Airways Biology Initiative Summer Internship Experience

Summer of 2014

Yuxin OuyangWorking at the ABI is a truly immersive experience. From innovative experiments to dynamic wing bowl showdowns, it has been a fascinating journey every step of the way.

I joined as a rising junior studying at Drexel University. During my tenancy, I was fortunate enough to work alongside a number of exceptionally intelligent individuals. Under their guidance, I became well acquainted with several laboratory techniques, of which includes extracting DNA, mice work, culturing cells, and western blots.

One of the first things that drew me to this lab was its approachable environment. The close-knit staff is populated with professionals who are very good at what they do. They also happen to be quite friendly. From making career decisions to bantering about Breaking Bad, I’ve found their counsel to be invaluable. As the months rolled by, they have become good friends, colleagues, and mentors who’ve helped me evolve as a scientist.

While I’ve worked in research labs before, ABI is unique in the high level of involvement it affords its students. Each student is given the opportunity to take on the responsibilities of a research specialist and is encouraged to actively participate in high impact experiments. Once comfortable with the necessary techniques, students are even given their own projects to research. Perhaps most rewarding are the weekly meetings during which students and staff discuss and receive feedback on their findings. These not only helped me to better understand the projects I was working on, but also to learn about other colleague’s research as well.

As a Biology major with aspirations of one day practicing medicine, my experience at ABI has been a terrific practical supplement to my course studies. ABI has proven to be a pioneer on the world stage of pulmonary research, and I highly recommend it to all students interested in building a strong research background.


Alexa CarboniMy time spent at Airways Biology Initiative (ABI) has been such a rewarding experience. I have learned so much about laboratory work and techniques that goes beyond a classroom practice. Prior to working at ABI, I had had little to no experience working in a laboratory besides the lab components of a few classes. The wonderful managers and supervisors were more than willing to give further detail and explanation on not only what we research, but also how we research. Through the weekly laboratory meetings, I have had the privilege to listen and participate in thorough conversations about all the research conducted. This opportunity also allowed me to present my work to the rest of the lab to receive feedback and future experiments to try.

Of all the different techniques practiced, I enjoyed handling the human lung tissue. I learned how to inflate the lungs with low melting agarose, core sections of the lung containing airways, and slice the cores using Krumdieck tissue slicer to turn them into Precision Cut Lung Slices (PCLS). Then, we used the PCLS to test all sorts of β2 adrenergic receptor agonists and steroids such as Carbachol, Budesonide, and Formoterol. I also had the opportunity to work with mouse lungs provided by collaborators to study the effects of other pretreatments correlating to human diseases. I was able to learn other basic laboratory techniques such as cell culturing, BCA assays, Western Blotting, and DNA extractions. It was beneficial that every day was different from the next because each day entailed pure learning. This experience was all around the best opportunity I could have asked for.


Stephen ZachariahI had the pleasure of working at ABI for my 2014 spring/summer co-op under the tutelage of Dr. Gaoyuan Cao. During my time here, I performed many different treatments on both normal and asthmatic cell lines followed by western blots on the corresponding lysates. Specifically, my experiments centered upon the role of PI3 kinase in regulating asthmatic airway smooth muscle (ASM) hyperresponsiveness and the short-term effects of interleukin (IL-13 and IL-17A) treatment on ASM cells. Whenever the lab received a human lung from a donor, I also aided in harvesting and storing the tissue and vessels.

My experience at the Airways Biology Initiative was insightful, challenging, and enjoyable. I benefited from the positive work environment, my coworkers, and the responsibilities that I had been given. When I presented my results in lab meetings, I did so alongside many of the senior staff members, very much treated as their equals. No less was expected of me than would be of the senior staff. I was also given a degree of independence to decide for myself which projects to pursue and what experiments to perform. My coworkers were individuals from whom I was constantly learning: medical doctors, PhD candidates, and medical students. As an aspiring medical student, I gained tremendous insight from the medical students regarding their premedical experiences as well as what I should expect in medical school and the changing face of medicine as a career. I also had the opportunity to attend various pulmonary research and clinical seminars. This really has given me a perspective of how the contents of biology textbooks are discovered. My work with the postmortem lungs that the lab received allowed me to observe firsthand the union of physiology and medicine. The time I spent here has further reinforced both my passion for biology and my desire to be involved with its translation to patient care.


Jackie ScalaI returned to work at Airwas Biology Initiative (ABI) during the summer before my second year of medical school. I had previously worked as both a summer student and full time employee after I graduated from college. It was a great experience to be back in Dr. Panettieri’s laboratory and to work alongside Dr. Koziol-White again. I quickly fell back into the swing of things and began working with human lung tissue. I dissected human lung tissue to create the 350µM thick precision cut lung slices (PCLS) I used for PCLS experiments. In the PCLS experiments, I examined the bronchoconstriction or bronchodilation of airways in response to certain drugs and compounds to look for new biomarkers and therapeutic targets for severe asthma. Additionally, I ran ELISA assays of the PCLS supernatants to investigate chemokine and cytokine secretion. Dr. Panettieri’s laboratory definitely promotes student learning and I was able to learn new techniques this summer, such as a cAMP assay with hPCLS, in order to expand my skill set.

I have always enjoyed my work at ABI, particularly the translational aspect of this research. It is awesome that the work that is completed at the bench is directly related to the clinic. I would definitely recommend this summer research experience for any medical student, graduate student, or undergraduate student that is looking for research experience.  This is a fantastic opportunity to gain hands-on experience under the guidance of so many intelligent and talented MDs and PhDs. 


Hilary YankeyMy time in the ABI lab has been by far the most rewarding experience I have had. Prior to working at ABI, I had very little experience working in any research lab but it didn’t matter, I still was given this opportunity to work in this prestigious laboratory.

