Over the past couple of months, I have volunteered in a research lab studying gene therapy on Charcot Marie Tooth. My role in the lab required me to take over a large array of responsibilities such as PCR, autoclaving, Image J and animal handling. The purpose of my experiment was to see if gene therapy could pose as a potential treatment for CMT, a form of muscular atrophy. Although this experiment is continuing forward, there is still much more for me to learn.
I had already worked in the Anthony Brown Research lab since the end of my freshman year. Until a few months ago, my role in the lab was still small. I did simple tasks such as genotyping and making buffer solution. I never understood how these smaller tasks held weight in the experiments until now.
Even after understanding these smaller tasks, I learned new techniques that will come in handy in the future. For one, I learned how to use the software Image J. This is used to trace the myelin thickness around an axon. In CMT, myelin is hardly present, if any at all. The application of this software finally showed me the clinical ties that I can see in my future. I also learned animal handling skills such as taking tail samples and tattooing the mice to later identify them in the experiment.
This project was transformative because I discovered laboratory work is far more complex than I initially thought. I had this idea in my mind that I would just be running DNA samples in agarose the whole time, but it was much more than that. It is a multidisciplinary task that incorporates studies from all sciences to produce accurate results. It is important to be knowledgeable of all aspects, not just one.
The people I worked with in my lab have also made this a transformative experience. They pushed me to do things that I do not want to do because I must do them in order to do the things I do want to do. An example of this was animal testing. Although I did not think I would have a hard time with it, it was a challenge I ended up having to overcome. In the end, animal testing could help research determine the mechanism to put an end to muscular atrophy and I got to be apart of it.
During the pandemic, it was difficult to come into lab which made this process particularly hard. Although this made time management difficult and I have yet to finish this experiment, it did provide me with some useful skills. Image J became particularly useful because I found a way to research remotely and still help to get definitive results.
Research showed me who I was in more ways than none. This experience ended up being transformative for me because I realized it might not be my calling. Although I enjoyed this experience, I would like to have more outside interaction in the future. My role in the lab is important; I would additionally like to see it carried over in the clinical setting. Overall, I learned many useful techniques such as animal tattooing that I would like to continue using. However, it made me question where I truly see myself in the future and I will forever appreciate that.