Student reaps rewards through NIH Summer Internship Program


Keolu Fox
Photo in Hawaii of Keolu Fox
Beginning in mid-November, online applications for the Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research begin pouring into the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These competitive internships offer students the opportunity to work with world-class biomedical researchers. Earning a monthly stipend at the same time doesn't hurt either.

"I always encourage students to apply early because applications are accepted on a rolling basis. As we get closer to the March 1 application deadline, many spots have already been filled," said Pnina Laric, M.S., a training program coordinator who oversees summer internships at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of NIH's 27 institutes and centers. Once students submit their applications, Laric encourages them to contact investigators whose research interests them.

In 2010, roughly 6,700 students applied to NIH's summer internship program. Of those, 1,200 were selected to participate in the program. Approximately 50 of those students interned at NHGRI, including Keolu Fox who spent an unforgettable summer working with NHGRI researchers.

Keolu Fox's passion for improving the health outcomes of underrepresented populations paired perfectly with the research interests of Charles N. Rotimi, Ph.D., director of the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health, part of NHGRI's intramural program. Dr. Rotimi's group focuses on the relationship between obesity, hypertension and diabetes, conditions that account for more than 80 percent of health disparities between African Americans and European Americans.

Last summer, Fox contributed to a project on the effects of type 2 diabetes on the renal function of various populations, which allowed him to learn about the intersection of human genetic variation and pharmacogenomics, the branch of pharmacology that deals with the influence of genetic variation on patients' responses to medication.

"My experience at the NIH has given me tremendous insight into formulating new hypotheses and has taught me how to be a professional and a successful collaborator," said Fox. "The endless networking possibilities, resources and professional benefits are helpful to anyone looking to establish a career in science."

Fox is of Hawaiian descent and is deeply passionate about giving back to his ancestral homeland. He would eventually like to use genomics to diagnose, predict and prevent diseases in the native Hawaiian community and to establish a polynesian genome center in Hawaii that would employ, recruit and mentor underrepresented students. Fox hopes to return to the NIH as an investigator after he completes his Ph.D. in genomic sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

For more information on the summer internship in biomedical research program, please go to

Last updated: March 14, 2014