For someone interested in medicine, clinical research was something I was looking for before I committed to the profession of medicine and this lab afforded me great avenues to bolster my interest in medicine. I have learned a lot in my time here and it will only serve me better in the future.

During the internship, I worked under the tutelage of Dr. Vera Krymskaya and more directly with Alla Volgina. They encouraged me during my time here when I was overwhelmed with unfamiliar techniques in the lab. I worked mostly performing western blots, protein assays, cell counting and some data analysis during the internship. As I became more comfortable with the techniques in the lab, I was afforded the opportunity to investigate the expressions of vascular endothelial growth factor D (VEGF-D) and urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) in relation to lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM). My experience here has given me insight into what I had learned in my cell biology classes and in a way bridged the gap between theory and practice. The weekly lab seminars, where people presented on their various researches, has given me firsthand knowledge to the dedication and effort people are putting into helping find cures for diseases.

My experience in ABI was enlightening, rewarding and gave me ample opportunity to better myself and also give back what I had learned.


Rikki LevitusI have been privileged with the opportunity to work in the Airways Biology Initiative (ABI) during this summer, and I could not imagine a better place to have spent my time off from school. As a rising junior in high school, I entered the lab on my first day with almost no lab experience except for what was provided by my high school science classes, and I am leaving capable of doing high level experiments independently. Some of these procedures include: cell culture, Real Time PCR, Western Blots, ROS Assays, LDH Assays, ELISAs, and using the Vitrocell smoke machine, Nano-Drop spectrophotometer, and the sterile tissue hoods. All of these experiments can be used to learn important things about cells, particularly Airway Smooth Muscle Cells (ASM cells), and how they respond to the treatments we give them. The practice I gained in the lab was more than I could have ever expected to have available at my age. Being able to participate in Dr. Panettieri’s lab meetings and giving my input on the various research projects that the lab was running was truly beyond any scientific discussion I could have ever hoped to have been a part of at my age. Also, I had the chance to work in an environment with so many helpful and fun people. The staff at the Airways Biology Initiative was always happy to help me when I needed it and always allowed me to observe what they were doing and teach me about it. The other summer interns gave me a lot of insight and advice concerning college and medical school, particularly the application processes. It was so beneficial for me to get to work with this diverse group of people and I could not have gained the experience or skill I did without their mentoring. Overall, my summer at the Airways Biology Initiative gave me an unheard of advantage for someone of my age and preliminary skill level.

I was given the chance to spend a summer as an intern doing the job I hope to make my career. It was surreal to be living in my own future, as I entered this experience determined to enter the cancer research field and leave it reassured in my decision. It’s rare to know what you want to dedicate your life to doing before it is time to choose, and even rarer to have the chance to experience that career in a realistic, day-to-day fashion. I cannot thank the staff of the ABI enough for allowing me to be a part of that rarity, and will not forget my summer here in the lab.


Kevin MacDonaldI worked at ABI two years ago as a Drexel co-op student and have tried to keep in touch over the years. Attending events like the annual ABI picnic and the business person special Phillies game made this relatively easy for me. I was happy to come back and help with some data analysis this summer following the completion of my first year of medical school. This summer experience has definitely been a bit different, but the relationships have remained the same. I never feel uncomfortable asking or answering questions and actually feel much more involved now that I know a lot more about disease and medicine than I did in previous years. As usual, they wasted no time putting me back to work running ELISAs on day one and continuing the remainder of my summer grouping about a year and half’s worth of data together for statistical analysis. I am definitely looking forward to my future career in clinical medicine, but it’s also been nice to play a part in the process of discovery that leads to the continuously growing number of treatment options available for various illnesses.


Kim NguyenAs a medical student, I found this summer research experience to be a tremendous opportunity to see the link between research and health care. I was responsible for the project that explored the effect of vitamin D on the secretion of certain cytokines and the possible use of nanoparticles to therapeutically deliver vitamin D to asthma patients. For this project, I cultured and treated cells with various conditions and performed ELISAs.

I also worked on another project that looked into the relationship of obesity and asthma by comparing the calcium release of human airway smooth muscles by donors with healthy BMIs and donors with BMIs that are considered obese. This afford me the opportunity to learn a new lab technique, Fluo-8 calcium assay, which was very exciting.

While conducting research in Dr. Panettieri’s lab, I met individuals from various backgrounds who had a plethora of help and advice to give. Fellow lab members have become mentors and friends. The lab environment is welcoming and encouraging, which allowed me to have fun while learning a lot. My time in the lab has been truly enriching and will definitely have an influence on my future career.


Ryan RueI started working at ABI in Dr. Vera Krymskaya’s lab, it was my second co-op experience, and has been extremely beneficial. I learned a great deal of new techniques and experiments in my time at ABI. My work was quite varied, and that is part of what made the job so beneficial. In one week I would work with mice, perform Western Blot analysis and immunohistochemistry, and those were just three of the most common tasks. The range and depth of the work was very satisfying and nothing was repetitive or boring. Not only was I able to develop many unique and different techniques at the bench, but I received great feedback and help in my presentation skills and even had the opportunity to teach some of the techniques I learned while working at the ABI.

On top of all the great benefits I already mentioned, I was lucky enough to work with highly skilled scientists from different backgrounds. I was able to learn a great deal from many people, and was treated as a more than a student. My time with the lab was relatively short, but it was a great learning experience and will help me greatly in the future.


