Category Archives: Week 1

What to expect?

My journey into research has been one of immense serendipity.

(The whole first paragraph is a bit off topic, but I think it gives a lot of context into how my expectations are shaped.)

I came into Duke with tunnel vision- I was going into the medical field and that was it. I didn’t know labs existed on campus or that people conducted research as a profession. Honestly, I didn’t even know scientific articles existed until almost a year ago, much less ever read one. After a couple of happy accidents, however, I found myself in biology classes that required me to read scientific papers. In the beginning, I sucked. I would go to the basement of Lily and sit in a cubicle for hours, googling what seemed like every other word. (I still didn’t understand much). As the weeks progressed and more papers piled up, I don’t know why, but I slowly came to love the whole process. I started to analyze the methods a little bit more. I started to dig back into the authors past paper to try to grasp why and how the research question may have emerged. I started to think maybe I could even be a part of research. I merely mentioned this to my college advisor in passing, but I was very lucky and she offered me a place in her lab.

So began my career in research, and the rest was history. Haha just kidding.

I loved my previous lab, but because I am very new to research, I wanted to join B-SURF to discover the general topic I am the most compelled by. *Insert cliche about college being the time of your life to explore your heart out* *Insert another cliche about not being able to fully appreciate the light if you haven’t seen the dark yet* I previously worked in a fly lab, and the assays consisted of dissecting and immunostaining the larvae. Now, I work at a plant lab, and the assays consist of germinating plants and measuring plant phenotypes. Each lab is unique, so I hope that through these experiences, I can gauge what type of research I am the most enthralled by. I think finding the specific topic or question I am interested in will be a lifelong process (or at least I hope it is, because questioning is always fun), but I hope to find a topic that I will be happy to study the ins and outs of during my time at Duke.

On another note, something that really resonated with me during our group discussion on expectations was when someone said they wanted to make a positive impact on the lab. I used to be constantly worried that because I wasn’t familiar with the lab, I would be a more of a hassle than an asset. But I am slowly allowing myself to fail and lean on others in the lab in hopes that I can grow and provide assistance later on. I, of course, don’t expect to make a mind blowing contribution to the lab, but I hope that by the end of these 8 weeks, my lab mates will know that they can count on me for any task. Whether that be washing lots of pots or helping to record phenotypes

My journey into research was both surprisingly happy and happily surprising, so who knows what other revelations will unfold in the weeks to come 🙂

One of my favorite threads:

Here’s a prime action shot of me doing a germination assay:

Stage 1-Steady Steps

With a week past in the Colton Lab, I am absolutely confident that this will be a wonderful summer. Now, I say this recklessly of course, there will probably be plenty of moments where the urge to nap or to give up will be great, but nonetheless, I expect some of the greatest weeks of the year coming.

Like most, there are certain experiences I would be shocked not having: experimental failure, scheduling conflicts, basic protocol training, and tedious manual work. Although mingled with successful experiences- like discovering fascinating patterns, developing new skills, and exploring my interests-one might wonder, why even bother? I mean, personally, if I were to expect anything, why not purely good things like relaxing at home all summer and eating ice cream? Well, I certainly have this thought waking up early every morning, but something about arriving and just being in Dr. Carol Colton’s lab everyday brings forth some sense of contentment. And by contentment, I refer not to the complacency of finally being in an Alzheimer’s frontier-leading lab- though that thought by itself is very exciting – but instead, I speak of the eagerness that settles in every morning mapping out my plans for the day, for the summer, for the next 3 years. There is some ineffable emotion caught up in breath whenever I am researching or watching our amazing technicians, Joan Wilson and Stuart Sundseth, working.

