One of my favorite things about interning in this lab at Brown Liver Research Center is having the opportunity to be mentored by my PI, someone who is very qualified and accomplished in her field of research. This is exemplified well through her multitude of publications on nitrosamines and their detrimental effects on the brain. On several occasions of researching background information for different projects, I have come across articles written by her and the other main lab technician. Here is a link to an article by my PI that I happened across earlier this week: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19542621. It is very impressive and inspiring to work under someone who is so prominent in this niche of research.
Another fun aspect of working in this lab is the daily afternoon tradition called Cake Hour, when different people volunteer to bring a dessert and everyone comes together to enjoy it at the end of the day. There is even a blog dedicated to this tradition, here is the link: www.cakehour.com. Cake Hour is a really nice way of bringing the lab together when throughout the day people often tend to be isolated within their own research projects.
The people in the lab are overall very friendly and helpful, often willing to go out of their way to help others and answer questions. I find this aspect especially important, as most of what I am doing was completely new to me at the start of the summer. My personal learning goal is to strive to understand everything I am doing in the lab, and feeling comfortable asking questions and seeking clarification has allowed me to stay on track with this goal.
Interning in a research lab has differed from academic life in the way that everything I am learning is directly correlated to a hands-on experience. I really enjoy this approach to learning because it gives more direction and focus to my education and allows me to solidify and further understand the new knowledge by actually utilizing it in a project. I am learning more technical skills rather than the overarching and broad knowledge of many of my academic classes.
Through the experience of interning in this lab I have further developed skills that I can transfer both to my academics and future career plans. I have learned various protocols including slice culture, gel electrophoresis, duplex ELISA, PCR, MALDI, BCA, microsectioning and H&E staining.
Here is a picture of the white plates used in an ELISA experiment being incubated on a shaking device and the ELISA protocol I typed from my notes.
I will apply many of these techniques next year in Biology Lab, allowing me to feel more comfortable and knowledgeable in the class. Additionally, having lab experience on my resume will allow me to be a more competitive candidate for future research labs, as I will already have a wide range of knowledge and applicable experience.
In addition to improving my scientific skill set, I have also built on my interpersonal skills and workplace professionalism. By working with people who are older than I am, whether graduate students or adults, I have become better at connecting with people not my age. Furthermore, this internship has allowed me the experience of working in a professional setting and a better understanding of the associated decorum.