Sofia GomezOver the past six weeks as a summer intern at the Airways Biology Initiative, working in Dr. Panettieri's lab, I have had the opportunity to learn much about both the research process and specific studies being performed in the lab. Shadowing researchers in the lab and learning important techniques, such as cell culturing and ELISAs (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays), have been central to my summer experience, allowing me to learn about the types of questions researchers ask and what methods are used to answer them. Attending weekly lab meetings has introduced me to the process of analyzing and presenting data in the most effective ways. Apart from this, I have spent much of the summer reading and asking questions about the papers published by Dr. Panettieri and his colleagues, which has helped improve my scientific writing and reading skills. My experiences this summer have been my first in a scientific laboratory, and have thus given me an extremely valuable introduction to biological research.


Tony XiaWith only a short summer to spend at ABI, I hit the ground running with a project of my own working in Dr. Horace DeLisser’s lab. I was fortunate enough work closely under the mentorship of Dr. Valsa Abraham, carrying out novel studies researching tumor cell proliferation. As a medical student with previous research experience, I was given the autonomy to design and execute experiments independently. UPenn also provides an overwhelming amount of resources to draw from – I trained in and was allowed access to use state-of-the-art flow cytometry facilities, and was able to attend conferences and lectures from distinguished speakers.

Being at ABI has been an incredibly rewarding experience. The people are diverse, in both background and experience, and the environment here is collaborative. Though my lab group is small, we work side by side with researchers from the high school level all the way up to the doctorate level. It has been great to learn about the various career paths that people have pursued, and to share my own experiences to open ears. Working at ABI has been a challenging and fulfilling experience that I would recommend for any student seeking to learn more about research, science, and medicine.


Sarah OrfanosAs a medical student from the University of Marseille France; I was given the opportunity to study over the summer of 2014 in Dr. Panettieri’s lab. It was my first experience in basic research, despite my lack of experience after 2 weeks of intensive training in the different lab skills required for the project (ELISA, human airway smooth muscle cells culture, treatment of cells, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction…), I was independent.

I was given a project on Vitamin D nanoparticles, with some guidance and the reassurance that I could ask questions anytime I was able to work on the project with another med student. The fact that we were able to work on the project independently was an incredible opportunity and developed our scientific thinking. We looked up the literature that inspired our next course of action; of course we could seek advice from knowledgeable MD and PhD surrounding us. The lab meeting every week was an opportunity to share our results and doubts and obtain invaluable guidance, as well as keep in touch with the many projects going on in the lab. II became quite passionate about the subject of Vitamin D in asthma and evolving in a result driven environment within an enthusiastic team was stimulating. Everyone on the team was always willing to help, and a good team spirit was present.

This experience in the ABI lab has introduced me to basic research; the training was the best I could wish for in a limited 3 month time. This experience has also confirmed my wish to go into academic pulmonology and ally clinical medicine with research.


Martin JohnsonEven though they tried to get rid of me, I still kept coming back to Dr. Reynold Panettieri’s laboratory at the Airways Biology Initiative (ABI). I first came to ABI during my sophomore year of undergrad, and I returned in my senior year. Coming back was very easy to pick up the technical and research skills as well as returning to the friendly ABI community. This summer, I worked with Post-Doctoral Fellow, Cynthia Kiozol-White. One of her many projects focuses to elucidate the effect of the Rhinovirus or one of the causative agents of the common cold on Airway Hyper-Responsiveness (AHR). A model we use to study the project is a co-culture of Airway Epithelial cells and Airway Smooth muscle cells known as Air Liquid Interface (ALI). Through this model we were able to study rhinovirus induced AHR through fluorescent microscopy, qtRT-PCR, ELISAs, Western blots, and other cellular or molecular assays.

Once again my time at ABI was a tremendous experience for me. It wasn’t just the introduced cellular and molecular techniques that was valuable, but more importantly it was the opportunity to think like a research scientist.  ABI is a great place to do research! As an undergraduate student, doing research at a large and prestigious academic laboratory can be quite daunting. However, ABI has many senior scientists that are immensely helpful to students. ABI also has its students actively involved in the reasoning of the research. Actually, my time here had really persuaded me to pursue a career as a physician scientist, and right now I am applying to MD/PhD programs!


Eleni PapanikolaouMy experience at the Airways Biology Initiative (ABI) has been truly invaluable. I was very fortunate to be a part of exciting and innovating research in the field of asthma. I expanded my lab techniques and learned so much working in Dr. Panettieri’s lab. I worked with experienced and intellectual researchers of a wide diversity who were all very friendly and helpful with areas that I was unfamiliar with. I especially enjoyed our weekly lab meetings, where my coworkers and I would present our work, receive feedback and evaluation, but most importantly receive guidance on how to proceed next. I primarily ran calcium assays to measure intracellular calcium in airway smooth muscle and also performed western blots to study pathways that lead to contraction in human airway smooth muscle. I even had the opportunity to work with human lung tissue, making slices, harvesting tissue, and learning how each part of the lung can be isolated and used in the laboratory. I was also involved with cell line maintenance and preparation of samples for collaborators. Aside from the scientific aspect of the lab, the ABI hosts fun social events that bring everyone together and make for a very welcoming atmosphere. Altogether, I really enjoyed the challenge of working at the ABI and its pleasant environment. My experience at ABI was very rewarding and truly unique.


Brendan McewenIn the summer of 2014 I was fortunate enough to secure a position in the ABI program working under Dr. Vera Krymskaya. As my first formal research experience, it was extremely informative both in performing techniques in practice and developing a feel for how a lab truly operates. I was surrounded on a daily basis by both established professionals in the pulmonary field and highly driven students at the high school, undergrad, and medical level. My time was split between the animal facility and the bench. In the animal facility, I worked hands-on with the mice in tasks ranging from basic husbandry to anatomical procedures. In the lab, I performed various bench procedures such as DNA isolation, PCR, Electrophoresis, and Western Blot Analysis.

