The Fellowship Office at Loyola University Chicago congratulate David Collins, a senior molecular biology major, who recently won a National Institute of Health (NIH) Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA).

When David graduates in May, he will begin his IRTA studying interneurons in the hippocampus in the laboratory of Dr. Chris McBain at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Lisa Knepshield, the Fellowship Coordinator, helped David throughout his process of finding and applying for this research award. Although academic merit was an important aspect of his win, Knepshield knows how much work he put into the application process.

“In terms of applying successfully, I was amazed at his attention to detail,” explains Knepshield. “He made sure he used all the advice that was given and paid close attention to the website with all info on it to help him apply. David was great at using all the application tips, working with the Fellowship Office, and having an advisor look at his application.”

David describes the process he went through in applying for this prestigious research award.

“It was a bit strange because I had to fill out an online application and submit a resume and cover letter,” says Collins. “I had a lot of help from the Lisa to submit three letters of recommendation which all go onto the portal where the Principle Investigators (PI’s) can read it.”

He explains how he decided to just email all the PI’s his cover letter and resume after he hadn’t heard anything back for a while. After hearing back from a few people and going on some interviews he went “out of his way” to make himself stand out among the other applicants. “It was a little different than any other application I had ever applied for.”

For the past two years, David has had a fellowship through the Loyola biology department where he has worked alongside Dr. William Rochlin doing research on developmental neural psychology. He used that experience as a basis for the type of research he was interested in when applying to different the laboratories.

“I’ve just always been a science nerd,” jokes David.

When he begins his IRTA he will be studying different types of cells in the hippocampus and how they change during development, learning, and memory retrieval.

“It’s something I’ve never really had experience with, so I’m really excited to learn more about it,” says David. “I will have to do a fair amount of reading, but it will be great to learn more about the field and to get the experience.”

As part of this program, and in order to win the award, applicants must promise to apply to graduate school. David says he will start applying to MD/PhD programs starting in June. Although many doctoral programs add on at least six more years to a student’s training and higher level education, David remains optimistic.

“I like being a student,” he says. “Even in the summer, I do CORESERA or ED X just because I don’t know what to do with myself if I’m not being a student.”

David will begin his research after graduation, but thanks the Fellowship Office for their immense help they provided that led to him winning the IRTA.

“They are very good at helping students apply but also helping them narrow down their interests, and they lay it all out so you can see what’s worth pursuing to apply for.” David concludes.

For information or for help in your own application processes please contact the Fellowship Office.