Research Experiences: ILS Program Requirement

In order to pursue a career in the life sciences, it is critical that students acquire a deep appreciation for the research process responsible for generating the new knowledge that will shape their future careers. It is an extraordinary time for ILS students to become research scientists and clinical physicians. The 21st century is often said to be the "Golden Age of Life Science Research," because scientists are developing new perspectives, methods, and equipment that are resulting in the discovery of life science and biomedical knowledge at an unprecedented rate.

ILS student doing molecular biology research.

The experiential component of ILS is designed to facilitate meaningful experiences in basic biological, biomedical, and clinical research on the UM campus and at federal research centers and biomedical institutes in the Washington, DC area, including: NIH-Bethesda, FDA-College Park, USDA-Beltsville, and Smithsonian Institution-Washington, DC, all of which have international renown for research excellence. All ILS students are expected to complete at least one authentic and relevant biology related research experience, including an electronic portfolio, in their first two years on campus in order to receive the ILS honors citation.

ILS student holding up a vial of blood in a biological lab.


There are several places to start looking for internships.  You should consider the following factors when deciding on where to apply or request a position.

Where is the internship?

There are internships on- and off-campus.  You may want to choose an internship on campus so that you can complete it during the school year, or you may choose one near campus for the same reason.  You may want to choose an internship off-campus either based on research interests or near where you will be living when you are not taking classes, such as during winter and summer sessions.

Paid vs Unpaid internships

While we would all like to get paid for the hard work we put in, there are much less paid internships than unpaid internships.  If you require a paid internship, then keep this in mind while looking through the options below.  Also, consider applying for a grant to help support your research if you plan to stay on campus.

Summer/Winter vs During the Academic Year

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When will you be doing your internship?  You should take into account the internship location and what your schedule looks like during the year and outside of the academic year.  240 hours of research is about two semester's work at 10 hrs per week or one summer's worth of work full time (40 hrs).It is the goal of the ILS staff to help ILS students to identify, apply for, and successfully complete meaningful internship experiences that will further their ability to acquire a deeper appreciation for the research process and to achieve their professional goals. ILS students can pursue internship opportunities in many ways, including:


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  1. Enroll in BSCI279H Catalyst Seminar in the Spring semester of first year in the ILS program. This 1-credit seminar course is strongly recommended and takes each student step-by-step through the process of identifying and finding a research internship.

  2. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Kramer to discuss your research interests and various research options.

  3. If applying for research opportunities off-campus, request letters of recommendation, prepare curriculum vitae (resume) and cover letter. You must meet with Dr. Kramer before requesting a letter from Dr. Cooke.

  4. Identify a research mentor.

  5. Complete the ILS Internship Approval form with your research mentor and submit to Dr. Kramer within the first week of your research internship.

  6. Develop your ILS e-portfolio during your research internship experience.

  7. Upon completion of your research internship time complete your e-portfolio and submit to Dr. Kramer for final sign-off for the ILS research internship requirement.

International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) team

iGEMs student team at their national competition with Dr. Ed Eisenstein and Dr. Jason Khan.

Every year, student researchers from around the world come together for the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM). This paramount event engages student-led teams from major universities worldwide to present novel synthetic biology projects targeted towards addressing real-world problems.  For the past two years, the University of Maryland has sent a team composed of students from the ILS program and bioengineering to the iGEM jamboree held in Boston, Massachusetts. The first year the team earned a gold medal for their work developing a biosensor to detect for the presence of the oyster pathogen, Perkinsus marinus. This parasite is commonly found over the eastern shore of North America, including in Maryland's own Chesapeake Bay.  The team won gold for a second year for their work developing a new method for plasmid maintenance without the use of antibiotics and the construction of an inexpensive thermocycler using parts from a hairdryer which also earned them a nomination for best new application.  To learn more about the 2016 UMD team's research visit their Wiki. Being a member of the iGem team is just one way students can fulfill the ILS research internship requirement.

Departmental Honors

After completing your ILS research internship requirement, we hope that you will consider engaging in further research experiences, especially if you are planning to pursue a Ph.D. in graduate school or a M.D.-Ph.D. in medical school. We would strongly encourage you to participate in departmental honors, which involves 2-4 semesters of independent research on your own project that culminates in your writing of an undergraduate honors thesis. Your research is supervised by an on-campus faculty mentor working in an UMD department, or by an off-campus researcher working in collaboration with a UMD faculty mentor. Typically, a student researcher participates in the departmental honors program that is administered by the mentor’s department and/or by the student’s major.

ILS students who are interested in exploring departmental honors should refer to the links below for general descriptions of and application procedures for several departmental honors programs offering research opportunities that have appealed to successful ILS student researchers.



Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

Chemistry and Biochemistry



For the links to other departmental honors programs, see the Honors College website.

