At the beginning of the summer I began work on an exciting project in the Katz lab at BrandeisUniversityon a specific aspect of taste memory. For the sake of brevity it’ll suffice to say that the project is looking at a well-founded behavior in rodents in which the animals learn that a taste is “safe” over the course of a few days (interested in knowing more? Click here!). Recently it has been suggested by data in the lab that this behavior can show itself in a faster time course if the behavior is measured using different techniques. At the beginning of summer I began collecting data to verify the claims of the past study, and had figured that this would be a quick task and that by this time I would have started on the next leg of the project. Like many things in life, however, science does not work on the timescale that you expect. We are now halfway through my internship and we are very close, just now, to being confident in the presence of this behavior. But don’t take that as a complaint; even though the timing has showed itself to be longer than expected, I am very proud to know that with the data I gathered and the additional analysis we are on the precipice of finishing and submitting my first data paper. Also, life in the lab has been incredibly enjoyable and very, very rewarding.
Whenever I’m not working with data at my desk, I am getting hands-on experience by shadowing my co-workers to learn and perfect certain techniques that will greatly assist me when it comes time to manage my own project. These techniques, it should be noted, are incredibly important to my future career plans as the skills I am currently learning are easily transferable to post-college studies and work. Additionally with certain techniques it is difficult to tell if I have actually improved, but I have noticed that I am asking for less confirmation and help as my hands and mind become steadier. It’s impossible to explain the immense amount of gratitude I feel to my labmates as they have walked me through virtually every step with a smile. Because of the experience I’ve had so far, I feel very confident and excited to proceed to the next step of my project.
It goes without saying that the atmosphere in the lab is incredibly conducive to learning; each person is willing to help one another in times of need. Recently, a post-doctoral fellow needed help finishing up the final parts of her project before she left the country. Virtually everyone in lab spent their free time helping to make sure that things were completed. As the thought of graduate school and additional research work weigh on my mind, it is a relief to know that a lab can not only exist but thrive with this sort of group mentality.
As we go into the latter half of summer, my days will likely be filled with similar activities as the first half. There are still many techniques to learn and perfect, and as the elusive behavior becomes more and more apparent there will come the next step of writing and submitting the final manuscript. Additionally, with the stronger evidence that the behavior exists, I will be presenting a poster at the Brandeis Summer Science Poster Session in early August. The technical skills I have gained and the knowledge I’ve learned about the research process are both goals that I had wanted to obtain during my internship. With these learning goals already started, there is little doubt in my mind that the next half of my internship will be just as rewarding, if not more so, than the first. – Kevin Monk ‘ 13