During my time here I was treated by my coworkers and managers as a peer, not a subordinate. The lab environment was extremely friendly and conducive to gaining knowledge through asking questions and being tasked with independent projects.  The diverse body of work being performed in the lab opened my eyes to the different avenues of work I can pursue later in my career, and will surely assist me in any future scientific endeavors I undertake.


Sabrina PogrebivskyGoing into my second year working at ABI, I looked forward to getting lots of experience in the lab working under Dr. Elena Atochina-Vasserman, in the lab of Dr. Vera Krymskaya.  Working with Drexel co-ops and undergraduates in the ABI summer program, I not only had the opportunity to work on my own project but also to watch and learn while the other students did their projects.  I started out learning how to perform a BCA Protein Assay, using computer skills attained from my time at ABI last year to analyze the data I collected.  Once I got enough practice pipetting by doing the protein assays, I moved on to Western Blots.  These tests are much more complicated but after observing the other ABI students a few times I was able to do a full Western Blot by myself.  I also attended scientific lectures, learning about the harmful effects of various forms of air pollution on people as well as the research of many professionals at Penn.

All in all, I have really enjoyed my summer at ABI and I have learned so much in the lab.  I am hoping to use my new knowledge in the years ahead doing research in college, and ABI has prepared me well.  Every day at the lab was a new experience and everyone was so welcoming and willing to teach me.  Sabrina was accepted to Duke University.


Kelci HolmanI began working at the Airway Biology Initiative as a part of Drexel’s co-op program. Throughout my co-op, I have learned many new skills, as well as strengthened some familiar laboratory techniques. Currently, I am working under the guidance of Dr. Vera Krymskaya, whose research is dedicated to the study of a rare respiratory disease called Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM). My work includes growing and splitting different cell types, preparing cell lysates, and analyzing expression of various proteins through the use of Western Blots. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to shadow other members of the Krymskaya lab as they carry out experiments on mice, such as lung inflation and extraction.


One of the best aspects about this lab is that it is a very friendly and welcoming environment. Whenever IMegan Levis have a question about a procedure or how something works, I know that someone will always be willing to explain it to me. Overall, being a part of ABI has been an extremely valuable and enjoyable experience.

Having completed an internship in ABI, I can say it is the perfect place for up and coming scientists, researchers, and doctors alike. I chose ABI because of the exposure it would afford me to different types of learning at various education levels. The ABI labs are full of the erudite; PhDs, MDs, graduate students, any and all combinations.

Through my time here I have had the honor of working at the forefront of the pulmonology in the asthma field. My time here has been nothing short of an engaged academic experience. Through my studies of biomedical research I have gained a wealth of knowledge which I have been able to apply to my time here at ABI. I am grateful for the opportunity to gain context for my book studies.

This opportunity has guided my interests though exposure and enabled me to determine my future in research. Working at ABI has given salient context for my future in research.


Summer of 2013

Kevin TruskowskiI began working at ABI in the spring of 2013 as my first and only Drexel co-op. As someone who is interested in graduate school and in doing research as a career, I think my decision to work at ABI was the best decision I could have made. Here, I was treated like part of the lab, not just as a set of hands. I was encouraged to think like a scientist and was able to discuss my own ideas for experiments relating to what interested me. I think this is something very unique in a co-op. I was allowed to have my own ideas and those ideas were actually taken seriously. By about half way through my time here I was given my own project to look into. It was something our lab had not looked into yet, so I was able to really dive into the literature and learn what I needed to learn to design my own experiments, something I had never had the opportunity to do before. I think this is something quite unique; most labs will lay out experiments for an undergrad to carry out, but here (with some help of course) I was really encouraged to do my own thing.

In the lab I got the chance to work with incredibly intelligent, experienced scientists, both M.D.s and P.h.Ds, from many different backgrounds. They are all experts at what they do and I was fortunate to learn different assays and techniques from them that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else. I was able to see all of the different ways they think and go about trying to answer questions which definitely helped me to grow as a scientist. Despite their experience and intelligence, they were all super friendly and were always willing to discuss any questions I had. The experience and knowledge I’ve been able to gain here has far exceeded my expectations.


John GowI entered into the Airways Biology Initiative’s summer research program upon the conclusion of my junior year of high school. I was looking for a way to fortify what I had learned in my AP Chemistry course and increase my knowledge in the realm of respiratory illness, a topic I might be interested in pursuing as a career. During the start of my work in the lab I came to realize what I was doing was very different from the rudiments of the classroom; instead of learning in theory I was discovering with hands on research, under the guidance of knowledgeable scientists. Throughout the summer I was under the supervision of Dr. Atochina-Vasserman, in the Krymskaya lab, and researched a rare respiratory illness called Lymphangioleiomyomatosis by performing SP-A and SP-D western blots, turning frozen lung into homogenate, counting cells, and preforming BCA protein and ELISA assays. My first research experience in a scientific laboratory has taught me a plethora of techniques that I would never have experienced in my high school and all from a friendly knowledgeable group of scientists. Going to the laboratory has shown me the way that science is done in the real world with constant trial and error and frequent repetition of experiments to strengthen conclusions about never before answered questions.

What makes ABI unique is the open atmosphere in which they operate. The scientist are always willing to assist and mentor, but are also willing to step back and let you run your own experiments. Overall ABI is the best thing that I could have done this summer, because it gave me distinctive and valuable experience in the researching field and all in a great atmosphere. I would recommend anyone who is looking to learn about research in the scientific community to take advantage of the remarkable opportunity at ABI.

John’s hard work during the summer was recognized nationally, as he was selected as, one of one hundred regional finalists to compete in the 2013 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.


