Women in Science Intern Alumnae

2016 Projects

  1. Digital Co-Curation: Philippine Heritage Collections

    Interns will research artifacts in The Field Museum’s Philippine Heritage Collections relating to hunting, fishing, and food preparation. With this object-based research serving as a point of reference, and with the help of the Digital Co-Curation Team, interns will engage members of Chicago’s Filipino American community in multiple interviews asking questions of how these persons relate to the objects observed and their experiences with the larger topic at hand. These interviews will be compiled for the Museum’s database and co-curation web portal. Additionally, interns will assist in the hosting of a small discussion session at The Field, whereby FilAm community members will be present for participation. The final video of this project will combine the stories gathered from interviewees, the discussion held at The Field, and the experience of the interns themselves.

    Interns will be equally responsible for learning about the Philippines collection through research of related catalog documentation and publications. Interns will be responsible for documenting their findings in the Museum’s KE EMu collections management database. They will also be responsible for conducting interviews at The Field Museum or via satellite with participating individuals from the Filipino American community. Interns will record these interviews and archive them to document the Museum’s co-curation efforts. Finally, they will be responsible for assisting in the discussion session hosted by the Digital Co-Curation Team at The Field Museum.

  2. Early Elementary Science Partnership (E2SP)

    The Early Elementary Science Partnership (E2SP) is a four-year collaboration between The Field Museum, Northwestern University faculty, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and ten Big Shoulders Fund Schools that is transforming how preK-3rd grade teachers engage their students in science. The goal of E2SP is to ignite children’s early passion for science and give them the skills necessary to succeed in later grade levels by preparing preK-3rd grade teachers to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and build the capacity of these schools to strengthen and support science instruction. The project will enter its third year in the fall of 2016, and major program planning will take place over the summer, most notably the development of NGSS-designed Earth and Space Sciences model units for preK-3rd grade classrooms. The E2SP programming team, comprised of staff from each partnering institution, will work collaboratively to research, write, prototype, and finalize the model science units. The FMWIS interns would be active participants with specific responsibilities throughout the entire collaborative process, and would contribute to E2SP by developing a Field Museum focused field trip, which will be embedded into one of the units.

  3. Evolutionary Genetics of the Immune System in Crow-Like Birds

    Toll-like receptors are proteins important in the innate immune system. They recognize conserved molecular elements of pathogens and are tuned specifically to particular pathogens, e.g., bacteria, viruses, fungi. Humans have 10-15 of these genes, and most have been found in birds as well. In 2015, we began three separate projects on Toll-like receptors: one looking at an invasive species (House Sparrows) and immune systems, the second looking at how these genes have evolved in all birds (being carried out by Peruvian graduate student Natalia Piland), and the third on variation in these genes in Chicagoland crows before and after West Nile Virus came through Chicago in 2000 (last summer’s high school internship project). The results of last summer’s project suggested that Toll-like receptors were evolving strangely in crows. The lack of genetic variation in crows may be a contributing factor to their steep population declines due to the invading West Nile pathogen. This summer, I propose to expand on our examination of Toll-like receptor genes and sequence several of these genes in a number of members of the crow family of birds. The goal is to see if these genes are evolving differently in corvids more generally.

  4. Global Wellness in Urban Chicago

    In 2010, Alaka Wali began an ongoing effort to study and collect herbal remedies, knowledge, and cultural practices surrounding how people achieve and define well-being and health in Chicago neighborhoods. With 200+ objects in collection and extensive ethnographic research underway, the Global Wellness in Urban Chicago project has recently launched a website to document our efforts. This summer we are seeking two interns to interview Chicagoans about their personal knowledge of herbal remedies and conduct research on the history and classification of the herbs in the collection. These internships present a unique opportunity to study how different communities and medical traditions define wellness in response to compromised access to healthcare and other pressures of urban life. Interns will be able to customize their activities to fit individual interests and strengths.

  5. Riffles in the stream: Part II: Bringing water beetle specimens to light through digitization

    One of the most environmentally-sensitive groups of aquatic insects is known as the riffle beetles, or dryopoid water beetles. Thanks to former curator Harry Nelson, The Field Museum is home to one of the largest collections of these beetles in the world. Last summer’s interns focused on understanding where he collected, by databasing all of the collecting localities. This summer, interns will begin to figure out what he collected, through databasing the individual specimens from these localities. Additionally, the interns will begin to disseminate the story of these specimens, through a series of social-media posts and a complete written history of the water beetle collection.

