Last updated: March 14, 2014
Gaining Focus: NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP) Student Gi'Eira Jones
Over the course of two summers interning at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), college undergraduate Gi'Eira Jones worked as part of a supportive research group that helped her gain confidence and clarity about medical research to pursue in her future studies and career. The young scientist found her way to NIH through the Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP) [gusp.nih.gov].
Jones is a pre-medical senior studying biology and chemistry at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. She was encouraged to apply to the UGSP by her college mentor. This competitive national scholarship program offers disadvantaged students (See: UGSP: Frequently Asked Questions [gusp.nih.gov]), who aspire to a career in scientific research, generous renewable scholarships and paid 10-week internships each summer. Upon graduation, UGSP awardees continue their research training at NIH, with a service commitment matching the length of their scholarship.
Accepted into the UGSP program during her sophomore year, Jones attended a "mentor match" session in January 2006, where she heard a presentation by Fabio Candotti, M.D., senior investigator in NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch. The following summer, she joined the Candotti lab and helped perform research aimed at developing retroviral gene therapies intended to correct genetic mutations that cause particular immunological disorders.
"I never thought research this advanced was being done," Jones said. "Dr. Candotti was very patient, explained the basic science and principles behind my project, and personally helped me perform experiments and analyze the data. He was a phenomenal teacher." The mentoring and assistance that Jones received from Dr. Candotti and postdoctoral fellows allowed her to become familiar with research techniques that she will be able to use as she continues her education toward a graduate degree in molecular medicine and translational biology.
Jones will defer her NIH employment commitment while she attends graduate school, but is looking forward to the opportunity that awaits her. Her time spent at NHGRI gave her future plans focus. "I liked research, but didn't know exactly what field I wanted to go into," Jones said. "I have a much better idea now, thanks to this program."
Her advice to students applying to the UGSP? "Display enthusiasm. Show that this is really something that you want to do. Oh, and don't start your application the night before it's due!"