Aakanksh JaikumarIn the summer before my senior year of high school, I was fortunate enough to participate in the Airways Biology Initiative’s Summer Research Program. This was my first experience working in a scientific laboratory. This amazing opportunity allowed me to learn a multitude of general yet necessary lab techniques from a very friendly, supportive and knowledgeable group of mentors. Unlike learning in a classroom, I was able to get hands-on experience by performing several procedures such as RNA extraction, ozone exposure, feeding and stock media preparation, western blotting, BCA protein assay, cell-counting and data analysis with Microsoft Excel. In addition, I was able to observe many other advanced techniques and procedures performed throughout the lab. This program is a great introduction to translational research for students interested in a career in science.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the program at ABI. The opportunity to work with such a great team of professionals while gaining a remarkable amount of knowledge and experience was definitely positive and worthwhile. Aakanksh was accepted to Temple University.


Guovanna ShoukriI entered ABI as part of the Drexel University cooperative education program under the guidance of Dr. Vera Krymskaya. During the start of my internship in the laboratory I was quite overwhelmed despite my previous experience with research. I learned that clinical research can be very different from academic research and that a good work ethic and dedication are two of the most important driving forces needed to achieve success. Within my first two weeks as a member of the laboratory, I was asked to study the project that I would be dedicated to for the summer and learned all of the techniques that would help me to do so. Much of my work included cell line maintenance and harvesting, as well as, measuring protein levels and expression through the use of Western blotting and ELISA. Additionally, I had the opportunity to participate in animal work with our mouse models. Through this experience I took part in experiments involving tail vein injections of the mice with tumorigenic cells, drug treatments and clinical trials, as well as, DNA extraction and genotyping of the mice. My work in the laboratory varied, but one thing remained consistent: there was always an opportunity to learn.

If there is one thing that I was able to take away from this experience is that with the ambition to learn and advance in the fields of science and research, many opportunities are possible. And with the mentorship and guidance I received I was afforded a unique and valuable experience.


Michael PhanMy second summer at ABI was even more enjoyable than the first. A lot of the same people were still there which made coming back much easier. The best change I’ve noticed between my first and second time is how well they are interfacing with the summer students. This was great, because now they get each individual students up to speed at a much faster and more efficient manner and as a result they now have them doing research in no time. The time between orientation and beginning of actual learning and performing experiments was almost nonexistent.

Here at ABI they were very good with allowing me to explore techniques that fascinated me. You can approach any of the investigators about your interests and they will help guide you in the right direction and show you how to set up experiments utilizing the techniques that interested you. But the best part of ABI is how relevant the research that you perform is. I have had the opportunity to work on studies that have been applicable to the lab’s publications and grants.


Sabrina PogrebivskyThe summer after my sophomore year in high school I worked as an intern for the Airways Biology Initiative (ABI) at University of Pennsylvania. Under the supervision of Dr. Elena Atochina-Vasserman, from the Dr. Vera Krymskaya lab, I have learned a lot these past few months. Every day at ABI was a new experience. I focused on a rare genetic lung cancer called Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), which mainly affects young women by destroying their lung tissue. Two months ago I was not aware this disease existed, but today I know a lot about it. Dr. Atochina-Vasserman’s research involved tests of two different drugs on mice with LAM and whether or not they slow down the progression of lesion growth. I was responsible for calculating data collected in the lab using Excel, GraphPad Prism, and PowerPoint. I learned how to analyze the scientific results of a BCA Protein Assay, qRT PCR and ELISA, and statistical differences between the treatment groups and made graphs to be presented at lab meetings. I created a summary table for the entire experiment of 80 mice, which demonstrated the magnitude of all the data collected during the past 2 months. I learned how to do a search of scientific articles on the Internet and attended scientific lectures. Additionally I got a tour of the entire campus and visited other labs, including the Institute for Environmental Medicine with the historical hyperbaric chambers and laboratories in UPENN’s new Smilow Research Center. I had the opportunity to meet and speak to a lot of interesting scientific professionals who were happy to answer my questions and share their knowledge about research.

Now that the ABI summer research program is almost over, I have experience in biomedical engineering, which I have always been thinking of as my future career. I loved coming into the lab every day and being around very smart people who were all dedicated their time to find the cure for diseases. My experiences at ABI have taught me not only about biology, but also about having a career that can help others. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in gaining experience in the lab and pursuing a career in biology or medicine.


Andrew ParambathBefore going into college, I had the opportunity to be an intern at ABI, Airway Biology Initiative, at the University of Pennsylvania. I was really fortunate because in high school you have limited exposure to the lab. However, at ABI you are able to learn and practice lab techniques that you would never have the opportunity to in high school. One of the most remarkable experiences I had at ABI was observing Dr. Koziol-White work with an actual human lung. In addition to observing, I had the opportunity to perform several different experiments such as exposing cell lines and lung samples to ozone, analyzing calcium data, and preparing media. Furthermore, as an intern, I was given the independence and responsibility to do things on my own, however, there was always someone with the knowledge and experience I could turn to if I needed help. On top of that, the staff at ABI was very friendly and approachable with any question or concern that I had.

As a result of my experience at ABI, I have learned and implemented various lab techniques, gained valuable connections with the staff and students of ABI, and strengthened my decision to pursue a career in the field of medicine. I would recommend this program to any student interested in medicine or biomedical research. If a student is looking for a rewarding and enlightening experience during the summer then ABI is the place to be! Andrew was acceted to the University of Pennsylvania.


Monica SoniThis past summer, I had the opportunity to intern at the Airways Biology Initiative as a summer researcher. This was my first experience conducting bench research, so my main goals for the summer were to learn several basic laboratory techniques and to gain a hands-on experience in order to gauge my interest in further pursuing bench research. And, after this internship, I can truly say that I have met these goals and more!

