Final Week Reflections

As I finish my internship, I believe I have largely met my defined academic, career and personal goals I established before beginning my internship. My academic goal was to build upon the knowledge from the biology classes I have taken, as well as to expand that knowledge to better assist me in future classes. These goals were met as all my research either built on my basic biology knowledge, such as understanding how cellular respiration works and how DNA is replicated, or new lab techniques and concepts. These new techniques include ELISA and cell culture preparation, which will be useful when I take biology lab in the fall. More so, I was introduced to many neuroscience concepts, such as the role of PPAR agonist receptors and the importance of insulin in the brain, which I will be able to apply to my neuroscience courses.

Here is a link to an interesting article about the correlation between insulin resistance and AD, concepts on which my project focused, written by my PI.

My career goal was to gain research experience and decide whether research and neuroscience are areas I am interested in pursuing. This internship provided me with valuable research experience that will make me a far more competitive candidate when applying to future research labs. Additionally, the experience of working in in a lab made me realize that while I find research interesting and would like to continue it throughout my undergraduate education, I don’t think I would like to pursue a career solely involving wet lab research. However, this experience has also helped solidify my choice in majoring in neuroscience, as it has given me further understanding of how uncharted the brain remains and how vital an understanding of this organ is to the future of society and medicine.

My personal goal at the start of my internship was to challenge myself to fully understand all concepts of my research. I feel as though I have met this goal through asking questions and feeling comfortable in being wrong in my understanding, giving me a better grasp of my research through my mistakes.

Overall, as a result of this internship I feel capable of taking on and successfully completing challenging projects. Although my research project appeared daunting and confusing at the beginning of the summer, by working through the project slowly and asking questions when confused, I ended my project with a newfound confidence in my abilities and understanding.

Here is a picture of me at the lab:

I would advise a student interested in this internship to come with an open mind and be prepared to give his or her full efforts. Additionally, this lab prefers to reteach techniques regardless of a student’s previous knowledge, so it is important not to become frustrated or discouraged by this. It is also essential to stay very organized and have full command over your topic, and quality over quantity is key.

I would advise a student interested in an internship at the Brown University Liver Research Center to come into the internship with an open mind and be prepared to give their full efforts. By personally doing so, I learned far more than I expected to and produced results, such as the raw data from the experiment, my presentation for the lab, and a manuscript of the experiment, which I wouldn’t have expected coming into this experience. Here is the link to the lab’s website:

I would advise a student interested in this field to definitely try a hands-on experience, such as working in a lab, in order to interact with the field of study in a new light that differs from the textbook experience. This allows for a new perspective and better understanding of the topic, as well as more comprehensive look into whether you are truly interested in the field.

Looking back at my internship, I am most proud of my presentation at the lab and the manuscript I wrote about my experiment. I often do not present, and when I do, the presentations are often much shorter than the fifteen-minutes I was allotted. Additionally, this presentation was on a challenging and complex topic that required me to gain a comprehensive understanding of in order to make it a successful talk. Fortunately, applying the necessary time and effort allowed my presentation to run very smoothly and I felt I was successful in conveying all aspects of the experiment to my audience. I am also very proud of the manuscript I wrote on the experiment. This required a very extensive understanding of the topic background, results, and experimental significant, and required a style of scientific writing that I had never attempted before. However, I produced an end product that was something I didn’t think achievable before coming into this experience.

Dustine Reich ’20


Midway Post Through and Still Learning More!

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: 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: 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.



My First Week at the Liver Research Center

I am a research assistant at the Liver Research Center, a facility that is part of the Lifespan Corporation and associated with the Brown Alpert Medical School. The building is located in downtown Providence, RI, nearby the Brown Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital. The research focuses around the molecular biology of liver diseases, using animal models including rats and mice. Ongoing studies examine the effects of nitrosamines, a type of chemical found in many processed foods, on insulin resistance in the brain which can result in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease. This study also involves the exploration of the potential mechanism between white matter degradation and Alzheimer’s development.

I am currently receiving training in various lab techniques and procedures. These include the fixation, sectioning and staining of samples, as well as accurate pipetting, bicinchoninic acid (BCA) protein assay protocol, Matrix Assisted Desorption Ionization Imaging Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-IMS), and cryostat sectioning.

This picture is from when I was practicing my pipetting technique:

Before beginning, I had little to no exposure to any of these procedures. It is exciting to be learning new practices everyday and I look forward to being able to implement them through the summer and in the future. I am also tasked with various reading about the procedures I am learning and the research in the lab. The readings are both interesting and challenging, as they are often scientific publications that introduce new terminology and require high levels of comprehension and concentration. Here is a link to a recent article I read in order to better understand MALDI: I was also assigned this review about the role of insulin resistance in Alzheimer’s Disease: Throughout the day, I receive articles like these in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of what I am performing or observing.

This is the desk where I do most of my reading: 

Once I finish the comprehensive training, I will be assisting in a research project that involves measuring the expression of genes that regulate sphingolipid biosynthesis and degradation in the white matter of rat brains that develop Alzheimer’s following low-dose exposures to Streptozotocin. I will also be characterizing insulin-modulation of sphingolipid metabolizing enzyme gene expression using frontal lobe slice cultures generated from control and Streptozotocin-treated rats and generating short-term brain slice cultures utilizing quantitative PT-PCR assays. I will also deliver a summative oral presentation and prepare a poster to be shown at a Brown University event. This work will assist the lab by providing a greater understanding of exactly how nitrosamines affect brain tissue, which can be used to provide greater education to the community about the harmful affects of such chemicals and the importance of an organic diet.

My goals for the summer are academic, career based and personal. My academic goal is to build on the knowledge I have gained from the two biology classes I have taken at Brandeis, Cells and Organisms and Genetics and Genomics, in order to more fully understand how concepts learned in class can be applied in a research setting. I will be building on models including RNA extraction, reverse transcriptase reactions, designing PCR primers, setting up PCR reactions and analyzing data. I will also learn numerous new skills and techniques that I can apply to future research endeavors. Additionally, I will acquire the skills of creating a poster, orally delivering my findings and writing a scientific paper. In addition to building upon and acquiring new skills, this opportunity will help prepare me for the Introduction to Neurology class I am planning to take next semester.

This experience will enhance my chances of being considered for future lab positions as well as help me decide if this is a career path I would like to pursue. Many lab opportunities are closed to students without previous lab experience. Working in a lab this summer will help me to gain the skills necessary to operate lab equipment, analyze data and become familiar with the collaborative environment of a lab, making me a competitive candidate for future research opportunities. I also have the opportunity to author a manuscript, which would increase my exposure in the research field and further my research endeavors.

My personal goal for the summer is to challenge myself to fully understand and master all components of the research I will be performing. I will task myself to ask the necessary questions in order to gain a complete understanding of the research, as well as work to eventually become more independent and confidence in this field.

~Dustine Reich, 2020