After three seemingly long months flew by, I have finally concluded my internship at the Hoffmeister Lab at Brigham Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Looking back to when I first began, I see that I reached many of the goals I began my internship with. Besides my PI, I networked with my fellow lab members and other interns and researchers from neighboring labs. I also walked out of here with way more biology and biomedical techniques in my toolbox than I had when I first started and in fuller control over my experiments.
However, I am most proud of becoming more involved in lab meetings. Before, most of the talks went in one ear and right out the other, but at the end, I could follow along and even give input in editing conference power points and papers. More importantly, these two to four hour long meetings allowed me to observe lab politics and see how doctorates and post-docs fund themselves, mainly through writing and applying for grants such as the Pathway to Independence Award. I also saw how papers are published from start to finish. Data is first collected, which is then analyzed and gone over by the PI and lab team. The paper is then written, submitted, reviewed, edited, and then finally published in journals such as Nature and Blood. While the process of obtaining data and being published is a long process, it is rewarding and well worth the trials and errors.
For any student interested in doing an internship at a lab to learn more about scientific research or this career path, do not hesitate to shoot the PI an email. Especially with labs who accepted interns before, many mentors welcome students desiring to gain experience. When finally working in a lab, while experiments may get repetitive, never hesitate to inquire or ask for clarification to understand why you’re culturing these mice cells or running a Western blot. The researchers there will understand that you haven’t reached their level of specialization yet and enjoy seeing students take initiative and think beyond the box. Also, ALWAYS keep a lab notebook to take notes on the protocols shown to you, the experiments you’ve done, and the results you’ve obtained.
Most importantly, take the opportunity to ask other scientists or lab techs about their goals and why they chose their career paths. You’ll find that everyone has a different backstory. My PI actually got into an industrial design school before going to medical school to be a pediatrician, ultimately ending up as a researcher and associate professor devoted to glycobiology. By talking to my fellow colleagues at the Hoffmeister Lab, I’ve realized that while science does interest me, I still feel more compelled to work with patients. Although, I wouldn’t mind working as a lab tech for two years before going to medical school and doing part time research in the future. However, I will definitely follow the advice my PI gave me on my last day, which is to always keep an open mind and pursue your interests and heart no matter where you end up, despite how cliche it may sound.
Overall, I am extremely grateful for the time I spent at the Hoffmeister Lab and look forward to the upcoming school year. I’m sure all the skills I’ve learned and invaluable advice given to me by my mentors will benefit me whether in the classroom or in whatever career I decide to pursue after I graduate!
Vivian Liu, ’17