MVSU Bioinformatics Summer Internship Program Elevates STEM Education

June 6, 2024


Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) is making waves in the STEM community with its Bioinformatics Summer Internship Program, running from May to June 28, 2024. The program offers undergraduate students from across the United States an immersive experience in bioinformatics, blending biological lab experiments and computational biology.
Empowering Future STEM Leaders
Aimed at STEM undergraduates, the program's primary goal is to inspire participants to pursue advanced studies and careers in STEM and bioinformatics. Additionally, it provides a glimpse into campus life at MVSU and the university's Bioinformatics Graduate Program.
Dr. Victor Bii, Director of Bioinformatics at MVSU, has structured the program to include not just scientific training but also essential life skills. Participants, ranging from rising sophomores to non-graduating seniors, will benefit from sessions on financial literacy, resume building, team building, writing skills, and interview techniques.
“We do not only have lab and computational-based programs, but we also have MVSU’s Career Services helping students with their resumes and preparing them for interviews. There will also be a Financial Specialist here to inform the students about the importance of financial literacy. I want them to understand how important managing and saving money is and building their credit score,” explained Dr. Bii.
Comprehensive Support for Participants
The program, funded entirely by grants, supports 24 students with housing, meals, transportation for field trips, and a stipend. To join, students must submit an application, letters of recommendation, a resume, and an official transcript.
While MVSU students are encouraged to apply, the program is open to undergraduates from other universities. Dr. Bii has actively promoted the program through networking at conferences, distributing flyers, and sending emails to ensure a diverse pool of applicants.
“It is important that we diversify the program to not only establish a collaboration with STEM students from different schools but to ensure that students from other universities can benefit from a program as such,” said Dr. Bii.
Bridging Universities and Building Networks
This year, the program has attracted participants from Delta State University, Alcorn State University, the University of Mississippi, Dillard University, Itawamba Community College, Southern University and AM College in Baton Rouge, Tougaloo College, Edwards Waters University, and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By integrating students from various institutions, the program fosters networking opportunities and broadens participants' perspectives on STEM careers.
Making Science Fun and Accessible
With extensive experience in science education, Dr. Bii aims to dispel the myth that science is difficult and unapproachable. He emphasizes the fun and engaging aspects of STEM, particularly bioinformatics.
“I want the students to not look into science as if it is hard or very complicated. Science is fun. Biology is fun. Chemistry is fun, and so is Bioinformatics. It is just important about how you gradually approach science. That is why I want the program to be fun for students,” explained Dr. Bii.
One of the program's highlights includes a hands-on lab activity involving the CRISPR(clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas9 gene editing technology tool. Using the CRISPR-Cas9 system, the students will harness a cell’s innate ability to disrupt and repair its DNA and modify the genome in the bacteria, E. coli. 
“In the lab, they will use a simple approach to the CRISPR-Cas9 system by using E. coli, which is a bacteria, and modify it in real-time to see the different mutations. The resulting phenotype is readily visible through the color changes from blue to white for this specific bacteria, and students can use the gel electrophoresis and PCR to validate the outcome,” said Dr. Bii.
Paving the Way for Future Careers
Through these interactive learning experiences, Dr. Bii hopes to ignite students' interest in the CRISPR-Cas9 Technology, enabling students to engage in conversations around this novel system application in medicine, and agriculture while assessing its promise, risks and ethics.
“The careers that students can go into with the Bioinformatics background are vast. They can go into nursing, medicine, engineering, or the computer science field.Then, they can work virtually analyzing sequencing, performing data mining, or statistics, and the compensation from these fields are awesome,” Dr. Bii stated.
By combining rigorous scientific training with practical life skills, the MVSU Bioinformatics Summer Internship Program is poised to shape the next generation of STEM leaders, making a significant impact on students' academic and professional journeys.