Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spotlight on Interns: Nick Giangreco, '14, Biochemistry Major, Interning at Uppsala University

Junior Nick Giangreco is completing a semester-exchange at Uppsala University this spring. The biochemistry major is taking a relevant science course, Pharmaceutical Bioinformatics, and working on a research project.

But Giangreco’s research started long before he arriving in Sweden. “I did my research of each of the faculty members in each of the departments to have an idea of whom I would like to work with,” he says, and he reached out ahead of time via email.

“We discussed how we wanted to computationally predict an accurate model for the six interacting domains of protein A, found on the cell wall of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, in solution. This protein has both pharmacological and pharmaceutical significance. I did some background reading on the protein and the techniques that we would be using, small angle X-ray scattering data and molecular dynamics simulations, and I wrote a project description with a work plan to submit to my course coordinator to approve and register the project as a Project Work in Biology course,” Giangreco says.

“I started working on my project a couple weeks before the start date to get ahead and prepare myself, he says. “I also established a good working relationship with one post-doc in the lab, who is assisting me in getting familiar with the computational work.

“I typically go into the lab around my schedule and I spend about half a day to a full day in the office three times a week. With the great flexibility this project affords me, I’m able to do the things I want to do around my work schedule. I was able to travel to the Arctic Circle and take a trip to Stockholm for a couple days.  I’m also able to enjoy my time in the city, like learning how to cook, exercise, and hang out with friends,” Giangreco says.

He says the work atmosphere is relaxed but productive. “I would constantly collaborate with my neighboring post-doc for assistance and to exchange ideas and thoughts. And as long as I came into lab when I needed to and was productive in my project, my PI didn’t need me on a strict schedule of when to be there,” he says.

Giangreco says his project extends in June, limiting the summer internships he is able to apply to. “If you wanted to do another internship over the summer, it would be better to have your course start earlier in the semester,” he advises.

“The way I see it, since I’m completing a research project during the semester, I can make other summer plans that are extremely useful. For example, I am attending and presenting my research poster at the ISMB/ECCB conference in Berlin this summer,” he adds.

“Being able to combine the experience of studying abroad while furthering your educational and professional goals is an unbelievable opportunity,” he says. “I recommend this university, Uppsala University, to anyone if they want to have a productive, fun, and worth-while semester. I think being abroad is something every college student should have, and you can, without having to sacrifice your educational goals.”

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