Undergraduate Research: An educational and Fun experience

My STEP signature project this summer was focused on Inflammatory Bowel Diseases research, specifically Crohn’s Disease (CD). My experimental hypothesis was whether deleting/silencing a gene in our bacteria of interest has an effect in the progression of CD. My mentor, Dr. Alexander Rodriguez-Palacios at Case Western University, helped me set up the experiments associated with this hypothesis. We successfully completed bacterial transformation of plasmids. These plasmids were used for our bacteria that we grew on antibiotic agars. Afterwards, we ran genetic testing to confirm the presence and or non-presence of the gene. The project is still ongoing, but we collected enough data for me to provide a detailed report in a poster created for my STEP project.

For this project, I learned many new protocols necessary for my experiments. This includes qPCR, bacterial transformation of plasmids, RNA extraction, western blotting and preparation of antibiotic agars. This project further confirmed my desire to continue research after my undergraduate years in addition with pursuing medicine. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience! I learned a lot and I am grateful to the laboratory staff I worked with and for my mentor. Attached are images of some of the tools I had the opportunity to use. I was very nervous at first, because for example, the big white box image, is approximately $300,000. Many lab tools, I learned are very expensive and should be handled with care.

One important event was when we took one of our samples for transmission electron microscopy, to image our tissues, in search of bacteria. Sadly, we didn’t find anything, but we got other interesting results. Initially, I thought this was a fail, but my mentor informed me to look at all sides. While we didn’t find what we had in mind, we came out with something else just as valuable!

Thus, this is just one aspect of being a scientist, being optimistic, resourceful and utilizing your data. For there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ data, instead, ‘expected’ and ‘non-expected’ data, and to make use of it and report what you find. This experience has had a lasting experience for me. It relates to other parts in my life because in scientific research, you have to be daring (within reason) and be ready to fail and be alright with it.

There were many mishaps in my research project, all of which frustrated me, but I learned that’s okay and to sit down reassess how I can improve and what better to do the next time. This attitude is transferable to many aspects in our lives and fosters a healthy attitude about failure and succeeding in our lives.

I believe once I become a physician, I’d like to keep up to date in my area, by reading research materials and participating in research to provide the latest and best care for patients.

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