Internship in Dr. Guerau’s Research Lab

Name: Claudia Edell

Type of Project: Internship

 

I spent my summer working in Dr. Guerau’s clinical immunology research lab where I worked on my own project studying the effects of a PRMT5 knockout on the severity of an animal model of multiple sclerosis, called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). I worked with the mice as well as conducted many experiments in the laboratory to obtain data that I will use to defend my undergraduate research thesis in the Spring.

 

My career goals changed entirely during my summer internship in Dr. Guerau’s lab. I learned a lot about myself and what I hope to accomplish throughout my life. My goal since I was in 9th grade was to attend medical school after graduation to be able to practice medicine. However, my time in this lab has shown me how much passion I have for research and how this career better suits me and will still allow me to accomplish everything I want to in my life. Being given this much responsibility in my lab has opened my eyes to how much I can get out of a career in a research lab. I learned the meaning of hard work and dedication, as research projects require a different level of dedication. While all career paths are hard in their own way, if you slack off for just one day, your whole project can fall apart. It was hard at times and there are some very long days in lab, but seeing positive end results is one of the best feelings in the whole world. Seeing my project come together has given me more happiness than I ever could have imagined, and I have witnessed so much personal growth since the beginning of the summer. Even though I am also in the lab during the school year, I was able to be there more full time in the summer and really dive in to my project, which I do not fully get to do during the school year due to having more responsibilities with classes and other student organization involvements. I learned what makes me happy and I learned where I want my career to take me, which was a very valuable lesson as I head in to my senior year and am beginning my graduate school application process.

 

The people in my lab definitely positively impacted my research experience and all acted as mentors in different ways. Dr. Guerau is the best mentor I have ever worked with and she is always willing to help her students. She has provided me with many opportunities to succeed and always offers advice on how to improve my project and how to succeed. I feel very grateful for her help and without her guidance, I do not think I would have enjoyed this experience as much. Along with Dr. Guerau, the graduate students in my lab have also been great mentors for me. They always help me when needed and offer great insight on the amount of work it takes to pursue a PhD in this field and have been great support systems as I am preparing for the application process. I have been able to rely on theme for guidance and help with many different things and have formed close relationships with them throughout the summer. Lastly, having other undergraduates in the lab has also made this experience much more enjoyable. It is very nice to have people your own age to relate to struggles and experiences that other people in the lab are not currently experiencing. The other undergraduates have become friends outside of the lab as well, and it has been very nice to form these out of lab connections to have friends who understand the work needed to succeed in this field.

 

Along with the people, I was exposed a wide variety of lab techniques that will better prepare me for graduate school and beyond. I was able to run my own ELISA assays, flow cytometry assays and T cell isolation experiments. I was able to start learning western blotting as well. I also got a lot of independence with mouse room work and was responsible for most of the scoring for certain experiments, which helped me learn how much time and responsibility mouse room work required. Mouse room work also required coming in on weekends, which was an adjustment to most internships I have had in the past, but it was a great learning experience. Getting to do all of these tests and experiments was very beneficial to my learning and really made me fall in love with the work I was doing. Without this wide exposure to multiple types of experiments I could do and without the trust of my superiors, I would have had the same feeling toward this work.

 

Dr. Guerau really promotes lab bonding and has provided many opportunities for us to get to know each other outside of a work setting. We had lab meetings each week where we would present data, but we also would get food, like pizza, and be able to talk to each other about things that were not lab related. We also had lab picnics and lunches on some weekends to form relationships with one another. One thing that our lab definitely bonded over was our love for food, and it was a very enjoyable experience to get to form these friendships. It made work more fun when you knew everyone as more of a friend and less as someone you just worked with.

 

Before joining this lab, I was convinced that research was never something I would be interested in. I thought it would be boring to be stuck in a lab all day and only got in to it to improve my medical school applications. I truly did not expect to love it as much as I do and am so thankful for this opportunity to figure out exactly what I want to do with my life and what is going to make me happy and feel accomplished. I am eager to continue my work in this lab during the school year and continue my path with wherever I go to graduate school. I am much more excited for my future since I have found something that I genuinely want to do and have much more passion for the work I am doing. It is a huge weight off of my shoulders to know that I have found what I love and am on the right path for a very happy and fulfilling future.