More than 100 summer interns, faculty, and staff converged on the Bio Labs courtyard on July 24 for the inaugural Harvard Integrated Life Sciences (HILS) summer barbecue.
The event brought together hungry student interns from a dozen different programs across four different Schools.
HILS integrates 12 life sciences graduate programs and subject areas across four Harvard faculties: the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Dental School, the Medical School, and the School of Public Health. By facilitating cross-disciplinary academic and research collaboration among student, faculty, and staff members, HILS works to make the resources of the whole University available to its graduate students. And through its summer internship programs, HILS extends this mission to gifted college and high school students from across the country.
“Our purpose is to get students in all of our internship programs together to try to help them in a personal way to understand the life of a grad student, and scientist,” said Margot Gill, administrative dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).
At the inaugural cookout, summer interns made their way into the Bio Labs courtyard to find tables piled high with a variety of ribs and chicken dishes from the local barbecue hot spot Redbones. And there was music and a beach volleyball court, as well.
John McNally, assistant dean of GSAS, opened the event with brief remarks and encouraged the students to “mix, mingle, build your networks, and have a good time.”
The students responded to the dean’s invitation enthusiastically, taking advantage of the abundant food, volleyball court, and opportunity to meet students from other programs.
At one table, Mark Cunningham, a rising senior at Morehouse College in Atlanta, enjoyed his summertime feast with fellow SHURP (Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program) interns.
As Cunningham was about to take a bite of some barbecue ribs, one of his fellow interns, Shaden Khalaf said, “We say [in Arabic] saha, it means to ‘good health.’ ”
Khalaf, from the Palestinian city of Ramallah, is a rising senior at Earlham College in Indiana. She said that the best part of her experience was “the people I met; everyone has been really outstanding.”
That cross-cultural exchange represents the type of interaction that the organizers of the barbecue and those who oversee the summer intern programs are hoping for.
“One of the goals of the HILS program is to promote cultural diversity,” said Jocelyn Spragg, lecturer on medicine and faculty director of Diversity Programs and Special Academic Resources at Harvard Medical School.
Another important goal of the HILS barbecue is to encourage students and faculty to interact and learn from one another.
Jeanette Muniz, a rising junior at Dartmouth College, is spending 10 weeks of her summer at Harvard Medical School assisting in research on lung cancer in Bruce Zetter’s lab as part of the SHURP program.
Muniz hopes that the experience she is gaining this summer at HMS will prepare her for the years following college as she plans to pursue a medical degree.
“Interacting with other students from across the country — grad and med students, postdocs, and professors — and learning what research is like and all the stumbling blocks, and what life is like for them makes me excited for the future,” said Muniz.
Her sentiments were echoed by many involved in the HILS programs, including Gill.
“This event is so important because it’s our first opportunity to bring everyone together to develop their interests, to network in a real way,” said Gill.
“This was a great opportunity to learn more, and to be exposed to more,” said Cunningham of his experience.