I had the wonderful opportunity to work in a lab in the Neuroscience Department for about 6 months. I started in the summer of 2017 and was immediately intrigued by all of the projects going on. I was assigned to help a graduate student with her project involving the mTOR pathway and oligodendrocyte regeneration. She had several projects underway, which involved the spinal cords of either rats or mice. I was trained to work with the animals, and was even able to help prepare them for surgeries. My main duties in the lab included blocking and cutting spinal cord tissue, staining slides, and counting cells. I learned to identify and count several different types of cells, and mostly focused on counting the areas where two different types of cells were overlapping. I learned so much about the scientific process in this lab, and even gained some important skills in interpreting journal articles. Every other Wednesday, the grad students in my lab had a journal club in which I was allowed to participate. I would read the selected articles to the best of my ability beforehand, and listen as the grad students explained the figures and discussed the articles. This was extremely helpful for me because listening to their discussions clarified so much about the articles and figures that I was not too sure about when I first read them. Ultimately, this lab was a great experience, but a combination of several factors lead me to make the decision to step away from it in my second semester of sophomore year. I had learned so much about the research process, but I had also leaned a lot about myself, including the fact that this lab was just not the best thing for me at the time. I knew that there were definitely students out there who were 100% sure they wanted to pursue a PhD that would be ecstatic to be in my position and would be passionate about taking over the project that I was working on. This, along with my desire to become more involved in volunteering and other activities outside of research helped me make my decision to leave the lab. Despite this decision, I am so grateful for the time I spent in this lab and for all of the knowledge I gained from my incredible P.I. and all of the graduate students in the lab.
At the beginning of the summer, I started a position in Dr. Michael Knopp’s Radiology Lab. Dr. Knopp is a radiologist with a PhD in Computer Science. Over the course of the summer, I have not only learned a significant amount about MRI’s, but also what goes into the organization and coordination of a clinical trial. There are many projects going on in Dr. Knopp’s lab at the Wright Center of Innovation, but I specifically spent most of my time working on a Glioblastoma clinical trial, and some of it working on a Meningioma clinical trial. My job was to look at patient scans as well as the parameters of their scans and compile the information so that a comparison could be done to see if all of the sites were sending in scans that were up to protocol. Depending on the sequence of the MRI and the field strength of the scanner(3T or 1.5T), different parameters were laid out. In these trials, the sequences looked at were T2, FLAIR, 3D T1 (pre- and post-contrast), DWI, and Perfusion (DSC for the Glioblastoma trial and DCE for the Meningioma trial). I learned the defining features of each type of scan, and which parameters are most important for each type. One of the main goals of the compilation project was to use this information to decide how close the parameters of the scans sent in had to be to the protocol to be acceptable for the trial. Different sites have different types of scanners, so communicating exactly what is wanted for each trial is extremely important for the trial to have accurate and comparable results. So much work is put into improving the the protocol so that there are substantially less problems and disparities for future trials. Since these trials use patients from different facilities throughout the U.S., it is very important to be clear and concise in communicating the specific scans that each trial requires. This research experience has not only given me a great foundation of imaging information that I will be able to use in the future, but has also introduced me to some incredible people. Overall, I am happy to have helped out in a lab that has opened my eyes to a different side of the research process.
This in-class research project helped to open my eyes to the incredible amount of work that goes into every single research inquiry. For this project, we were given information about endophytes, which are microorganisms that inhabit internal plant tissues. These endophytes are typically seen to have a mutualistic relationship with the plant, meaning that both the endophytes and the plant benefit from the relationship. Given minimal information, we were required to come up with a testable research question involving endophytes. My partner and I decided to explore how the endophyte diversity of a plant would be affected when the plant was introduced to salt stress. We worked throughout the semester to run the experiment, and collect as much data as we could with the resources provided. We were able to gather data using microscopy, PCR and gel electrophoresis, and several bioassays. We also drew upon literature to help us make predictions and consider why we had the outcomes that we did. Once all of the data had been collected, we created a poster to present at a mini forum. The forum consisted of several Biology classes presenting their original research to various faculty members. My partner and I were able to present to many professors, as well as our TA. This was a great learning opportunity for me, as I hope to present research at forums, such as the Denman Forum, in the near future.