Senior Allison Schepers landed an internship at Grand Rapids’ premier medical research facility, Van Andel Institute. She’s helping to find a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a disease that took her grandfather’s life in 2009.
Although she didn’t know it when she interviewed for the position, Allison Schepers’ internship at Van Andel Institute (VAI) would take on meaning at both a scientific and personal level.
“When I applied for the job,” said Allison, “I guessed I’d be helping with one of the cancer projects. So when I found out I’d be working on a study dealing with ALS, I was really excited.” ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It’s a degenerative disease that causes muscles to waste away, but to Allison, it’s the disease that took her grandfather’s life in 2009.
“I would have been happy to work in any of the labs, but working under Dr. Alberts held a particular significance. This was my chance to honor my grandpa.”
Calvin labs mimic real-world research work
When Allison began working at VAI, she’d just finished her sophomore year at Calvin. Like most biology, chemistry and pre-health science students, she had already received significant lab experience by that point.
“Most, if not all, of the classes we take at Calvin have laboratory components in which we work in groups to solve a problem or conduct some sort of experiment. What most people don’t realize is that’s exactly the sort of collaboration you’ll do out in the real world. At Van Andel, we were collectively working on an ALS study, but we each had our own job to do as well. My project involved measuring the motor function and pathological changes of mice with ALS, and it was important for me to know how to work and communicate with the rest of my team.”