Summer Research Internships for Teachers

The Department of Biology is offering 6-week-long hands-on summer research internships for High School teachers who are teaching full-time in the greater Boston area. This program is an opportunity for local science teachers to spend six weeks in a research lab at MIT working on real-life projects and learning skills to bring back to the classroom.

The program, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, provides a generous stipend, and professional development points. At the end of the summer Teacher-interns are required to present a poster of their work, to write a 5-page summary of their research, and to produce a lesson plan or hands-on lab exercise for their classroom based on their summer internship.

Lab protocols from previous years are available for review to illustrate what sorts of activities and experiments are performed.


  • In summer 2014, Katy Bizier, a science teacher from Malden High School, worked with David Benjamin, a PhD candidate in the Hynes Lab in the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.  David is studying the various stages of metastasis, using zebrafish as an animal model.  The hope is that the project will give better insight into which innate immune cells are present at the different stages of the metastatic cascade, and what roles these cells have. One goal of this summer project was to perform immunofluorescence on human melanoma cells to look for characteristic phenotypic changes caused by overexpression of known metastasis-enhancing genes.  Another goal was to assist in cloning in genes into the zerbrafish cells, which could then be used to visualize cells both in vitro and in vivo.  One of the proteins used to visualize certain cells within the zerbrafish was the green fluorescent protein.  Katy developed a lesson plan surrounding the protocols that exist for transforming bacteria with GFP, and then purifying the protein.   Her resources include a lab handout, plasmid worksheet, protocol cards that can be used to build a flowchart, and PowerPoint presentations that can be used to introduce the topics to students.
  • Biography for Katy Bizier: "I am the Science Teacher Leader at Malden High School, where this year I will be teaching forensics and environmental science.  In past years I have taught biology, and this past year I taught and helped to develop a new half-year biotechnology class.  Malden High School has almost 2,000 students, and was recently identified as the most diverse school in the state of Massachusetts.  My undergraduate degree is from Colby College, and my Masters is from Boston College.  I am also a Wipro-SEF Science Education Fellow, which is a teacher-leadership program that fosters leadership and teaching excellence in science education."  (More information can be found through this link)


Cory, 2013 Teacher Camp

  • In 2013 Cory Bavuso, a science teacher from Arlington High school, spent six weeks working as an HHMI teacher intern in the laboratory of Professor Troy Littleton in the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory under the guidance of Dr. Yulia Akbergenova. The Littleton Lab uses Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism to study neuronal signaling and how neurons form synaptic connections. The lab also studies neurological disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's Disease.
  • Cory Bavuso studied Huntington Disease and conducted an RNAi enhancer screen using fruit flies specifically engineered to express a medium level of Huntington’s disease. Based on her summer internship, she developed a lesson plan to teach high school biology students about Huntington’s disease. The lesson consists of three parts: a webquest, a scientific journal article, and a drosophila genetics laboratory protocol.


  • The 2011 teacher intern was Eben Bein a science teacher at Revere High School. He worked in the laboratory of Professor J. Troy Littleton under the supervision of graduate student Jan Melom.  Eben Bein studied the pathology of the nervous system, using D. Melanogaster (fruit fly) as a model organism. "The experience was educational and meaningful for me in that it allowed me to observe and participate in new, innovative science research. As a high school biology teacher, it is easy to get focused on the basic concepts that students need to learn and it is sometimes hard to connect these concepts to the students’ lives and to current science research. This experience brought me to the cutting-edge of neuroscience and genetics and helped me get a better sense of the direction of the field. In that way, I am not only more knowledgeable myself, but better able to give my students a sense of the field and the roles they could potentially play if they continue to pursue science. " 

