Internships with the Center for Understanding Biology using Imaging Technology (Currently Closed to Applications)
Note: Due to increased demand, we are no longer accepting internship applications as of 9/1/20. When we have vacancies in the lab, we will update this page.
Because we have a lot of people interested in working in the lab, our interns must be able to work independently, with minimal guidance. To see if this experience may be right for you, consider your interest in the project below:
Development of a Scientific Publication
Our only available internships currently involve the development of a scientific publication. Depending on the amount of time you contribute, you could be first author, or a co-author on the publication. These positions require:
strong writing skills
ability to perform literature searches using pubmed
independence: Almost all the work will be performed outside of the lab, with your own computer. We will correspond mostly by email. (If you are interested in a Simons Fellowship, please see the FAQs below.)
patience! On average, it requires over a year to assemble a scientific publication.
We do not require a background in brain imaging or scientific writing. You just need to be willing to perform research independently, and search (e.g. google, pubmed, text books) for answers as needed.
Interested? If so, the first step is to choose your topic...
A common theme we use in the lab is to relate people's mood, traits or feelings to brain imaging. This is a way of linking biology (from brain imaging) to how people feel and act. We also use imaging to predict clinical course or effects of treatment. So, let's first talk about the brain imaging we're currently performing.
We are currently completing a brain imaging study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). You can read a summary of the study here. The study involves brain imaging with Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
These imaging modalities allow us to gain a lot of information about the brain, including:
PET: We can assess metabolism of every brain region. This tells you what parts of the brain are very active compared to those that are not as active. It involves the injection of a compound called FDG, which is an analogue of sugar. So, when the brain takes up a lot of FDG, we know it is working hard and needs sugar for energy. The images we get from PET show us how much FDG is taken up in each brain region. See a sample image here.
structural MRI: Tells you the size and shape of every brain region. See an example here. (Different colors represent different brain regions.) We have automated techniques (e.g., Freesurfer) to extract volume/thickness of each region.
diffusion MRI: Allows us to measures the strength of connectivity between regions of the brain. Read more about it here.
Arterial Spin Labeling (also MRI): Measures the blood flow to every region of the brain. Like metabolism, this is another measure of how hard and how well each part of the brain is working. Read more about it here.
MRI spectroscopy: Measures metabolites like GABA and glutamate. Unlike the above modalities, spectroscopy is only performed in one region of the brain at a time. So, we don't get a whole brain image. Instead, we get measures of how much metabolite is in a particular region of the brain. In our case, we examine the anterior cingulate. A sample spectroscopy study can be found here.
This brain imaging is performed both before and after treatment.
Now that we know what imaging modalities we have, the next step is to examine our options for what we will relate the brain imaging measures to. Our participants complete the following surveys prior to treatment:
Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (taken before, during and after treatment)
In addition, we also collect actigraphy, which measures the number of steps taken per day and number of hours of sleep a day (like Fitbit).
Putting it all together...
What we are looking for is motivated interns to form a hypothesis based on the above data. How does that work?
Basically, you need to do a little digging into one or more of the brain imaging modalities and one or more of the questionnaires. Based on that, you may come up with some questions that you are interested in examining. Note that there are no requirements for what the hypotheses might be. They may not include brain imaging at all, such as:
Do people with higher levels of depression sleep less (as measured by actigraphy)? Do they move less?
Does the length of time that someone has been depressed affect their outlook on the success of treatment?
Including brain imaging, you could ask something like:
Do people with higher levels of glutamate (measured by spectroscopy) move more (measured by actigraphy)? Are they less depressed than those with lower levels of glutamate?
Are people with larger prefrontal cortices (as measured by structural MRI) more sensitive to external stimuli (as measured by the Highly Sensitive Person Questionnaire). Are they less likely to respond to treatment?
Are people with higher metabolism (as measured by PET) more depressed? Are they less likely to perceive social support (from the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support)?
Wondering what manuscripts are already being worked on? The following topics are currently being examined (and therefore already taken except where indicated):
Mark Cherepashensky (Stony Brook University): Relationship between habenula metabolism and social anhedonia
Daisy Dai (UC Berkeley): Use of spectroscopy to predict antidepressant efficacy
Gabriel Davis (SUNY Downstate): Change in motor activity (as measured by actigraphy) with antidepressant response and correlation with neurobiology.
