Max Frenkel and Adam Pissaris, HIP 2014

Schools: Harvey Mudd College, USA, and Yale University, USA
Placements: Alan Mullen Lab, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Carla Kim Lab, Boston Children's Hospital

HIPsters who opt for university housing can’t choose their suitemates. Harvard administrators try to group people by program, but that’s the extent of a compatibility check. So when a math and chemistry guy from a small liberal arts college in California was placed with a biology major from an Ivy League university on the East Coast, there was no way to predict that such an epic friendship would form.

“It was fantastic living with Adam,” Max said. “After hours in the lab, we would both walk through the door at the same time, plug in all the computers, blast music, play chess, and just complain about all the little things that didn’t go right—and what we’d do next.”

“It was nice to have somebody that you could rely on to hang out with,” Adam said. “We had a lot of adventures every weekend, whether it was a camping trip, trying to cook something together—that never went well for us—or just hanging out with the other interns.”

This setup allowed the two interns to share lessons from their very different HIP lab placements. Max was paired with a new HSCI faculty member, Alan Mullen, MD, PhD, who studies the TGF-beta signaling pathway—a molecular cascade that regulates everything from normal development and wound healing to tumor formation and metastasis. Adam worked in the lung cancer lab of Carla Kim, PhD, studying lung stem cell differentiation.

For Max, observing how his principal investigator dealt with the challenges of starting a new lab and the pressure to publish was an inspiration. “Dr. Mullen taught me not to let the pressure collapse the creativity of what he wants to do,” Max said. “His drive and attitude showed me how you behave as a scientist and a truly amazing thinker.”

Adam’s time in Dr. Kim’s lab taught him that a scientific research career is more fun than he previously thought. “I had the mindset that I was going to go into an MD program after this, and that doing lab work kept you from interacting with people, which didn’t appeal to me,” he said. “This summer, I learned that being in a lab is collaborative and exciting. Although research can be slow, you can definitely see developments happening, and it makes you want to do more.”

Adam and Max both agree that there is nothing else like HIP. “I expected this program to be full of people who are biology majors or who had done a lot of lab work before, but this group is so diverse,” Adam said.

“I think if anyone is choosing between this internship and anything else, I would just implore them to put a lot more weight than they think in this internship,” Max said. “You get to do some of the coolest science, with the coolest people, and you can’t get this anywhere else.”