Internships in Nation's Capital Reaffirm Biology Student's Passion for Medicine

Nebraska Wesleyan University senior Ben Wiese knows he wants to be a doctor someday.

He’s not sure on his area of specialization — perhaps cardiology; maybe neurology.

But he knows he wants to work directly with patients.

“I see medicine as a people profession,” said the biology major from Ashland, Neb. “The tutoring and teaching opportunities I’ve had have helped me realize I want to work with people.”

He also knows not to close the doors too early on other areas of medicine, like research.

Last year Wiese explored ways to add some research experience to his resume. He considered studying abroad. He also looked at an opportunity that is typically seized by political science and communication majors.

“I heard great things about the CHIP Program,” said Wiese.

The Capitol Hill Internship Program offers students the experience of living, interning, and studying in the heart of Washington, D.C.

The opportunity to live and conduct research in Washington, D.C. was appealing to Wiese, and after making several contacts in the nation’s capital soon found himself gaining valuable research experience at the National Institutes of Health.

He was placed in the Institute of Child Health and Human Development where he worked as a lab technician studying protein interactions.

“It was an area I didn’t know much about,” said Weise. “It gave me a different perspective of medicine.”

“And being on the NIH campus and having access to their lectures was an incredible experience for me,” he added.

As the spring semester wrapped up, he knew he wanted more. Wiese, a Huge Scholar, turned to the competitive scholarship’s namesake Harry Huge and sought his advice on further research opportunities.

Huge put Wiese in touch with contacts at the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The Institute is directed by Dr. Robert Gallo, a biomedical researcher best known for the co-discovery of HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. Wiese was already a fan of Dr. Gallo and his research after dining with and attending Gallo’s lecture at NWU in fall 2009.

Wiese soon found himself conducting research in a lab at the Institute of Human Virology where he was responsible for a project that focused on proteins and bacteria linked to gastric cancer.

“It was my own project. I was able to take control of it,” said Wiese. “That was an amazing opportunity, especially for an undergrad.”

Wiese said both internships provided him with useful insight for when he begins medical school.

“There’s quite an adjustment when you go to medical school and conduct real research,” said Wiese. “Students need to be able to adapt to the unexpected in a research lab and know that things aren’t going to work out just how you expect it to.”

The research he started last summer at the Institute of Human Virology will continue at NWU. Wiese and Nebraska Wesleyan University biology professor Garry Duncan have been awarded a Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant. Wiese will use the grant to express other proteins and explore their relation to gastric cancer.

“I had the opportunity to work around some of the best minds in the world,” Wiese said of his internships. “I had the opportunity to problem solve and work with my hands. All of my experiences have reaffirmed my love for medicine.”

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Senior Ben Wiese conducted research at both the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Human Virology.