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In Their Own Words (ITOW)

The NIH Experiences and Career Paths of Prior NIH Trainees

In this series, past and current NIH summer interns and postbacs from disadvantaged backgrounds and groups underrepresented in the sciences will talk about their research and share insights into what it's like to work at the NIH. They will also discuss their educational and career journeys, including their paths to the NIH and the challenges they faced along the way. (Recommended for high school students, community college students, and current undergraduates, especially those interested in future NIH internship opportunities.)

All sessions will run from 12:00 to 1:00 pm (ET).



June 17: Franck Mbuntcha, BS

Franck Mbuntcha recently completed his year as a UGSP payback scholar in the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). During that year, he studied the response of B cell populations to the Moderna mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. Franck transferred from Montgomery College to the University of Maryland, College Park where he received his undergraduate bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences.  As a community college student, he participated in the NIH Community College Summer Enrichment Program (CCSEP). He was born in Cameroon and grew up in Gabon.  In Fall 2022, Franck will attend Brown University to pursue his medical degree. Following medical school, his long-term goal is to be involved in global health and healthcare advocacy.

June 24: Hannatu Tarfa, BS

Hannatu Tarfa is an NIH Academy Enrichment Program (NAEP) postbaccalaureate fellow conducting research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). She graduated from Smith college in 2021 with a major in Psychology and minor in Chemistry. Hannatu is spending two years at the NIH and plans on attending medical school in 2023. At the NIH, she is working in the Laboratory of Social Determinants of Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk where she is working on STEP-IT-UP, a study designed to help fight cardiovascular disease and obesity in African American women. Hannatu was born and raised in Northern Nigeria and has lived in Maryland for five years. She is interested in public health, and her long-term goals are to become a pediatric surgeon, volunteer with Doctors without Borders, and travel to at least 50 countries. In the short term, Hannatu is currently working on applying to medical school, learning about investment, and improving her physical and mental health. In her free time, Hannatu loves going on adventures, from hiking to visiting TikTok-recommended places around the DC/MD/VA area. She cares for 15 healthy plants and is an avid lover of Marvel movies.

July 8: Guillermo L. Raimundi Rodriguez, BS

Guillermo L. Raimundi Rodriguez joined the NIH as a postbac in the NIH Academy Enrichment Program (NAEP). He was born and raised in the south of Puerto Rico in the city of Ponce. He completed his BS in Industrial Microbiology in the University of at Mayagüez. After graduating, he moved to Virginia Tech to complete his first postbaccalaureate experience working with Hepatitis E Virus. As an NAEP postbac, he is studying Zika and dengue immunopathology in the laboratory of Dr. Leah Katzelnick in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). His research interests include host-pathogen interactions, public health, and science policy, fields in which he plans to work through after his completion of a PhD in Immunology.

July 15: Sarah Izabel, BS

Sarah Izabel recently completed her payback obligation to the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program and will begin graduate student in the Neurosciences program at Stanford University in the fall. In the past, she has investigated neurological and inflammatory insults to the brain in hopes of uncovering mechanisms of neurological disorders. Sarah is now focused on using her skills in cellular biology to uncover mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disorders. Her passion for studying the brain stems from a desire to understand how such disorders develop and how we can improve the lives of people who suffer with them. Because she is committed to ending poverty in the US and the world, Sarah joined RESULTS, a grassroots organization, in October of 2020. She is now the leader of the Metro Maryland group, a 2022 RESULTS Fellow, and an Experts on Poverty advocate. Sarah graduated from VCU in 2020, earning degrees in Biology and Psychology. She is a mother, scientist, and anti-poverty advocate.

July 22: Yi Liu, MS, CGC 

Yi Liu is a Genetic Counselor at the Genetics Branch of the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Ms. Liu is the lead genetic counselor for the Clinical Somatic and Germline Genetic Test project at NCI. She provides genetic counseling services and contributes expertise related to genetics to variety of protocols at NCI. She is also a bilingual health provider in English and Chinese. YI was born in China, experiencing a mixture American and Chinese culture during her career developmental. She attended Montgomery College and participated in CCSEP, transferring to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to complete her undergraduate study. Yi is an advocate for health equity and inclusion. She is also passionate about education and mentoring, devoting time and effort to providing education and direction to aspiring genetic counseling students, graduate students, health care professionals and patients.

July 29: Hank Cheng, BS

Hank Cheng is a student in the University of Washington Medical Scientist Training Program (UW MSTP). Hank was born and raised in the United States by parents who are immigrants from Taiwan. He investigated the genetics of Joubert syndrome as an undergraduate and graduated from the University of Washington with his bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Applied Math in June 2020 with support from the UGSP. After graduation, he completed a one-year postbac  in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Intramural Bioinformatics Section before matriculating into the UW MSTP. Hank is excited to be training as a physician-scientist and is grateful for the support from the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program. He hopes to continue his training in medical genetics and aspires to care for patients directly in the clinic and more generally through translational research. Outside of academics, Hank enjoys cooking, hiking, and kayaking in the beautiful Seattle area; he recently fell in love with K-dramas.