2015 High School Internships

Sydney Somchith--Intern (High School) Women in Science, Riffles In The Stream: Exploring Water Quality Through Historical Distributions Of Water Beetles In Illinois And The Surrounding Area: Human life relies on access to fresh, clean water free from pollutants and pathogens. If accurate ecological and distributional data are available, we can use aquatic organisms, such as insects, to evaluate water quality, with one of the most sensitive of these groups being the riffle beetles, or dryopoid water beetles. Former curator Harry G. Nelson collected this group extensively and his collection is now part of the FMNH Insect Collection. At last count (1971), the Harry G. Nelson collection of dryopoid water beetles comprised over 100,000 specimens, both pinned and in alcohol, making it one of the largest and most important collections of its kind, particularly for the upper Midwestern United States. Despite this, it is largely unknown to water beetle workers and the data is locked away on paper field notes and on the labels of uncatalogued specimens. An inventory of the collection and digitization of Harry Nelson’s field notes will provide the first steps towards making this data accessible to the broader research community. Watch Sydney's internship video.

Genevieve Fisher--Intern (High School) Women in Science, Chinese Opera Case Conservation Project: The scope of the Chinese Opera Case Conservation Project is to deinstall, document and perform treatment to approximately 75 Chinese theater complete costumes and props exhibited since the late 1920’s. The costumes include beautiful textile garments, paper mache masks, jewelry, shoes, and associated props. The intern will work with conservators, collection managers, and exhibits production during the project. Each object will need to be deinstalled from the display case, photographed, examined, receive conservation treatment, and prepared for storage. The intern will assist the conservators in treatment of these objects as needed. Watch Genny's internship video.


Jayishnu Srinivas--Intern (High School) Women in Science, Silurian Reef Digitization Project: The Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH) along with its partner The Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) support the conversion of the institutions paper-based catalog records of its Silurian fossil collection to electronic form. The cooperative effort will create a consolidated online database with locality, stratigraphic, and systematic data along with select locality and specimen photographs of the world’s most extensive Silurian collections from the upper Midwest (mid-continent). The Silurian fossils in these institutions document the recovery and diversification of reef and level bottom-communities following the late Ordovician extinction event. The project will expand access to the collections and make information regarding those collections more widely, accurately and engagingly available to diverse audiences including research scientists, the general public, and students of all ages. The three year project will use on-site data entry technicians at each institution to convert the approximately 31,000 existing specimen and locality catalog records to KE EMu Collections Management System. Additionally, MPM will update and expand our web based “Virtual Silurian Reef” relating the online Silurian collections to content rich sites for the general public and K-12 educators. Watch Jay's internship video.

2015 Undergraduate Internships   

Estefany Romero--Intern (Undergraduate) Women in Science, Let's Discover The Invisible World: Using Next Generation Sequencing To Uncover The Microbial World Inside Spiny Ants: Symbiotic interactions are responsible for the evolution and diversity of life on the planet. To better understand the evolutionary significance of these associations in nature, further studies addressing the diversity of hosts and symbionts are necessary. Insects as hosts are considered an ideal group of organisms for the study of endosymbionts, since they are tolerant with the coexistence of microorganisms internally and externally on the body. There are about 15,000 species of ants widely spread distributed over the globe. The great diversity of the group is due to the great ecological success, resulting in various forms of nesting, feeding preferences and social behaviors with division of labor between castes. The spiny ants (genus Polyrhachis) have a wide distribution, diverse habits, and are often associated with endosymbionts, the “invisible world”. However there are few studies in this area, so there are many remaining questions about these associations. Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Illumina MiSeq2000 can facilitate the discovery of the microbiota associated with the host, showing to be an excellent tool for the characterization of communities previously little studied, such as the microbial diversity associated with insects and how the evolution and ecology of the host may structure host-associated bacterial diversity. The 2015 FMWIS project will investigate the microbiota associated with spiny ants from across their distribution and in the context of their evolutionary history (phylogeny). This study may reveal important aspects of the biology of the Polyrhachis ants, the influence on endosymbionts in this diverse group, in addition to types of symbiotic interactions involved. Watch Estefany's internship video.

