Undergraduate Research at Nationwide Children’s

My STEP Signature Project this summer was to plan and implement my thesis experiment which is culturing Small and Large Intestinal epithelial and neuronal cells primarily and incubating them with IL-1B and GABA to see the effects of stress- induced-inflammation on intestinal physiology. I have been researching in Dr. Michael Bailey’s lab for over one year and decided to spend my summer in Columbus, mainly focusing on my thesis project while assisting my post-doctorate, Dr. Brett Loman. After the first round of epithelial cell experiments, we have found that IL-1B and GABA alter the IL-1 and IL-6 signaling while changing the intestinal barrier function. This took place at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Center for Microbial Pathogenesis.
Preparing a new experimental protocol from scratch, according to our preliminary data has been so much more challenging than I’ve expected. I assumed that we would not have to think through all the steps of this experiment prior and would quickly conduct the experiment. Planning this experiment and ordering all the necessary reagents has allowed me to comprehend how challenging conducting research is full. Additionally, even though I had been in this lab for close to two years, I never understood why the study had to progress so slowly. Now, as I create my own project, I know all the obstacles that can interfere and all the required thought that goes to precautions to avoid the obstacles.

Moreover, I learned how vital collaboration within and among the labs are for success. Without the help and the input from my coworkers in the lab, I wouldn’t be able to finish the work I was assigned to by the deadline. Before this experience, I assumed labs had a competitive environment and that people did not ask for help from other people. This experience thankfully proved me wrong, because the experiments where I collaborated with my coworkers always ended up going so much smoother than expected.

On the road to realizing how challenging creating an experiment protocol was, I was quite sure that my post-doc would accept my first proposal. It was confusing to receive a veto from him; yet, I persisted. In the end, my experiment plan was to incubate epithelial cell cultures with 0 or 1 ng/mL IL-1B for 12 hours and with 0, 10 or 30 ug/mL GABA for 2 hours at the end of IL-1B incubation. However, learning how to do primary isolation of cells, passaging cells, cryopreserving, thawing cells as well as for deciding on the concentration of IL-1B and GABA, the incubation time and order took me close to one month of full-time work at the lab. Even after that, my first batch of cells got contaminated, which resulted in the delay of my experiment. However, I was still able to conduct my experiment and measure the expressions of the genes I was interested in, which resulted in significant changes. Very recently, I and my post-doc attempted to do primary enteric neuron isolation from mice, which was a completely new protocol for both of us. Although we weren’t successful the first time, we were able to designate problem areas that need to be improved for the next trial.

Everything I learned and experienced in the lab had a very significant impact on me, in realizing how much I loved persisting against all the odds. I believe going after what you’re passionate about and continuing despite the obstacles is what drives me in life. Being able to implement my life motto in research gave me great joy. This experience also allowed me to become a more independent researcher and understand academia better. I still would like to be a physician since I also much enjoy human interaction. However, this research experience made me realize that I would like research to be one of the significant parts of my career.