Undergraduates get taste of public health in summer programs

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In only two months as an intern in a lab at Harvard School of Public Health, Erika Espinosa believes she learned more than she could have in a semester of undergraduate courses. The Summer Program in Biological Sciences in Public Health (BPH), Espinosa said, “taught me the real definition of hard work” as she performed molecular biology research that could have implications for obesity treatment.

The laboratory-based program provides the opportunity for undergraduates to design and carry out a research project examining a biological science question that is relevant to disease prevention, and culminates in a poster session, where Espinosa—a biomedical sciences student at the University of Texas at Brownsville—was among 10 students who presented their work on August 7, 2014 to an audience of HSPH faculty and graduate students.

A range of opportunities

Espinosa is one of hundreds who have spent their summers at the school while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a range of disciplines. As public health is interdisciplinary, the students selected for these programs often come from a variety of backgrounds, from life sciences to math to sociology. In addition to BPH, organized by the Division of Biological Sciences, students can participate in the Summer Program in Biostatistics and Computational Biology, the Summer Program in Epidemiology, or Fostering Advancement & Careers through Enrichment Training in Sciences (a cross-departmental program known as FACETS).