But I digress, sometimes there is no romanticizing the day’s 6th BCA assay or getting entirely lost in the background literature for your own project. I could say, as a whole, this week has been a struggle; from relentless protocol practice to swamps of scientific articles, I have been playing catch up to hone my skills, knowledge, and the trust of others, so that I can work on an equal playing field as them. Slowly however, I am getting there. As I sift through my second window of 20-some article tabs, the words and techniques used in the lab is flowing more cohesively and efficiently. I am gaining ground in understanding the different roles the protein UK114 plays in the body, and why I will be transfecting it with Chinese Hamster Ovary cells containing human tau within the coming days. Furthermore, I hope to specialize in an area related to Alzheimer’s that will allow me to add my own input at lab meetings, and as suggested by Dr. Colton, I have begun diving deep into Herpes virus research and its links to Alzheimer’s for future ideas. While all of these experiences in the past week have been undeniably overwhelming, it has been and foreseeably will continue being incredibly rewarding. If there’s one thing to expect this summer from me, then of course, I expect not to hold back  to strengthen my lab in every way I can.

Highlights of the week:

“You will become THE VIRUS KING!” -Dr. Carol Colton
“Virus King just sounds like he’s carrying something”-Stuart Sundseth
“What? But I’d love to be known as the Virus Queen.” Dr. Carol Colton

“You just want to watch them have sex”-Joan Wilson with another tech on growing a mouse colony bigger

“You will probably reach 85 too, and then yes, you too will get Alzheimer’s”- Dr. David Bennett reassuring an elderly AD-symposium attendee of her future health

Week 1 – To Be or Not to Be

One of the most important things I want to get out of my summer in BSURF is knowing if I want to continue doing research as I continue on in my undergraduate career and professional career. First of all, do I even like to be in a lab and do research? My experience in a lab has been limited to labs required for STEM classes, which have only introduced me to a small portion of science. I feel like I have been missing out on other areas of science because of my lack of experience. So, I want to use my experience this summer to gauge whether or not research is something for me.

I also expect to learn what other interests I have in science. For example, I am working in Dr. Volkan’s lab, mainly dealing with fly epigenetics and what genes underly the neural circuits of sexual/mating behavior. From research I have done over the years, I have been more interested in neuroimmunology, but I want to see if the subjects I am studying in lab are of interest to me to and are something I should explore in the future. I don’t want to end up limiting myself to a certain subject and then realizing later on that I am more interested in something else. I want to explore everything (or at least most things) so that I can be secure in my interests.

Lastly, I expect to learn. Whether it is learning about the things I’ve mentioned above, or even learning about myself, my personality, and my strengths and weaknesses. Everything is a learning experience and I want to do a lot of it as I go through this program. No matter what happens this summer I want to leave it with no regrets and with more knowledge than I entered with. I can’t wait to see what this summer holds for me and most importantly, what I do during my research experience!

A busy but never boring first week!

My first week in Dr. Pendergast’s lab has left me eagerly awaiting the rest of the summer. The days have at times been overwhelming, but more than that they have been incredibly exciting. I was thrown in at the deep end with Monday morning’s lab meeting, during which members discussed the projects they are currently working on. The many abbreviations, graphs and diagrams made little sense to me, despite my having prepared by reading several of the lab’s recent publications in the weeks leading up to that point.

Luckily, my mentor Jill, who is a 3rd year PhD candidate in the lab, helped me make sense of everything. In fact, all of the lab’s graduate students have been very welcoming, and have made my start so much easier. They allow me to shadow them during their experiments, give me the opportunity to learn and practice new techniques, and take the time to answer my many questions.

My first week in the lab has largely involved coming to grips with the many techniques that cancer biologists use to answer the questions they pose. These include Western Blotting, Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction and Tissue Culture, among many others. As tempting as it is to delve straight into the bigger picture scientific questions, I have started to understand the importance of first mastering some of these techniques. They enable scientists to determine which questions can be asked, and how they can be most effectively and honestly answered.

Reading published papers gives you the impression that laboratory science is a very smooth and streamlined process, however actually being in the lab reveals that it can often be quite messy and imperfect. Scientists are not the flawless robots that we expect them to be. They are not all-knowing, they can make mistakes, and (perhaps most surprisingly of all) they have real lives outside the lab! However, the scientists with whom I have had the opportunity to work have all been truly impressive people, and hearing their stories about how they got into science and what they hope to achieve in the coming years is a big inspiration for me. I look forward to learning much more from them in the coming weeks!

