After laboring through a year of the infamous organic chemistry and surviving, summer has finally come. For this summer, in order to apply my school knowledge and to pursue my interests in medicine and research, I secured an internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, located in the heart of Longwood Medical Center, which houses a plethora of hospitals and research buildings in Boston. The area is bustling with activity from morning to late evening, with patients, scientists, physicians, and students rushing to their appropriate destinations, ambulances blaring through the roads, and helicopters hovering over hospital buildings.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of the largest and top teaching hospitals in the nation, aims to transform the future of healthcare through science, education, and compassionate care on both a local and global level. Along with Harvard Medical School, these organizations offer each other the opportunity for educators and leaders in their respected fields to mentor and nurture aspiring physicians and scientists, fostering a diverse community committed to leadership in alleviating human suffering caused by disease.
I specifically have the pleasure of working in Dr. Hoffmeister’s Lab in the Division of Hematology, formerly known as the Division of Translational Medicine. The Hoffmeister Lab’s focuses on the molecular mechanisms of platelets survival and hemapoetic stem cells (HSCs). HSCs have the fascinating ability to differentiate into all different types of blood cells and tissues, including platelets. Ultimately, the research done here will expand the overall knowledge on platelets and homeostasis, opening doors to treatment of various blood cancers across the globe.
A specific project I will be working on is titled “b1,4 Galacosyltransferase T1 is a key regulator of hematopoiesis,” which investigates the role of the enzyme b4GalT1 in the formation of blood cells and platelets. My first week, however, mainly consisted of acquainting myself with the Principal Investigator (PI) and the other personnel in the lab. I shadowed and observed another post-doc, taking notes on how to perform various assays, such as immunoblotting and immunostaining of various mice blood cells, and learned how to use the FACs, a machine utilized in flow cytometry, a core technique used for cell counting, cell sorting, and even diagnosing diseases in labs and clinics. My supervisor gave me a shot at dissecting mice and mouse embryo to obtains cells from their bones, spleens, and livers as well. At the end of the week, I also attended my first lab meeting. While I didn’t contribute much, I observed how data is presented, how questions are posed, how presentations are prepared for conferences, and how future steps in this lab and future experiments are determined and designed.
Ultimately, during my time here, I hope to become more independent and willing to tackle challenging assays, to master more high-level biochemical techniques, and to contribute to future meetings. While the experiments I will be doing aren’t large themselves, such assays are still important for the development of the overall project. But more importantly, as I forge connections with both established and budding researchers and physicians in and outside of the lab, I hope to gain a good sense of this career path. And while I might not necessarily end up becoming a scientist, the people I meet and the skills I learn will still help me later on down the road as I think about and search for jobs. Overall, despite my jammed packed first week, I am excited and look forward to seeing how the rest of my internship develops!
Vivian Liu ’17