After eight weeks at the Hariri Imaging Lab, I think I can say that I was able to meet my defined learning goals. My goals shifted as time went on, but overall remained similar to what I originally set out to achieve. My academic goal to further understand the respiratory system most definitely was achieved. I learned the anatomy of the lungs and bronchioles, gained a deeper understanding of the alveoli, and saw many stages of different diseases in the lung. After observing many sign outs and running analyses on digital biopsy slides, I can even point out certain features of the lung at the cellular level! A second goal of mine was to be exposed to the life of an MD/PhD. I was able to see how the research conducted in the lab directly applies to the process of prevention and diagnoses of disease in the clinical setting. I think that interning in this translational medicine lab gave me good insight to the field, but I also think that it is only one of the many different types of research out there. Lastly, I wanted to gain confidence as a woman in science. I was pleasantly surprised that many of the doctors and researchers that I interacted with were women. Thus, I was able to learn first-hand the experiences of being a woman in science and medicine, as well as gain multiple perspectives on my future career path.
I have learned so much from this internship about myself and my future career. I have learned that I, without a doubt, want to be a medical doctor and apply to medical school this upcoming year. I consistently found the tasks we did and the topics we discussed that related to the diagnosis process or regarding lung diseases to be extremely interesting. I also learned that I do not want to solely be a researcher- I like the integration between being a researcher and a doctor. During my gap year, I plan on doing more experiential learning so that I can decide if I would like to apply for an MD/PhD program or just an MD program. Additionally, I discovered I would like to work in a field that has a lot of human interaction. Although I interact with the other members of the lab each day, a career with more human/patient interaction would be more enjoyable for me.
After this internship, I feel as though I have a more open mindset about research. Before this internship, I had never worked in a research lab and thought of it as intimidating. I expected the environment to be very structured and intense, however, this lab environment was collaborative, and the research team worked efficiently both individually and as team members. I think if I had known this earlier, I would have tried to work or intern in a lab earlier. This experience has taught me that labs offer a great setting to learn and to feel comfortable with asking questions.
Something that I am proud of from my internship this summer is my increase in self-confidence and adaptability. I am someone who prefers schedules and clear guidelines. Many of the tasks that I was working on this summer were new to me and came with minimal instruction. At first, I was nervous about not being told exactly what to do. However, over the time of the internship, I learned that the lack of instruction increased my creativity and growth. This exposure made me more confident in my abilities. I am glad I interned at the Hariri Imaging Lab because I am better prepared for my next challenge.
After just two more weeks at the Hariri Imaging Lab, I feel as though I am getting used to the way the lab works and research that they do. At first, I was doing small tasks and was astonished by how important those tiny tasks are to the overall research process. I’ve realized that here, everything builds on itself and that it is amazing to begin to see tiny progression in such long term work. One of my goals for this internship was to get a better understanding of research and to experience its process. Now that I am familiar with their work, I have been given my own tasks to do, which makes me feel like I am a part of the research process and team.
I think the biggest difference for me between Brandeis academic life and the World of Work in a laboratory setting is structure. At Brandeis, my academic life is very structured. I have due dates that are planned ahead of time and each science class has the same basic structure and I know how to plan for it and I know what I will be learning and how I will be studying each day. The World of Work at the lab is very different. The structure is a lot more laid back, even though everyone is constantly doing work. There is a loose schedule, but each day that schedule changes many times because each component of the research depends on each member and their own work. This looser structure is vital to the lab because it ensures that work will get done in a way that allows for changes to occur frequently. Alternatively, at Brandeis, most of the academic work is personal, and only few projects require the dependence of others getting their tasks done.
As a result of this internship I have learned many new skills that will assist me with academics and future career plans. I have learned that Matlab is very useful in the research world. As a result, I have begun to learn Matlab and familiarize myself with the basics. I think Matlab is an important skill for my future if I decide to go into research, and, even if I decide not to, it will allow me to be able to have a greater understanding of how things are accomplished in science and medicine. Another important skill that I am building on is patience and determination. A lot of the information and topics that are worked on and discussed here in the lab are very complex and specific. At first I found it very intimidating that I did not really understand the technology and the physics behind the machines that are being used. As a result, I realized I needed to be patient and slowly repeat the readings and ask many more questions so that I could begin to understand the complexity of the material. I think this patience and determination to learn when things are tough to understand will be a useful skill in all aspects in my life, especially next year in my classes. In addition, being flexible and able to work in different work environments is an important skill to possess.
This summer I am working as a research intern for Dr. Hariri at the Hariri Imaging Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The Hariri Imaging Lab focuses on the development and clinical application of high-resolution optical imaging for early detection and diagnosis of pulmonary diseases, such as fibrotic lung disease and lung cancer. The Hariri Imaging Lab also aims to increase diagnostic yield through real-time lung tumor biopsy guidance as well as the integration of in vivo optical microscopy into the practice of clinical medicine and pathology. This would create a form of virtual microscopy so that tissue removal would not be needed.
Currently, the Hariri Imaging Lab is performing clinical studies to evaluate how well in vivo imaging can detect disease in the lungs. In addition, there are translational studies which aim to create imaging criteria for in vivo imaging based on excised human tissue. The Hariri Imaging lab is developing new technology to enhance imaging modalities to identify disease.
Before the start of the internship, I had no prior experience with lung pathology or Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). Therefore, I spent a week before I went to the lab reading many research papers Dr. Hariri’s lab published as well as research papers on the physics and purpose of OCT in pathology, which is the technology that is primarily used in this lab.
Once I officially started working at the lab, the research team gave me a tour of the lab and showed me one of the OCT machines, which helped me better understand the technicalities of the papers I had previously read. For the first three days, I was introduced to the more clinical and medical side of lung pathology by observing clinical procedures and surgeries. I gained an understanding of the medical process of diagnosis and treatment by watching a resident resect a lung and then observing how Dr. Hariri diagnoses the biopsy and creates a treatment plan.
Currently, I am assisting with the research aspect of the Hariri Imaging Lab. I am working directly with the research technician to figure out a way to streamline the diagnostic process of fibrotic lung disease. I have been working on the digital manipulation of histopathological tissue samples by classifying different tissue regions. I also have been segmenting the histology slides so that the computer is able to process the histology more easily. These steps are necessary to digitalize this process. We are hoping that this digitalization of the diagnostic process will assist pathologists in determining the progression of fibrotic disease.
To date, I have already increased my knowledge of lung anatomy and the progression of disease in a formal setting. I am challenged and enjoy learning the research lab methodology that incorporates both science and medicine and with many different people in the process. I am excited to better understand the research that the Hariri Imaging Lab is focusing on each day and to learn the magnitude of impact this research has on a global scale and the importance of translational and clinical research in medicine.