I had the privilege of being part of the Haczku lab and had some wonderful mentors who patiently taught me how to perform BCA protein assays, western blots, differential cells counts, cytospins, and cell cultures, as well as how to use a pipette properly. I have also learned how to use Excel effectively for analyzing and presenting data, which was necessary for weekly lab meetings. Additionally, I attended a hands-on mouse training class and, thus, was able to assist with experiments involving live mice, such as lung function tests and genotyping.

In addition to my lab experience, I participated in the Penn Undergraduate Environmental Health Scholars Program (STEER), which exposed me to many public and environmental health issues in Philadelphia through lectures and field trips. This was also a very valuable experience and culminated in a final summer research presentation. Overall, I had a wonderful research experience at the ABI and I am very thankful to all in the Haczku lab for their support and mentorship.


Stephane GuillouAs a student from Drexel University, the Airways Biology Initiative (ABI) really stood out to me due to having friends whom had positive experiences at the laboratory and its close proximity to campus. Also, my previous co-ops were more geared towards engineering, so I knew ABI would provide me with a new and completely different experience, and it would be able to teach me important biological skills and techniques needed for working in a laboratory setting as biomedical engineer.

At ABI, I performed many experiments under Dr. Banerjee’s tutelage to ascertain the effects of Vitamin D and Trichostatin A on human airway smooth muscle cells. To do this, I was taught how to carry out ELISA experiments to determine chemokine and cytokine expression levels in human airway smooth muscle cells after they were stimulated with Tumor Necrosis Factor and/or Interferon; this began with the proper aliquoting of laboratory solutions and ended with operating the ELISA plate reader and analyzing the resulting data. Throughout the ELISA process, I was able to hone my skills in pipetting and work at decreasing cross-contamination when moving from project to project. Not only did Dr. Banerjee help me with my technique and provide me with academic guidance, but I also learned a lot from my other colleagues in the laboratory. I learned how to perform Western Blots and I used this assay to determine protein expression levels. I was also introduced to cell culture and the procedure for maintaining the cell lines used in the laboratory. In addition to these techniques, I was able to aid in the prepping of human fatal asthmatic and normal lung tissue, and I was taught how to perform precision cut lung slice experiments, which I used to generate preliminary in vivo data for several projects.

Overall, my experience at ABI was very enlightening. Having never worked in a laboratory before, I enjoyed the family-like atmosphere between my colleagues and myself. ABI also helped me augment my presentation skills by having weekly lab meetings where I was responsible for presenting the data that I generated. At lab meeting, there were knowledgeable experts who were able to critique, question, and examine what I had done and provide me with helpful comments to point me in the right direction and the next step that I needed to take. With the experience and knowledge that I have gained, I can say ABI has had a positive impact on me and provided me with the proper tools for my future endeavors. I would recommend ABI to anyone, beginner or expert, looking to gain meaningful laboratory research experience.


Mi Thant Mon SoeMy co-op at the Airways Biology initiative (ABI) has been a great and invaluable experience. I was able to learn from a team of awesome researchers and be at the forefront of scientific innovation. One of the first things that I learned to do was performing Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) to determine the amount of cytokines and chemokines released by the precision cut lung slices (PCLS) under the tutelage of Dr. Zhao and Dr. Koziol-White. I would then present the results at the weekly lab meetings where my results were evaluated and pieced together with the results from other ongoing experiments done by other researchers. Before my time at ABI, I had very little experience with cell culture and biological pathways and signaling. Under Dr. Cao’s guidance, I was able to have a hands-on experience with cell line maintenance, Western blots, and immunofluroscence staining. He would explain why I was doing every step of the procedure and how the procedure could be modified to optimize the usage of my time and resources. I love challenges and when I spoke to our lab manager about learning more techniques, I was trained to maintain transgenic mice colonies for Dr. Goncharova. This involved cross breeding different strains of mice and genotyping the pups to test for homozygosity and heterozygosity of the target genes.

Since there were other interns and students in the lab, in between different steps in my experiments, I had the opportunity to learn from them about their projects and the experiments they were working on. To make this amazing experience complete, everyone in the lab was very helpful and we had amazing social events every now and then. It is truly a place of sharing not just of knowledge but of ideas and culture, too. I had a wonderful experience working at ABI and I strongly recommend it to any student looking for a wonderful learning experience.


Stephanie KubalaAs a Mayock Fellowship recipient for the summer of 2013, I had chosen to work in Dr. Angela Haczku’s laboratory in order to expand my passion for allergy/immunology research by investigating ozone’s effects on asthma. I am very glad I chose to work in this lab this summer because of all the techniques I learned and all the people I was able to meet. I was able to foster collaborations between laboratories and perform independent projects utilizing patient nasal polyps and air liquid interface co-cultures.

Also, as a participant in the STEER program, I was able to simultaneously learn about the public and environmental health side of pollution through lectures and field trips. It culminated in an end of the summer symposium where I was able to present my summer research. This summer has been a mixture of fun and hard work that has increased my interest in conducting research concerning allergies and asthma. I hope to also present my work at the 2014 AAAAI Annual Meeting.

Summer of 2012

Megam milavecI have had a great experience working in the Airways Biology Initiative’s research program this summer. I came to ABI with limited lab experience, and everyone was very patient and helpful. I have learned so much over the past few months, which I am extremely thankful for. I have learned many different techniques and other information that I believe will be useful to me in the future.

The ABI lab has a very relaxed atmosphere, so not only was I learning a ton, but I was also enjoying myself while doing it. The staff is friendly and approachable, and they are all experts at what they do. My mentors were very knowledgeable and I had a great time working with them and learning from them. It was also nice to get to know some of the other students working in the lab and hearing about their projects. ABI is really a unique place to work because there are so many different projects in different areas of research going on at the same time. Overall, my summer experience with ABI has been very positive and beneficial, and I’m so glad I was given this opportunity!


