STEP Reflection

What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.

I worked along with Dr. Patrick Nana-Sinkam and two post-graduate students, Jennifer Flemming and Rahman Muhammad, in the Comprehensive Cancer Center- Lung Cancer division. I learned the fundamentals of cell culture, cell counting, harvesting RNA, protein, and exosomes via ultracentrifugation. Furthermore, I was able to do qPCR experiments and wound healing assays. I designed my own experimental focus: studying metastamiRS within the parental line and its exosomes using healthy lung cell line PC14 and its metastatic counterpart PC14HM. As far as what I have been doing in lab, it is a very novel idea because most of the focus of microRNAs within exosomes have been related to breast cancer. Furthermore, only a handful of exosomal microRNA within breast cancer papers have been published. To this date, not one research paper has looked at investigating microRNA found in exosomes within lung cancer tumors/cell lines. What has been investigated is total RNA microRNAs.

A side project of mine was working on publishing a paper along with Dr. Nana-Sinkam that serves as a review for early detection biomarkers of lung cancer.

So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.

This experience definitely helped me build confidence. At first, I felt completely out of place due to not knowing how to set up the experiments and only having a small knowledge base about exosomes and microRNA from what I learned in classes. However, Dr. Nana-Sinkam’s lab was so welcoming and understanding. I was comfortable with asking questions, and am now more comfortable with asking when I do not understand something in my classroom settings. Dr. Nana-sinkam pushed me to think of the answers to my own questions first before he told me. This has led me to try to find an answer to questions about cancer, biogenesis, etc. before asking him.

Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.

This STEP experience is one that I am not only grateful for, but also proud to be a part of. I learned many useful and fundamental lab techniques that will help me further in my career choices. I learned more about what I want to do in life. I knew I always wanted to practice medicine, but am happy to have met the group I work with to see that it is possible to also do research, as well. I will continue to work on publishing the review and doing research in this lab department.