Viridiana Lopez--Intern (Undergraduate) Women in Science, Incredible Morphological Diversity In The Most Diverse Group Of Vertebrates: The Fish Collection at The Field Museum contains over 2 million specimens. These specimens are from all taxonomic groups, from all over the world, and collected from as recently as last year to as long ago as the late 1800s. Clearing and staining is a process these specimens can undergo to allow scientists to visualize their skeletons. This project will assist in building the cleared and stained collection in Fishes at The Field Museum. The intern will learn the techniques and methods of clearing and staining, based on specimens of many different types of fishes. The intern will then work with the supervisor to select a variety of cleared and stained specimens that can then be imaged and used for education and outreach activities. Watch Viri's internship video.

Destiny Reeves--Intern (Undergraduate) Women in Science, Worked in the Insects Department to digitize the Richard B. Loomis mite collection. Watch Destiny's intern video.


2014 Internship Recipients:

Stephanie Alvarado, FMWIS 2014 High School Intern, Yorkville High School, Yorkville, IL  

Stephanie is attending the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign to either study Integrative Biology or Early Childhood Education. She is passionate about both subjects and is still trying to decide which one she would like to pursue as a career. This summer, Stephanie worked with Wendy Quinlan at the N.W. Harris Learning Collection. During her time there, she worked with experience boxes. Experience boxes are hands on kits for the classroom that contain items and artifacts that teachers can use to promote object based learning in their classrooms. These objects can range from beehives and raccoon pelts, to ancient Aztec and Mayan artifacts. Stephanie's job at the Learning Collection was to go through each experience box and check the condition of each item. She needed to make sure that every object was in good shape so that everything in these experiences boxes is well preserved and unimpaired for educators using them in their classrooms. Stephanie thoroughly enjoyed her time at the Learning Collection. "It was an amazing experience, both educational and fulfilling. I found myself discovering new things every single day. I hope to one day be able to volunteer once again at the N.W. Harris Learning Collection!" 

Watch Stephanie's internship video.

Hannah Davis, FMWIS 2014 High School Intern, Wheaton North High School, Wheaton, IL

Currently a junior at Wheaton North High School, Hannah has her sights set on a future in photojournalism. However, she has always been interested in the science of how things work or behave. Her intern assignment was entitled "Walking Lichens" and her main supervisors were Jim Boone and Robert Lücking, with subsequent supervisors being Allie Stone and Kelsey Keaton. She mainly worked in the Insect Collection, which holds over four-and-a-half million specimens. Hannah sifted through drawers of Praying Mantids, Katydids, Grasshoppers, Treehoppers, Walking Sticks, and Moths, looking for species which mimicked lichen. Her "mini-collection" consisted of 106 specimens belonging to 88 unique species. From there she managed to database and image 30 of those specimens, making headway towards the goal of a fully digitized collection in the future. One of the more interesting species, Choeradodis rhombicollis - also known as the Shield Mantid - is known to allow the growth of lichens on its shield. This phenomenon has not been found within the insect world otherwise, so far as we know. This internship has truly opened Hannah's eyes to the power of the individual and the extreme dedication of the staff behind the scenes at The Field Museum. She reports that she will remember her time spent there fondly, and highly suggest volunteering within the Field Museum. "It’s a great way to broaden your horizons and learn something new."

Watch Hannah's internship video.

Madeleine Farris, FMWIS 2014 High School Intern, Jones College Prep, Chicago, IL

This summer, Madeleine worked with Emily Baca and Ryan Patrick Williams.  Madeleine's project, "Archaeological Study of Peruvian Materials in the South American Laboratory" involved working with ceramics and pottery to learn more about Inca economy and society. 

Watch Madeleine's internship video.


