Each year, Concord Academy’s InSPIRE (Interested Students Pursuing Internship Research Experience) Program matches rising seniors with professional research internships in the greater Boston area. Students are invited to apply for the program in the winter of their junior year, and if accepted, they work with InSPIRE Program Coordinator, Peter Boskey ’08, to find a mentor and research site that aligns with their interests. This summer, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person research activities were suspended. Despite this obstacle,  participants in the program remained undeterred, and they worked with their mentors to create meaningful and educational virtual experiences.

Altea Thompson ’21 secured an internship with Dr. Kathleen Corriveau of the Social Learning Lab at Boston University (SLL), which conducts research to better understand children’s social and cognitive development. Altea’s internship experience included discussing articles, working on various research projects, and gaining professional experience in the field of child psychology. She described her internship as an unexpected but nevertheless meaningful experience.

“It’s definitely different than what I imagined, but in a way, I feel like my experience was authentic for that reason… Not only did I learn about the specific response coding etiquette for our scientific survey, and not only did I learn how to dissect and present a research paper, I learned how to work in a team of very powerful minds.”

Shreya Patel ’21 also participated in the InSPIRE program, working with Dr. Roy Perlis of Massachusetts General Hospital. Shreya’s work focused on neuroscience, an area largely unfamiliar to her, and she expressed her appreciation for having been given the opportunity to explore this interesting new field over the summer.
She said, “It’s been interesting learning more about neuroscience and statistical analysis – personally I’m planning on pursuing chemistry, however, I always like to explore different areas of science and this has been a welcome foray into a field that’s completely new to me.”

Laura Diangeli ’21 obtained an internship with Dr. Mitch McVey, and had planned to spend her summer working in a lab at Tufts University studying DNA. Due to safety concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Laura had to restructure her internship experience. Fortunately, she will have the chance to conduct research in a laboratory with Dr. McVey once it is safe to do so.

“I’ve been working virtually with Professor Mitch McVey from Tufts University to learn more about mechanisms of DNA repair and its implications in cancer therapy. McVey and I also discussed how progress has been made by mutating drosophila. One of McVey’s biggest discoveries in his career involves a unique type of DNA polymerase, used only by the cell as a last resort, that likely contributes to cancer progression,” Laura shared.

“While our virtual meetings have been great, I definitely wish that I could have the fuller experience of learning through a laboratory environment. I’ll have the chance to do so when the institution reopens, so I’m looking forward to learning more about scientists’ equipment and drosophila.”

In total, seven rising seniors participated in the InSPIRE Program this past summer. Each student’s experience was unique and each had to reimagine their internship in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but these students’ determination and resilience resulted in experiences that they will undoubtedly never forget.