Back at McLab

This summer, I have the pleasure of working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the lab of Dr. Sandra McAllister. The McAllister Lab studies breast cancer as a systemic disease, and our research focuses on identifying systemic factors that contribute to tumor progression and finding ways to interdict their function. Located in the Longwood Medical Area of Boston, MA, our lab is housed in the Karp Research Building.

This is actually my third summer at the McAllister Lab, as I interned here previously after my junior and senior years of high school. For those two prior years, I was at the lab under the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center CURE Program. I have continuously maintained dialogue with Dr. McAllister throughout the academic years, and she welcomed me to return to the lab when I had asked if I could return for another summer.

During my very first summer at the McAllister Lab (after junior year of high school), my mentor and I started a project called the Aging Project. In the Aging Project, we are studying the effect of age on triple-negative breast cancer. We have a cohort of young mice and old mice, inject them with human triple-negative breast cancer cell lines, and allow the tumors to grow. The project has been ongoing since its initiation two years ago, so I will once again contribute to its progress. Initially, I was working side-by-side with my mentor throughout my first and second summers. However, he left to pursue graduate school in the middle of the second summer; I ended up working alone for the last two weeks, but with assistance from other post-doctoral researchers in the lab if it was necessary. This summer, I am yet again without a direct mentor. Fortunately, I am still receiving guidance from my principal investigator on the project, and the other post-docs in the lab are also willing to assist me on protocols I am unfamiliar with. In terms of research related responsibilities this summer, I will be doing a lot of immunostaining, tissue culture, gene expression analysis, and literature searches. Other responsibilities concern general upkeep of the lab, such as updating and maintaining cell line and histology databases, restocking supplies, and organization. I will additionally attend weekly meetings with Dr. McAllister and the lab, departmental floor meetings, seminars, and journal clubs.

My first week consisted of catching up on meetings with my principal investigator, as well as planning the experiments that I will be doing. Planning experiments on my own is a new challenge for me, as I am used to having my previous mentor tell me what to do and guide me through each protocol. I feel overwhelmed and stressed about what I have to get done on the Aging Project, but I have confidence that I will be supported by other members of the lab if I need anything. There are also new members of the lab that I have not seen during previous summers, such as new post-docs and summer students, so I hope that I can become well-acquainted with them as well. This summer, I hope to build on my current knowledge of the McAllister Lab’s research and learn how to conduct myself independently in a research setting. I definitely miss having my mentor’s direct guidance, but I am looking forward to growing as a scientist.

– Irene Wong, ’17

Presenting the Aging Project at the New England Science Symposium, April 2014
Presenting the Aging Project at the New England Science Symposium, April 2014
Dr. Sandra S. McAllister Lab, Summer 2013

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