  • In 2010, Sarah Follenweider from Lexington High School worked in the laboratory of Professor Dennis Kim under the guidance of Dr. Kirk Youngman. Her research project was on "Pathogenic Bacterial Accumulation in wild type and mutant C. elegans." She looked at the accumulation of pathogenic bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa) inside the intestine of C. elegans over the course of an infection. To do this she infected (by feeding) wild type and mutant C. elegans with GFP expressing P. aeruginosa and then observed bacterial accumulation in the worm over time by fluorescence microscopy. She infected the worms at a variety of time points as well as worms aged at three different temperatures to collect data on the effects of age and heat stress on pathogenic bacterial accumulation.
  • Christopher Ashley from Needham High School worked in the laboratory of Professor Hazel Sive at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Reserach, under the guidance of Dr. Jennifer Gutzman.
  • Adriana Costache from Fenway High School worked in the laboratory of Professor Tanja Bosak in the dept. of Earth, Atmospheric  and Planetary Science.  The title of her summer research project was "Morphological Fossil Record of Life in the Late Cryogenian Era". The purpose of the project was to analyze the fossil record preserved in carbonate rocks from the Tsagaan Oolom Formation in Mongolia. These well-preserved rocks were deposited between the two largest glaciations, at 716 and at 635 million years ago. The calcium carbonate matrix was dissolved using dilute acid, and the resulting microfossils were characterized by light microscopy, Raman spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy.


  • In 2009, Sarah Follenweider from the English High school worked in the laboratory of HHMI Investigator Dianne Newman under the guidance of Dr. Lars Dietrich.   She studied various mutants of the bacterium Pseudomonas Fluorescens, an opportunistic pathogen that infects the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. Based on her summer internship Sarah developed a lesson plan for a webquest on cystic fibrosis as well as a hands-on microbiology laboratory protocol for students in grades 7-12 entitled: "Potato Biology"
  • Lisa Curtin of Somerville High school worked in the laboratory of Dr. Andreas Hochwagen, at the Whitehead Institute (now at NYU) on a genetic project involving baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. "I enjoyed working in the Hochwagen this summer immensely. It was an excellent learning environment." Lisa Curtin produced a lesson plan based on her summer internship entitled: "Meiosis and Crossover: Exploring the Process with Yeast".  Lisa Curtin is now a co-author on a letter published in Nature in 2011 that includes some of the work she performed in 2009. The title of the paper is: "Protection of repetitive DNA borders from self-induced meiotic instability"


  • In 2008, Lisa Curtin biology teacher at Somerville High school worked in the laboratory of HHMI investigator and Naubel Laureate Susumu Tonegawa. The Tonegawa lab aims to understand special and temporal memory acquisition, Fragile X Syndrome, and Alzheimer's disease. "My main project for the summer was to design a trace-conditioning behavioral protocol for a project on Fragile X Syndrome. Trace fear conditioning is a method for discerning between wild type mice and mice with an attention-based memory deficit, such as Fragile X Mental Retardation.  The aim of my project was to modify the trace conditioning protocol so the results would robustly distinguish differences in memory acquisition between the two groups of mice. This experience was extremely positive and rewarding. I enjoyed working in a lab setting with scientists that were eager to show and teach me about their projects. I had the opportunity to observe numerous techniques including a cellular electrophysiology microscopy that is rarely performed, memory acquisition recordings, and western blot techniques. The members of the Tonegawa lab were accommodating and patient teachers. I have used the knowledge I obtained on memory acquisition to build a lesson plan that allows students to explore the brain, understand how learning occurs, and how to apply that to improving learning in school. "
  • Julie Snyder of Hudson High School and Linda McIntosh of the Dana Hall school worked on curriculum development and produced a hands-on activity with bacteriophages entitled "Freshwater Bacteriophages in my pond?"

  • Amanda Hartman of Somerville High School was the 2007 intern. She had this to say about her experience: "I was privileged to receive the HHMI Summer Teacher Internship for this summer. For the past 6 weeks, I have been working in Dr. Littleton's fly lab at the Picower Institute. It has been an excellent and invaluable experience. I have been working closely with one of his graduate students, Sarah Huntwork, as she uses fruit flies to investigate the structure of a protein involved in synaptic vesicle fusion (in other words, how this protein exactly helped out with getting messages from one brain cell to another). I feel very fortunate to have had this glimpse of a scientist's daily life: a lot of brainpower and collaboration going into the projects, followed by days of 'grunt work', with occasional checking in and problem-solving along the way, and eventually, hopefully, some positive results."

To apply:

Interested teachers should fill out the application form and mail with an updated CV and cover letter to Dr. Mandana Sassanfar (see form for address). The cover letter should describe briefly how the summer internship will benefit the teacher and his/her students, and concrete plans to bring some of the knowledge acquired during the summer internship back to the classroom.