Air Force Research Laboratory

Dayton, Ohio
Company Size: ~11,000
Anticipated number of internship positions: TBD

Opportunity for remote/virtual internship in 2021: TBD

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) leads the discovery development and delivery of warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace forces. We’re pushing the boundaries and creating a new tomorrow through unparalleled research. Our commitment to innovation gives us the drive to constantly push the envelope and deliver the technology that keeps us prepared for the future. To meet current and future technology needs, AFRL has unique facilities and state-of-the-art equipment in locations around the world. AFRL is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, home to the Wright brothers and recognized as the birth place of aviation. We’re comprised of Technology Directorates, Functional Directorates, 711th Human Performance Wing and the Air force Office of Scientific Research. From our beginnings at McCook Field in 1917 to modern day, nearly every aerospace technology in the last century has been influenced by AFRL.


Internship Project Description

–This description represents a potential internship project and is subject to change.–

(Updated 11/12/2020)

Research Project Title: Harnessing synthetic biology to engineer probiotics to modulate cortisol levels

Research Project Synopsis: High levels of stress & cortisol induced by stress impose a significant burden on health such as metabolic syndrome and psychological maladaptation. Synthetic biology offers a path to modulating this response through engineering circuits that sense persistently high cortisol levels and restore equilibrium. We are engineering totally synthetic transcription factors (STF) that recapitulate the domain structure of the glucocorticoid receptor (activator, ligand binding domain and DNA binding domain) and creating libraries of STF’s that differ in their ability to sense cortisol and activate transcription thus enabling tuning of cortisol control circuits in a probiotic eukaryote Saccharomyces boulardii. Potential projects would include evolution of the ligand binding domains towards new ligands, creating now neuroactive response molecules through pathway engineering and tuning of circuit characteristics.

Professional Development Opportunities: The work described will be conducted within the Systems Biology Group in the Airmen Bioengineering Division that has an active research portfolio spanning diverse areas. The Systems Biology Group typically hosts 6-10 interns over the summer spanning diverse areas such as computational biology, microfluidic cell culture models and synthetic biology. Regular lab meetings present an opportunity for interns to interface with peers and mentors in these areas culminating in presentations at a research symposium spanning intern projects across the 711th HPW hosted by the Chief Scientist. Lab tours expand networking opportunities across the enterprise and provide insight into Air Force centric research areas such as altitude chambers, human centrifuges and other tools for understanding the biomedical impacts of flight. Regular social events provide another networking opportunity while allowing an appreciation of the many opportunities Dayton, the Birthplace of Aviation, offers.