Angel Boardley '24 | ORISE Internship Program

A photo of Angel Boardley in a research lab

Angel Boardley ’24 discusses her Hood College journey and current internship conducting cancer research with the ORISE program.

Q&A

Program

  • 4PLUS Biology (B.A.)/Biomedical Science (M.S.) Program

Department

  • Biology

Angel Boardley ’24 is a pre-medical biology/biomedical science student in the 4PLUS dual-degree program. While completing an internship with KamTek, Inc., a Frederick-based biotech research lab, Boardley was named Intern of the Month by the Maryland Technology Intern- ship Program. Currently, she is an intern with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences ORISE program under the U.S. Department of Defense. Boardley is using her scientific expertise to conduct research on prostate cancer to support medical care for active-duty military personnel and veterans.

How did you become involved with the ORISE summer research internship?

I became aware of the ORISE program through a recruiter on Handshake, a job platform tailored for college students. Encouraged by the recruiter’s belief in my suitability for the opportunity and the extended application deadline, I decided to apply, reminding myself that “you never know if you do not try.” Months later, I was elated to receive an acceptance email for the program, although initially, I contemplated not accepting the position due to three reasons.

Firstly, prior to this, I had an incredible internship opportunity in the I-270 biotech corridor, where I gained valuable experience in managing and operating a biotech company. Apprehensive that accepting the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) position might strain my relationship with that company, I sought counsel from STEM field mentors who provided much-needed clarity and support. Ultimately, after discussing my situation with my mentor and supervisor at the biotech management company in Frederick, they were understanding and open to my pursuit of the appointment with USU, which is under the administration of the Department of Defense (DoD) through the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE).

Secondly, the prospect of declining the USU appointment was weighed against my established nannying and family planning business, nurtured over many years. At the time of receiving the ORISE appointment letter, I was already caring for a family’s child, whom I deeply cherished. I was caring for their daughter when she was just 3-18 months, and I was dedicated to supporting them as they prepared to welcome another child. It was a heartrending decision to consider moving away from the opportunity to continue supporting their family’s growth together. Nevertheless, through open communication, we found a resolution that accommodated both their needs and my aspirations. We remain in contact to this day, as we continue to move forward on our journeys.

The last factor influencing my contemplation of turning down this opportunity pertained to the compensation structure of the ORISE program, which offers a monthly stipend. Although I sincerely appreciate the financial support provided through this stipend, I couldn’t help but harbor concerns about the practicalities of sustaining an independent lifestyle while managing all my expenses on a monthly basis, particularly when the stipend was comparatively lower than my previous earnings.

Nevertheless, despite these valid apprehensions, I recognized the paramount importance of prioritizing my education and pursuing my aspirations. The immense potential this opportunity holds in propelling me closer to my dream of becoming a military surgical physician, primarily through its unparalleled networking prospects and participation in program activities, such as career days and visits to esteemed institutions like the USU medical simulation center, ultimately swayed my decision. Therefore, with unwavering determination and a resolute commitment to my ambitions, I resolved to embrace the sacrifice and seize this opportunity as a steppingstone toward achieving my long-cherished professional goals.

What sort of work are you doing at ORISE and how does it apply to your studies at Hood?

Right now, I am working at an offsite location under the USU and DoD appointment with the Henry Jackson Foundation at the Center for Prostate Disease Research Center (CPDR). CPDR is an interdisciplinary translational prostate cancer research program of the USU Department of Surgery and the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. CPDR conducts state-of-the-art clinical, basic science and epidemiologic research, with an emphasis on precision medicine to enhance the readiness of active-duty personnel in conjunction with the continuum of medical care for military retirees and beneficiaries. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. veterans, making up 30% of new cancer diagnoses in the VA. Under Dr. Binil Eldhose, we are looking at the effects of ERGi-USU’s inhibition of ERG positive prostate cancer cells. ERGi-USU has shown to inhibit ERG positive prostate cancer cells; however, it does not only inhibit ERG positive prostate cancer cells, it also has the ability to inhibit other ERG positive cancers, like ERG positive leukemia cells. This is important because this research could potentially lead to one of the first drug treatments for patients suffering with ERG positive cancer in the future. Through this research experience, I have also learned many techniques for cell biology and molecular biology, such as subculturing cells, western blotting, applying salt treatments to cells and much more.

How does this experience fit your career goals?

Participating in this hands-on experience has been very rewarding for me so far. I have known for a while that I wanted to be a neurosurgical physician, but lately I have become more interested in pursuing medicine through the military. However, I was not sure. Even though my mother has worked for Veterans Affairs for many years and my father is a disabled army veteran, I needed to have my own personal experience with working in the federal government to confirm my interests in military medicine. As soon as I started my appointment at CPDR, and as I have been given the opportunity to learn about many of the advancements to medicine and science that the military has contributed though institutions such as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Murtha Cancer Center, I knew that military medicine was the place for me. At this stage in my education and developing career, I want to dedicate my foundational research experience to research that helps our active military members and veterans, who have worked hard to serve our country. In the future, I want to pursue my medical education and residency through the military and give back by working for the army as a neurosurgical physician, in order to dedicate my services to veterans like my father and other active military members. Most importantly, I want to be able to have a meaningful effect on patients’ quality of life, whether that be directly or behind the scenes.

Why do you think participating in hands-on learning like internships is beneficial for college students?

Participating in hands-on internship experiences has proven incredibly beneficial for college students, providing them with valuable real-world perspectives that complement their classroom learning. As a firsthand beneficiary of such an opportunity, I have witnessed how connecting classroom concepts to practical research in the lab has been an eye-opening experience. These internships play a pivotal role in skill development, granting us a competitive advantage when we embark on our post-college career journeys over other entry-level applicants, who may lack such practical experience.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of hands-on internships is the clarity they offer in terms of our future pursuits. While engaging in various internship roles, it is natural to encounter experiences that may not align with our expectations. However, these instances present an invaluable opportunity to assess and refine our career aspirations, steering us toward paths that truly resonate with our passions and aptitudes. I too have encountered such situations, and although initially disheartening, they have served as crucial guideposts that directed me towards the domains that truly ignite my enthusiasm.

In particular, my involvement in cancer research during this internship has been transformative, unveiling an undeniable passion within me for this field of study. The hands-on experience has affirmed my desire to continue working in cancer research and further contribute to advancements in this critical area. Additionally, my exposure to cell biology during this internship has kindled a strong interest, prompting me to seek further skill development in this realm.