Edwin 1.JPGDuring the summer before my second year of medical school, I was very fortunate to do an internship through the Airways Biology Initiative’s Summer Research Program.ABI is a world class airway biology lab with human asthma models that are difficult to find in other airway biology labs.Under Dr. Panettieri's mentorship, I was given the opportunity to measure intracellular calcium in airway smooth muscle using calcium fluorimetry.Additionally, I was able to practice presenting data during weekly lab meetings. I also learned a great deal about cutting edge asthma research during these lab meetings.

As a result of the mentorship and encouragement of the researchers at ABI, I've really come to love research and hope to pursue it as part of my career. I've also become friends with the awesome students who work at ABI. I would encourage anyone interested in biomedical research/medicine to participate in this internship.You can be sure that you will obtain valuable research experience and mentorship that would be difficult to find elsewhere.

Gloria 1During the summer of 2012, I was fortunate to participate in the Airways Biology Initiative’s Summer Research Program. I had the opportunity to work with several professionals while learning many basic science techniques. Under Dr. Hong and Mrs. Li’s guidance, I learned about Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, a genetic disease of which I had never known of before this summer. The research I participated in was focused on understanding the TFE3 transcription factor and more specifically the over-expression of lysosomal genes that occurs due to the starvation of HEK293 cells. By contributing to the research, I was able to gain valuable hands on experience culturing cells, performing Western blots, RT-PCRs, as well as, learn many other laboratory techniques and procedures. I also was given the opportunity to analyze and interpret the data I generated from the experiments I performed.

As a Penn student, I feel that I am extremely lucky to be able to attend various science and laboratory courses taught by experts in their fields. With the ABI summer program, the research and experimentation that I was able to perform allowed me to put into practice, what I learned in the classroom and it provided me with invaluable hands-on experiences. All of the ABI researchers were more than willing to answer all of my seemingly never-ending questions and there seemed to be endless opportunities to learn something new, during my summer internship. Overall my summer spent at ABI was enlightening and most definitely, rewarding.


Christina 1.JPGWhen I arrived to the Airway Biologics Initiative (ABI) lab at the University of Pennsylvania I received such a warm welcome that I knew my experience here was going to be great. On the start of my first day, I was immediately working with human lung tissue, making slices, harvesting tissue, and learning how each part of the lung can used in the laboratory. As a Drexel University student enrolled in the co-op program we are told that some of the best learning is by actually doing. It was clear that I was going to be doing a lot of learning.

One of my main focuses here at ABI was cell line maintenance and preparations for many of our collaborators. I also investigated pathways involved in many asthmatic and inflammatory responses within airway smooth muscle cells. Some of the laboratory techniques that I used during my time at ABI were: Precision Cut Lung Slices (PCLS), immunohistochemistry staining, gel electrophoresis, tissue culture, RNA and DNA isolations.

My favorite aspect of working at ABI was the environment. Every last person that is a part of ABI has been endlessly helpful and have given me such guidance. I never felt hesitant to ask a question or to propose an idea. Whatever I had to say, it was accepted and explored which makes science so exciting. The ABI team is very committed in teaching young students how to make a career out of science. The team members have a variety of degrees and have taken various different roads in their careers, which was useful in asking questions to help guide me into my path. My experience at ABI helped me build strong laboratory technical skills and well as learning where I fit in the science field.


Caroline ZhongThis summer at the ABI was my first formal experience in a scientific laboratory, and I learned a lot of basic and advanced techniques including cell culture, assaying cellular samples, and harvesting lung tissue samples for the study of asthma and other lung diseases. For cell culture, I learned how to prepare feeding and stock media for the cells to grow or “starve” in, I learned to plate and passage cells, to treat and stimulate cells, and finally how to lyse the cells for further analysis.

I also learned a lot of general lab techniques that included performing ELISAs, Western Blotting (immuno-blotting), BCA protein assay, cell-staining and cyto-spin, cell-counting, and of course, how to perform the data analysis in Microsoft Excel, all of which I had the opportunity to present at the weekly lab meetings.

In regards to harvesting and processing samples, I had the opportunity to observe my mentor Dr. Cynthia Koziol-White inflate a human lung with low-melting point agarose, core sections of the lung containing airways, and slice the cores using Krumdieck tissue slicer to turn them into Precision Cut Lung Slices (PCLS). These lung slices were then treated with different drugs which would cause the airways to either contract or dilate in response to drugs like Carbachol, Isoproterenol, Formoterol, Salmeterol, Albuterol, Forskolin, Dexamethasone, Budesonide, and other beta adrenergic receptor agonists and steroids, which I was already familiar with thanks to the scientific papers also provided to me by my mentor. It wasn’t just about watching my mentor perform these techniques. I also had hands on opportunity to harvest and process mouse lung samples, I got to inflate the left lung through a catheter in the trachea, and perform a retro-orbital eye bleeds to collect blood samples for future analysis.

The summer flew by before I knew it, but it was full of learning and I made a lot of friends. I would definitely recommend the ABI’s summer program to anyone interested in getting some lab experience; its fun and rewarding and a really awesome way to spend the summer.


Kevin 3.JPGI began working at ABI in April 2012 for my third and final co-op as a Drexel student. I had previous lab experience and felt very comfortable working in a laboratory setting. Like any new job, however, my work at ABI was a little intimidating at first, but everyone was dedicated to helping and teaching each new employee, making the transition much smoother. We received a human lung on my first day and I began working immediately, coring and slicing airways in the lung tissue. The best part about my experience at ABI has been the fact that you gain your independence very quickly, but you are never alone. Whenever I needed help or clarification for an experiment, there was never a shortage of knowledge and experience within the lab to turn to.  I could always turn to Dr. Cao when running western blots, Dr. Koziol-White with any questions about PCLS experiments, Dr. Zhou for help with ELISAs, and of course my mentor, Dr. Banerjee, for learning new techniques, plating and stimulating cell lines, learning about his interest in vitamin D and HDAC inhibition, and guidance in my decision to follow a career in medicine. Dr. Panettieri is one of the most knowledgeable and respected doctors I have ever had the privilege of meeting, and he is never too busy to stop and explain, in detail, every receptor, cascade, and pathway involved in asthma symptoms and treatment.