Representative ILS Student Publications (student is in bold)

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Qiang Yang, Yanming An, Shilei Zhu, Roushu Zhang, Chun Mun Loke, John Cipollo, Lai-Xi Wang. “Glycan Remodeling of Human Erythropoietin (EPO) through Combined Mammalian Cell Engineering and Chemoenzymatic Transglycosylation.” ACS Chem. Biol. (2017) DOI: 10.1021/acschembio.7b00282

Ablation of programmed -1 ribosomal frameshifting in Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus results in attenuated neuropathogenicity. Joseph Kendra, Cynthia de la Fuente, Ashwini Brahms, Caitlin Woodson, Todd Bell, Bin Chen, Yousuf Khan, Jonathan Jacobs, Kylene Kehn-Hall, Jonathan Dinman. Journal of Virology. (2016)

2015 RAD-AID Conference on International Radiology for Developing Countries: The Evolving Global Radiology Landscape.  Kesselman A, Gary Soroosh, Mollura DJ. J Am Coll Radiol. (2016) 13(9): 1139-44.

Ring catalog: A resource for designing self-assembling RNA nanostructures. Parlea L, Dindewald E, Rishabh Sharan, Bartlett N, Moriarty D, Oliver J, Afonin KA, Shapiro BA. Methods. (2016) 103: 128-137.

A Novel Strategy to Reverse General Anesthesia by Scavenging with the Acyclic Cucurbit[n]uril-type Molecular Container Calabadion 2. Diaz-Gil, D., Haerter, F., Shane Falcinelli, Ganapati, S., Hettiarachchi, G., Zhang, B., Duarte, I., Cotton, J., Simons, J., Ayata, C., Eikermann-Haerter, K., Isaacs, L., Briken, V., and Eikermann, M. Anesthesiology.  (2016) 125(2):333-45.

Acyclic cucurbit[n]uril-type macromolecule enables systemic delivery of effective doses of albendazole for treatment of paclitaxel resistant cancer cells. Submitted to Molecular Cancer Therapeutics Hettiarachchi, G., Samantab, S., Shane Falcinelli, Zhang, B., Isaacs, L., and Briken, V. Molecular Pharmaceuticals. (2016) 7;13(3):809-18

Characterization of the Host Response to Pichinde Virus Infection in the Syrian Golden Hamster by Species-Specific Kinome Analysis. Shane Falcinelli, Gowen, B., Trost, B., Napper, S., Kusalik, A., Safronetz, D., Prescott, J., Johnson, R.F., Wahl-Jensen, V., Jahrling, P.B. and Kindrachuk, J. Molecular Cellular Proteomics (2015) 14(3): 646-57.

Human Obesity Associated with an Intronic SNP in the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Locus. Z Mou, TM Hyde, BK Lipska, P Wei, CJ Ong, LA Hunter, GI Palaguachi, Eva Morgun, R Teng, C Lai, TA Condarco, AP Demidowich, AJ Krause, LJ Marshall, Karin Haack, VS Voruganti, SA Cole, NF Butte, AG Comuzzie, MA Nalls, AB Zonderman, AB Singleton, MK Evans, B Martin, S Maudsley, JW Tsao, JE Kleinman, JA Yanovski, JC Han. Cell Reproduction. (2015) 13(6): 1073-80

Novel Slow Release Nanocomposite Nitrogen Fertilizers: The Impact of Polymers on Nanocomposite Properties and Function. Pereira, E. I.; da Cruz, C. T.; Aaron Solomon; Le, A.; Cavigelli, M.; Ribeiro, C. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. (2015) March.

Structural mechanism of serum amyloid A-mediated inflammatory amyloidosis.  Lu J, Yu Y. Iowis Zhu, Cheng Y, Sun PD. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (2014) 111(14): 5189-94.

Coffin‐Siris syndrome: Phenotypic evolution of a novel SMARCA4 mutation. Michael Tzeng, du Souich, C., Helen Cheung. H., & Boerkoel, C. F.  American Journal of Medical Genetics Part.  (2014) 164A(7): 1808-14.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor in human subjects with function-altering melanocortin-4 receptor variants. Hohenadel MG, Thearle MS, Grice BA, Huang H, Dai MH, Tao YX, Hunter LA, Palaguachi GI, Mou Z, Rachel Kim, Tsang MM, Haack K, Voruganti VS, Cole SA, Butte NF, Comuzzie AG, Muller YL, Baier LJ, Krakoff J, Knowler WC, Yanovski JA, Han JC.  International Journal of Obesity. (2014) 38(8): 1068-74.

Identification of Myosin XI Receptors in Arabidopsis Defines a Distinct Class of Transport Vesicles. VV Peremyslov, Eva Morgun, EG Kurth, KS Makarova, EV Koonin and VV Dolja. Plant Cell (2014) 25(8): 3022-3038.

Hyperphagia among patients with Bardet-Biedl syndrome. Sherafat-Kazemzadeh, R., Ivey, L., Kahn, SR, Sapp, JC, Hicks, MD, Rachel Kim, Krause, AJ, Shomaker, LB, Biesecker, LG, Han, JC, Yanovski, JA. 2013. Pediatric Obesity. 8: e64-67.