Student earns summer internship to research Alzheimer’s in Germany

The sciences are highly respected in Germany, which is what drew junior Analise Roth-Rodriguez to the Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) program through the German Academic Exchange Service known in Germany as DAAD. 

RISE Germany offers summer research internships in Germany for undergraduate students from North America, Great Britain and Ireland.

Roth-Rodriguez said she is interested in studying Alzheimer’s, a neurogenetic disease that worsens over time, because America has an increasing aging population and this disease is becoming more prevalent.

“It is the only top 10 cause of death in the US with no known cure, so if I am able to have some part in discovering disease causation I would feel like I had a meaningful impact in this world,” Roth-Rodriguez said.

The program matches interns with doctoral students, who act as their mentors. In turn, interns assist the doctoral students with their research.

Roth-Rodriguez remembers wanting to be a doctor ever since she was in elementary school. However, it wasn’t until high school after she took AP Biology and AP Chemistry, that Roth-Rodriguez really felt encouraged to pursue a degree in the sciences.

In high school, she also participated in the Upward-Bound Math and Science program, which exposed her to the intricacies of the brain and sparked her curiosity.

“I couldn’t decide between the two (biology and chemistry) so that’s how I came to the consensus of being a biochemistry major.”

Upon entering college, Roth-Rodriguez took German I as her foreign language. Her professor convinced her to declare as a German Language minor. 

Her curiosity in both the country and the field of science made Roth-Rodriguez consider possibly studying and interning in Germany. 

“Analise quickly stood out as a highly motivated and inquisitive student, even in German I,” said Emma Woelk, assistant professor of German. “I probably mentioned the DAAD RISE program to her when I learned that she was a biochemistry major, but one of the things that I really appreciate about Analise is how broad her areas of interest are.”

Roth-Rodriguez owes a lot of her undergraduate success to her professors who have pushed her to excel in her studies.

“It always seemed to me that Analise saw the possible connection between her study of German and her major field as a big perk — but far from the only reason she was interested in learning about another language and culture,” Woelk says. “Any professor would be thrilled to have a student who could have enthusiastic conversations on topics as varied as research lab culture; war and scientific ethics; slang in pop music; and fairy tales.”

Roth-Rodriguez turned down an offer to participate in another program in Austin at the University of Texas. 

The RISE program offered the opportunity to work on groundbreaking research, network globally within her field, and immerse herself within another language and culture. 

Other prominent scientific and medical advancements discovered in Germany include x-ray machines, contact lenses, Asprin and airbags for automobiles. 

Spending the Summer in Tübingen researching Alzheimer’s disease is a huge step for Roth-Rodriguez both professionally and personally.

She admits that at times the work is difficult and that navigating the college experience is even more challenging for first-generation college students whose parents are unfamiliar with the higher education application process and experience. 

“It can be hard, but just stay persistent,” the McNair Scholar says regarding her previous academic experience conducting research.

“Analise really exemplifies the type of student who is willing and able to make connections between classrooms and to take what she’s done here at St. Edward’s out into the world,” Woelk says. “I know that both the German and biochemistry programs here at St. Ed’s are very proud to have her representing us.”