Bioengineering student completes competitive NIH internship program


Bioengineering student John Mutersbaugh has always been interested in the human brain.

“I am so fascinated by the brain and all its capabilities,” he says. “How it works is incredibly complicated. Our current understanding of the brain is very limited. We barely understand how it functions on many different levels.” 

John Mutersbaugh

This natural curiosity drew him to apply for – and win – the National Institute of Health (NIH) Biomedical Engineering Summer Internship Program (BESIP), a competitive internship offered to rising senior bioengineering students. The program allows students to get hands-on experience in cutting-edge biomedical research projects. 

“BESIP is just a really great experience,” says Mutersbaugh. “I was hired to work under a doctor and neuroscientist in the National Institutes of Health to do research along with my mentors Dr. Kareem Zaghloul and Dr. Uma Mohan. I had the opportunity to learn from post grad students and doctors working there.” 

During Mutersbaugh’s 10-week internship, he worked on analyzing and researching data collected from drug-resistant epilepsy patients. These patients receive deep brain stimulation through implanted electrodes, which help to prevent seizures. 

Muterbaugh says the stimulation helps to keep the brain in sync and this type of work suited his interests perfectly. 

“Deciphering the brain and memory encoding signals is a big interest of mine,” he says. “I am very drawn to this field of neuroscience.”  

He feels that along with this interest, his previous experience as a George Mason Office of Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) intern, a solid essay, and having his genuine enthusiasm for the opportunities offered through BESIP shine through helped him land the role. 

“I think the formatting of my essay helped to really detail my previous experience and interest. I made sure to write about my interest in the research being done and details about why I’d be interested in working with the BESIP neuroscientists,” he says. 

The fact the internship is paid is another motivator, he says, and it will open up doors whether he chooses to pursue a PHD or continue a research career. 

His best advice for those wanting to apply to BESIP next year is to try to get some OSCAR experience first, and leverage it to gain the research experience desired for BESIP. He also recommends that theyseek out a professor doing medical related work on campus and ask them to be a mentor. 

“By working with a professor, this can set you up with a solid letter of recommendation on your research skills, as well as experience which matters in the BESIP application process,” he says. 

BESIP is for undergraduate biomedical engineering students who have completed their junior year of college. Applications for the 2023 summer BESIP program should re-open around the middle of November 2022 for the 2023 summer.