Lissette Arellano, FMWIS 2014 Undergraduate Intern, DePaul University, Chicago, IL

Prior to beginning her senior year at DePaul University, where she is studying Biological Sciences, Lissette Arellano spent her summer working as an intern with Dallas Krentzel and Ken Angielczyk. Her intern project was titled “Evolution of the Mammalian Feeding System,” and it was focused on the evolution of rodent masticatory muscles. Lissette had the opportunity to work in The Field Museum’s expansive Mammals Collection, from where she obtained the skulls of rodents that were studied in her project. Being the largest group of mammals in existence, and occupying nearly every continent and habitat imaginable, rodents exhibit an exorbitant amount of diversity. Early in their evolutionary history, the arrangement of muscles on rodent mandibles diversified to three groups, all of which remain today. As part of her project, Lissette surveyed the diversity of rodents’ mandibles and the mechanical advantage provided by the different muscle arrangement groups across rodent taxa and ecosystems. To do this, she collected morphometric data using calipers, she digitized images of the mandibles being used, and she collected digital morphometric data of the rodent mandibles along muscle attachment points. The analysis of this data allowed her to compare the mechanical advantages of these muscle arrangements for gnawing and chewing, the two main uses of rodent teeth, which yielded fascinating, and at times unexpected, results. Following this enlightening, intellectually stimulating, and rewarding internship experience, Lissette was able to present her project’s findings at The Field Museum’s REU Symposium.

Watch Lissette's internship video.

Sonia Leon, FMWIS 2014 Undergraduate Intern, Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, IL 

This summer, Sonia was involved in a spatial analysis project researching urban coyotes within the Chicago region using a Geographic Information System (GIS). Using infrared trap cameras placed along transects, The Urban Wildlife Institute at the Lincoln Park Zoo has collected several years of data on many species of urban wildlife. Sonia referred to several research articles and a subset of this data from the Urban Wildlife Institute to use GIS analysis in search of common elements in areas of high coyote use. She was interested in answering questions such as “Does the amount of protected land impact coyote use of an area?” and “Does land cover influence coyote use of an area?” This internship allowed Sonia to combine her understanding of biology and GIS and apply it to real world conservation efforts. Sonia's future goals are to continue using and learning GIS methods for use in environmental and ecological issues. She is especially interested in using a GIS to study the spatial ecology and conservation biogeography of insect species.

Watch Sonia's internship video.

Jessica Mohlman, FMWIS 2014 Undergraduate Intern, Northland College, Ashland, WI 

This upcoming academic year, Jessica will be returning to Northland College for her senior year, where she is a double major in Biology and Natural Resources: Wildlife and Fisheries Ecology. This summer concluded her third internship at The Field Museum. Previously, Jessica interned in the Herpetology collections with Alan Resetar and within the Science and Action Center under the supervision of Rebecca Collings. Her project this summer was entitled, “Southern Mexican Economic Botany”. Within the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, there is an excavation site by the name of El Palmillo, a hilltop terrace community which once held the residence of the Zapotec people. While this area was one of the driest in the Valley of Oaxaca, it had some of the largest populations after the Classic Period. The communities were able to survive due to drought resistant plants. These drought resistant plants were used for food, alcohol, medicine, and sources of fiber within this region. Jessica's primary supervisors, Anthropologists Gary Feinman and Linda Nicholas retrieved numerous samples of these plant specimens and brought them back to The Field Museum. During her internship, it was Jessica's responsibility to identify and confirm identification for these plant specimens. The Field Museum initially inspired Jessica's career choice as a child, and she has been honored to continue interning for such an inspiring establishment.

Watch Jessica's internship video.

2013 Internship Recipients:


Racquel Kelley, FMWIS 2013 High School Intern, Marian Catholic High School, Chicago Heights, IL

Racquel spent one month in The Field Museum's bird collection. She gained experience preparing and cataloging bird skins and skeletons, learning the intricate details of collection management along the way. Working alongside Dr. Dave Willard, Racquel received training in various aspects of collections-based research.

Watch Racquel's internship video.


Steph Morgan, FMWIS 2013 Undergraduate Intern, Beloit College, Beloit, WI

Steph spent her time in The Field Museum's insect collection, cataloging the historic ant collection of Robert E. Gregg. Working under Dr. Corrie Moreau and Gracen Brilmyer, Steph learned how to identify ant castes as well as handle and database specimens. She took part in digitizing this important collection so that researchers everywhere can have access to its data.

Watch Steph's internship video.