• UWA students complete biology internships across the U.S.

    Posted: October 03, 2017

    Author: Public Relations

    Eight students from the University of West Alabama’s Biology Opportunities and Scholarships for Success (BOSS) program recently completed internships throughout the United States. Their undergraduate research extended to other universities and institutes, giving them access to the tools and experiences to help steer their career paths.

    The BOSS program is funded by a grant awarded to UWA by the National Science Foundation (award number: 1356248) to allow up to eight students per year the opportunity to participate in a scholarship and mentoring program designed to help them achieve their academic and career goals. 

    Nicole Aledo of Demopolis, Ala., is a junior majoring in general science education at UWA. She completed an internship for the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

    Aledo said that throughout her internship she was introduced to diverse types of people and personalities and was able to grow personally. It also opened her eyes to the endless possibilities of her future as a general science major.

    “This internship completely changed how I will finish school and direct my future,” said Aledo. “I am now highly considering graduate school and now I’m not think I may want to expand beyond my goal of becoming a teacher. I really enjoyed research and the types of challenges it offered.”

    Krystal Aultman of Selma, Ala., is a senior majoring in the biology comprehensive medical track at UWA. She completed an internship at Yale University’s Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology over the summer.

    Having participated in research since her freshman year at UWA, Aultman has conducted research on identifying novel antibiotic producing bacteria to combat antibiotic resistance, as well as research involving detection of the frequency of tick-borne diseases in the Black Belt region of Alabama.

    In her nearly two-month internship, Aultman focused on how aging impacts the cellular mechanisms of cutaneous wound repair under the direction of Dr. Brett Shook.

    “Research is a continual learning experience, and not every experiment is going to work perfectly, even when all precautions have been taken,” Aultman said. “Working in the lab allowed me to enhance my team-based work ethic, allowed networking opportunities, and has helped me as I develop a skill I will need for a career in the medical field.”

    Darnella Cole of Birmingham, Ala., is a junior majoring in the biology comprehensive medical track at UWA and minoring in chemistry. She completed an internship at Pennsylvania State University over the summer.

    During the internship, Cole conducted research in biochemistry, focusing on molecular toxicology and carcinogenesis. The majority of her research was on understanding reactions and why the reactions occurred with an antioxidant drug that was being tested to decrease obesity in mice.

    “The best feeling was when my mentor told me that I had great determination, asked very good questions, and was his best undergraduate student he has had yet,” said Cole. “That was when I realized nothing is impossible.”

    Abigail Coley, a native of Pensacola, Fla., is a junior majoring in conservation and field biology at UWA. She completed an internship at Virginia Tech in the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program.

    During this 10-week internship, Coley focused her research on the impact of growing season frosts on the radial-growth of deciduous and coniferous trees in Michigan. She also had the opportunity to learn how to conduct and publish research as an undergraduate student.

    “This internship has helped prepare me for my future by introducing me to a field of science that I had not been aware of before,” said Coley. “It also allowed me to truly become a part of the research, leading me to finally find what I really want to do with my future.”

    Riley King of Demopolis, Ala., is a senior majoring in the biology comprehensive medical track at UWA. She completed an internship for the Horsley Lab in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University.

    Throughout the internship, King focused on investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control tissue development and regeneration. This allowed King to see the research side of medicine and be involved in identifying the issue, experimenting, and working towards finding a solution that can improve patient care.

    “I believe that this opportunity has made me more well-rounded as both a student and undergraduate researcher,” said King.

    Guadalupe Meza of Robertsdale, Ala., is a junior majoring in the biology comprehensive medical track at UWA. She completed an internship for the Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

    During the internship, she researched data and biostatistical field of science and focused on the meta-analysis of longevity and sex difference of rodents in response to dietary restriction.

    “Now that I have been exposed to this side of science I would say it has geared me more into the clinical field” said Meza. “Computers and technology in general are not my forte, but this was a good experience to have.”  

    Heath Stanford of Demopolis, Ala., is a senior majoring in environmental science at UWA. He completed a 12-week research internship at WestRock Company paper mill located in Demopolis.

    The focus of his research was environmental sampling and testing for the wastewater treatment system. This allowed Stanford to be able to take the knowledge received from classes at UWA, and apply them to a real work setting.

    “Getting hands-on experience while still in school is a key factor in today’s competitive job market,” Stanford said. “I learned so much this summer at the paper mill, and I look forward to directly applying it to my studies.”

    Throughout his internship, Stanford was under the supervision of Mr. Wayne Baker, 1986 and 2001 graduate of UWA and senior environmental engineer at WestRock Paper Mill.

    Austin Tubbs, of Selma, Ala., is a senior majoring in conservation and field biology at UWA. He completed an internship at the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries in Northport.

    Throughout the internship, Tubbs focus of research was performing habitat management tasks and multiple species surveys. He said that the opportunity has helped him validate that this career choice and field of study is right for him.

    This internship was a follow up to previous research that Tubbs completed during his time at UWA, including, looking for antibiotic-producing bacteria in local soil, and research focusing on the symbiosis between plants and fungi.


    UWA’s BOSS program is designed to increase enrollment of academically talented undergraduate students majoring in biological and environmental sciences. The program also aims to increase retention and graduation rates of students majoring in the field and to increase the number of successful graduates joining the field’s workforce or graduate schools through support for career exploration and professional development opportunities.

    Students receive up to $8,500 scholarship assistance per student per academic year for a maximum of four years. In addition to scholarship money, they receive academic advising and assistance, professional development activities, career services and counseling, and peer and faculty mentoring.

    To learn more about BOSS at UWA, contact Dr. Mustafa Morsy, associate professor of biology at UWA and the director of the program, at mmorsy@uwa.edu or 205-652-5541.

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