Brianna Donnelly (Hofstra University): Orbitofrontal Metabolism, volume, and thickness in relation to social anhedonia
Samantha Goldstein (Stony Brook University): Neuroprotective effects of social support on white matter and brain volume in individuals who experienced early life stress
Kathryn Hill (Stony Brook University): Use of FDG to predict antidepressant efficacy and assess effects of treatment
Joshua Jones (Half Hollow Hills High School West): Evaluation of FDG PET in MDD in the presence of predictive early life stress
Anjali Narayan / Kathryn Hill (Stony Brook University): Role of GABA and glutamate in antidepressant efficacy
Yashar Yousefzadeh_fard (Stony Brook University): Neurobiology of expectancy and its impact on treatment efficacy
An important note regarding plagiarism: Many of you will be writing a scientific paper for the first time. It is a learning process! One critical piece of information: it is never ok to copy sentences or parts of sentences from other papers (even when you include the citation). This is called plagiarism and it can end your scientific career and get you into a lot of trouble. If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask. And, please make sure all the wording in your paper is your own.
Once you have the hypothesis (or multiple hypotheses) you're interested in, it's time to look through the literature to see if this question has been answered before. The best way to do this is to use key words in pubmed. If the question has been addressed before, that's good! It means you came up with a really interesting question that someone worked to answer! Perhaps you can modify your hypothesis a bit to find a question that's still open. Or perhaps the authors didn't address exactly what you were interested in. You should carefully document all of the literature you read, as this will help form the introduction of your paper. Based on this literature, you should update your hypothesis to address (1) a question that has not yet been answered and (2) one that is important for the field.
Following your literature search, clearly write your updated hypothesis. Combine your background literature search, plan for analysis and hypotheses into a single document.
Note that you are welcome to send me an email prior to your official application with a very short (3-4 sentences) summary of what you are planning to study and how it is different from previously published studies. While this does not constitute an official application, I can provide some feedback at this point.
Please email Dr. DeLorenzo the following:
the 1-2 page write up of your hypothesis based on the above (see sample in step 3)
the time commitment you will be able to provide (how many hours per week for how long)
Based on your schedule, your research interest and the quality of your proposal, we will let you know if you are selected for an internship with CUBIT.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there an opportunity for a paid position?
A: We do not have any paid positions available. However, there are other types of volunteer positions as outlined here.
Q: Who is eligible to apply for a CUBIT scientific internship?
A: Anyone! As long as you are interested in working on a publication, you can complete an internship. We've had high school, college, graduate and medical student interns. We've also had postdoctoral and visiting faculty interns. You do not have to be affiliated with Stony Brook. Also, since the internships involve mostly independent research, you can be located anywhere.
Q: Can I forward this website to a friend?
A: Of course. Anyone can apply for these internships by following the process above, so feel free to forward this website to anyone who many be interested.
Q: What are the advantages of working on the above project?
A: From the literature searches, hypothesis creation and writing process, you will be participating in graduate-level research. You will learn a great deal about the brain and how it works. And, if successful, you will obtain authorship on a publication.
Q: What is the timeline for assembling a publication?
A: This strongly depends on how much time you put into the process. Working ~10 hours a week, you should be able to have an outline of the publication in 2-4 months. From there, it generally takes ~10-12 months to complete the paper.
Q: When are these items due?
A: There is no official deadline. We accept interns all throughout the year.
Q: Will I receive help in writing the paper?
A: CUBIT will assist you in creating your outline and writing the paper by answering specific questions, providing detailed feedback on your work and providing additional information regarding the brain imaging study. Interns usually need the most assistance in writing up the scientific methods, as they were not involved in the design of the study. We will provide that help. However, as stated above, most of this work is performed independently.
Q: Who performs the image analysis?
A: In general, the image analysis is completed by us. So, for example, we will provide you with a spreadsheet of metabolism in every brain region (from FDG). volumes of each brain region (from structural MRI), or whichever measures are needed for your paper.
Q: Who performs the statistics?
A: Advanced interns can perform their own statistics. For others, we provide statistical analysis through the Biostatistical Consulting Core.
Q: For high school students: Will CUBIT support my application to the Simons Summer Research Program?
A: If you have started on the above publication early enough such that you have an approved hypothesis and a written Introduction by the time of the Simons application, CUBIT will support your Simons application. During the summer internship, you can work to complete this publication as well as work on other projects.
Q: Have previous interns been successful in writing scientific papers with CUBIT?
A: Yes! Including:
Ien Li (Simons Student, Intel Finalist)
Q: Will I be able to work on other projects in addition to the publication?
A: The publication will be your first priority. However, once significant progress is made on the publication, including a completed literature search, outline of the paper and progress towards writing the Introduction/Methods, you can become involved in more aspects of CUBIT's research, including attending lab meetings, and being involved in other imaging projects. Prior to this, you must be trained in the protection of human subjects, as outlined here.