Summer is finally here, and while most students are relishing their summer break from school, a select few are experiencing a Pinhead Institute Summer Internship.

Founded in 2003, Pinhead’s internship program enables students to spend summers studying science toe to toe with global scientific and industry leaders,  who are studying critical issues facing the world today: biodiversity, indigenous cultures, influenza study, sustainability, habitat loss, and climate change. In general, practical experience is offered in the fields of  math, physics, conservation, chemistry, and biology and more.

Students from Nucla, Norwood, Telluride, Ridgway & Ouray High Schools who qualify to enter the program are exposed to what often turns out to be a life changing experience. Since the inception of the internship program, Pinhead has placed over 50 students all over the world.

Here are what a few of our regional students are up to this summer with Pinhead.

Jessica Hild (Telluride High School) and Angelina Destefano (Telluride High School) are delving into the important field of neurology this summer. Both girls are interning at the esteemed Gabrieli Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Both girls are working on a study investigating dyslexia in pre-reading children. They are primarily looking at the part of the brain that is engaged while reading to uncover any abnormality in the brain that explains why some children struggle from dyslexia and why others do not. Angelina is administering EEG scans (electrodes placed on the head) and Jessica is conducting MRI scans to look at the brains of the children in this study to see what they can discover.

Daniel Degenhardt (Ouray High School) is at the University of California, Santa Barbara, interning with the esteemed Buratto Group, which is working on the development of high efficiency platinum-based fuel cells. The ultimate goal is to create a fuel cell capable of running for 40,000 hours at 98% efficiency. As Daniel stated in his blog post from his first week at UCSB, “Over the course of the week my understanding of electro-chem has skyrocketed and I am beginning to understand what we are doing.”

Cailin Goldstrom (Ridgway Secondary School) is at Montana State University in the Department of Animal & Range Sciences in Bozeman, MT.  Under the mentoring of Dr. Shannon John J. Moreaux, Cailin is administering psyllium to a group of horses in order to study the liquid absorption rate in the study group.  This study is looking to see how the psyllium affects the glucose and insulin levels in the horse’s blood.

MaKaela Vodopich from Nucla High School is spending her summer at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History in the Department of Paleobiology with Dr. Michael K. Brett-Surman.  MaKaela will get to work with a variety of dinosaur bones, photographing and cataloging them for the Smithsonian’s extensive collection.

And finally, Marissa Padgett of Norwood High School is spending her summer interning at the University of Denver, School of Medicine in the Denver Genetic Laboratories. Marissa will be making expression clones for a combination of bacterial and human sequence for proteins for clinical investigation, specifically checking for mutations. She will learn to make media, pour plates, grow bacteria, prep DNA, and look closely at plasma. Primarily she will be working in an area that looks at the chemical transformations in various diseases.

Throughout the summer each student will be keeping an account of their experiences to be published online on our website and in our local papers, so be on the lookout for Pinhead Intern “Letters from the Field” all summer.

It is through the generous support of the Telluride Foundation, CCAASE, the Telluride Rotary and Pinhead’s many donors that these opportunities are available to our regional students.

Looking to support this program in the future? Contact Pinhead today. Curious to learn more about these incredible interns or want to learn more about this program? Visit us today at or call Executive Director Sonchia Jilek at 970.708.7441.
Images: Pinhead Intern Cailin Goldstrom (Ridgway) takes a blood sample from Frosty the horse while interning at Montana State University’s Department of Animal & Range Sciences

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