A Postcard From: Maryanne Kihiu ’19

Name: Maryanne Kihiu
Class Year: 2019
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Hometown: Kiambu, Kenya

Internship Placement: Penn Medicine
Job Title: College Student Research Assistant
Location: Philadelphia

Maryanne Kihiu

What’s happening at your internship? 

This summer, I am interning at Penn Medicine; specifically, I am working in a lab that investigates various methods of increasing the avidity of certain immunotherapies against ovarian cancer. The overall goal of my project is to identify and enrich for tumor reactive lymphocytes from populations of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, usually referred to as TILS. The TILS are harvested from tumors resected from patients suffering from ovarian cancer.  So far, I have mainly been working on cell cultures and exploring different kinds of chemical conditions that would give me the highest expansion of the desired population.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I took a Biology of Cancer class in my freshman year, which I found to be very eye-opening on what cancer really meant. This class mainly covered the biological aspect of cancer but I also wanted to know more about the treatment aspect. This internship provides me with that experience.

What is something you have learned from your internship that you didn’t expect?

The amount of patience and care it takes to expand lymphocyte cultures in an aseptic environment. Before, I had only worked on bacterial cultures which are not very demanding. Also, you would think that since these are immune cells, they would not require so much attention. Ironically, they require so much care and in a very clean environment in order for them to grow to robust cells that can confer immunity to the body. Their life through development and function is inherently ironical.

Can you give us three adjectives and three nouns that describe your internship experience?

Building, Insightful, Fun

Experience, Essence, Teamwork