Many people may think an internship is all work and no play, or vice versa, but at ABI I think there is a good mix of both. There’s no doubt that they expect a lot of work to get done, and done correctly, but events such as the ABI annual picnic and the business persons’ special at the Phillies game are a great escape from the busy work day. It was at these events that I really had the opportunity to get to know my co-workers and supervisors on a personal level. Overall, my time at ABI has been one of the most interesting, knowledge-building, and interactive research opportunity I have had the privilege of experiencing. Kevin was accepted to Thomas Jefferson University Medical College.


Summer of 2011

Jackie ScalaThis past summer I had the opportunity to work as an intern at Airways Biology Initiative’s Summer Research Program. ABI provided me with a valuable research experience that would be very difficult to find elsewhere. I was supervised by Dr. Koziol-White, who showed me what projects were going on in the lab and taught me many laboratory techniques. In addition to observing human lung and trachea dissections, I was able to perform ELISA assays, complete dose response curves with human lung slices, maintain human airway smooth muscle cell cultures, present data at weekly lab meetings, and be a part of an excellent research team. I now feel very confident in my ability to complete the laboratory techniques that I learned this summer because of the way that ABI trained me. First, I was shown a laboratory procedure. Then, I was observed while completing that same procedure. Finally after that, I was able to complete that procedure independently. By teaching in this manner, it was extremely valuable and I can say with confidence that I know exactly how to do an ELISA or how to maintain cells in culture. This approach to teaching the various laboratory protocols procedures was very beneficial and significantly helped me to increase my laboratory skills.

This summer research program also helped me decide what type of career I would like to pursue in the future. By asking PhDs and MDs at ABI about their graduate school or medical school experience, I gained helpful career advice. I would definitely recommend this internship for anyone who is interested in a career in science or medicine. Not all research programs for undergraduate students will offer the opportunity to work with human tissue and learn so many laboratory techniques. I learned a lot in just one summer at ABI and this program was definitely a worthwhile experience. Jackie was accepted to Drexel University Medical School.


Martin JohnsonI had the privilege of working for the University of Pennsylvania’s Airways Biology Initiative (ABI) as a laboratory research intern under the guidance of Dr. Cao & Dr. Panettieri. This was far from the normal monotonous undergraduate job of staring at a computer or accomplishing mindless clerical work. In my position, I was held to the same standards and expectations as the other hardworking ABI laboratory staff. Although it was a little overwhelming at first, the experience was well worth it since I learned a quite bit about medicine, medical occupations, laboratory techniques, and the professional work environment. As a result, I was constantly busy with complicated molecular biology experimental work and I was given the opportunity to learn and practice many cutting edge experimental techniques.

My specific responsibilities included assisting in the maintenance and propagation of ABI’s human airway smooth muscle cells. These cells are essential for the experiments and different collaborations of the ABI labs. In maintaining and propagating these cells, I was afforded the opportunity to learn many different techniques such as, dissecting human lung tissue, trypsinizing cells, freezing cells, stringent aseptic methods, and several different immunohistochemistry techniques which were necessary to characterize these cells. In addition, to those responsibilities I also had the opportunity to perform experiments under Dr. Cao’s supervision, to investigate the protein signaling pathways used by contractile agents to elicit contraction in human airway smooth muscle cells. It was extremely rewarding for me to independently (of course guidance was given often) design, perform, and present the results of these experiments. I found it to be very gratifying and exciting to be a part of the innovation and experimentation of such groundbreaking research. Dr. Cao’s research also required me to learn several other techniques such as western blotting, RNA isolation, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA).

Overall, this was an extremely positive experience for me and I strongly recommend any motivated and interested student to apply for this fantastic opportunity to work at the ABI labs. The experience to work with a strong professional team and great people, as well as, learn life lessons and have fun is well worth it!


Summer of 2010

Description: Michael Phan 2.jpgI spent my first co-op at the Airways Biology Initiative (ABI). I really enjoyed working there, as this was my first job-related work experience in a professional environment. Working at ABI was unlike any of the other typical internships/co-ops that I had heard about. There wasn't any filing papers or weeks spent at the computer endlessly surfing the web, counting the minutes until the end of the day. As a student at ABI, I was kept very busy and felt the pressure to perform and to be productive. Every individual there has a wealth of knowledge which can be somewhat intimidating, yet at the same time they were all extremely friendly and helpful, and they were always willing to answer any of my questions or help me whenever I needed it.

During my co-op at ABI much of my time was spent performing cell biology and molecular biology experiments. One of my main responsibilities was to maintain and culture cell lines developed in the lab. I had the opportunity to routinely isolate human airway smooth muscle cells, fibroblast and macrophages from human lung tissue. Another of my responsibilities included measuring mediators released through an Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays or ELISAs. In addition to these responsibilities I had the opportunity to learn or observe several other techniques and procedures performed in the laboratory. They included Precision Cut Lung Slices (PCLS), murine FlexiVent (mouse lung function testing), immunohistochemistry staining, and immunocytochemistry staining.

Overall my experience at ABI has been extremely positive and it has given me a strong sense of the demands required to work in a wet bench laboratory. I would strongly recommend the Airways Biology Initiative laboratory to any student who is interested in a career in science and who is looking to gain practical experience in translational research.