intern.

During my senior year I interned at the Biodesign Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, where I researched synthetic DNA as a selective carrier for cancer drug intercellular transport. Among several lab techniques, I was introduced to atomic force microscopy, x-ray crystallography, and the expansive capabilities of a synchrotron. I was surrounded by graduate students, doctors, and experts in the field of DNA nanotechnology—all determined individuals working to cure the world’s deadliest diseases. This peek into the professional world allowed me to experience the meticulous research that could become the next lifesaving medication.

From using elaborate equipment and preparing buffer solutions to incubating DNA crystals and anxiously awaiting results, the experience instilled in me a love of research. Seeing the devotion and passion my co-researchers brought to their work and the endless possibilities of research, I dreaded the end of my internship. The atmosphere of our research meetings and seminars, when 30 bright minds came together, shared ideas, and critiqued each others’ projects, showed me how any problem can be solved through collaboration, inspiration, and diligence. I knew this is where the future lies, and this was the community I wanted to be a part of. Ultimately, I was given the opportunity to present my research to the community during a symposium. Realizing that my contributions could make a difference, I wanted to do more.

My experience performing research is a stepping-stone to help me reach my dream career as a neurosurgeon. Interning at the Biodesign Institute reaffirmed my aspirations, and the potential for new medical discoveries has inspired me to contribute to both the discovery and delivery of these innovative procedures and medications to patients suffering from cancer, neurological diseases, and more.

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About Fathima Haseefa

Fathima Haseefa graduated from BASIS Chandler, where she was editor of her school newspaper and received the Pulitzer Kirk Award for her contributions. She is also a recipient of the Schoneman Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Leadership, and Service. While in high school, she completed a journalism internship with AdmitSee, a peer-to-peer college prep company, and founded PeerAspire, a one-on-one tutoring program aimed to help students achieve their full potential. During her gap year, Fathima will be attending the Bayyinah Dream program, a nine-month Arabic intensive program in Dallas, Texas, and subsequently hopes to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering.