Sara Verschleisser and the National Institutes of Health

NAME: Sara Verschleisser ’21S
MAJOR: History (also following a track in pre-med)
HOMETOWN: Silver Spring, Maryland

Portrait of Sara Verschleisser This summer found Sara at a place where she had done work many times before, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “I’ve had previous positions at the NIH since high school, due to a program started in Baltimore which helps religious girls get internships and experience they might not otherwise have.” While on the NIH campus, she made connections with the Orthodox Jewish Women’s support group, “which is an excellent network of Jewish girls in science.”

This year, she worked in the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, specifically in the Molecular Biology Section of the Laboratory of Immune System Biology. “I’ve been working on experiments looking at the contribution of disulfide bonds to MHC-I molecule stability,” which investigates how these bonds contribute to the stability of proteins.

Her project is something “both new and practical.  I’m researching something that isn’t fully understood yet. There’s no known right answer, but I’m helping find one, and that’s incredibly exciting for me! Also, my mentors taught me what to do, and then left me to do it independently as much as possible. I have never learned so much so fast.”

She plans to go on to medical school, and “what I covered this summer will definitely help me better understand all of my future chemistry and biology classes.”

She also compliments her NIH colleagues for their openness and generosity. “Doctors and scientists who research for the government, especially at the NIH, have a ton to share and are incredibly friendly and willing to share it. All researchers are, as we like to say, ‘nerds,’ and they’ll talk forever and with joy in their eyes about their research. At NIH, everyone’s important and helping the future of medicine in some way, so everyone is respected, from the patient to the doctor, the janitor to the intern. There’s been no better place to experience both science and kindness.”