My main goals for the summer are to determine whether I can see myself pursuing an MD PhD and eventually a career in science, to put myself in a good position to continue doing research at Duke in the coming years, and to make some contribution, however small, to a scientific question being asked by my lab.

Starting a qPCR earlier today

1 Week Down!

I’m not sure that I came to Duke this summer with many expectations about my research experience in mind. Rather, I had many different hopes regarding the dynamics of the lab and what kind of project I would conduct and what work it would entail. I was extremely nervous prior to the start of the program. I was eager to make a good impression on the Silva lab and work towards holding my own within lab and work independently and collaboratively. The Silva lab studies ubiquitination and protein degradation in cells in response to oxidative stress, which is thought to be a foundational biological factor in the development of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. My two biggest hopes for this research experience were that I would be genuinely fascinated by the research I was doing and that I would build a relationship with my mentor.

After my first week, I’ve gained a much clearer idea of what my research experience is going to be like this summer. I’m extremely excited for what’s to come. I expect my days to be busy and intellectually stimulating. I expect to be challenged to push myself towards working independently. I hope that through this experience I will develop a clearer idea of the career path I want to take, whether that be as a researcher, or working in an intersection of biology and another field such as law. I think it’s such a valuable experience to be able to get a taste of what a work week would feel like as a researcher in the biological sciences. Some of my goals for this experience were to dive deep into a section of biology, develop my laboratory skills, learn new techniques, get to know the people in my lab, develop mentorship relationships, grow my confidence in a lab, and think seriously about what aspects of research really draw me in.

This first week went really well and I think I took some solid steps towards my goals. In the big picture of carrying out my research project, this week served kind of as a trial run for the procedure. I learned about culturing yeast, exposing yeast to stress inducing conditions, estimating protein concentrations, and conducting western blots. Next week, we’re going to repeat this procedure using mutant yeast strains to study ubiquitination under oxidative stress. I’m excited to work with mutant yeast strains and start data collection for my experiment. I am eagerly, yet nervously awaiting the time when I’ll work solo on my project.


Diving into the World of Science

Being at Duke as opened me up to a plethora new and exciting experiences, one of these opportunities being the Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Fellowship.  For the summer, I will be working within the Department of Immunology, specifically in the Hammer Lab. This will be my first experience in a laboratory. During the program, I hope develop knowledge about working within a lab, but to also learn about myself in the process.

Over the course of the summer, I hope to learn whether or not research is for me. Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to pursue a career in research. I felt that doing research would be the best way for me to use my skills to make a difference in the world. During this summer, I will be assisting my mentor with her research project, giving me plenty of hands-on experience within this field. Working in a lab everyday is the perfect way to figure out if this is something that I would to continue to pursue.

Working in the lab this summer will also teach me how to ask questions. There are times where it can be intimidating to ask a question, whether it be to the other people in the lab or to yourself. Asking questions is the key to gaining new knowledge and growing intellectually. I hope that while I work in this lab, I will become more comfortable with asking questions about things I do not understand. Hopefully, this will not only make me a better research scientist now but prepare me for future success.

As mentioned by one of the other BSURFers in our opening breakfast, working in a lab can show you what it is like to fail and what to do after failing. I had never really considered this idea beforehand but it is something that I would like to learn. Not every experiment will go the way you expect it to. Your research will not always point to the conclusion that you expected it to. The question is what do you do afterwards? What further questions do researchers ask?  It will be interesting to see how these questions will be answered within the lab.

This summer will be full of ups and downs, but I am excited to see where it will take me. I look forward to meeting and working with talented individuals during this program.

I am ready to dive into the world of research!

Cells, Cells, and More Cells.

Week 1- A Desire to Contribute

After having spent a few days in the Gersbach lab, I am looking forward to a multitude of things this summer. Primarily, I am excited to complete my project and though it may be small, be able to make a positive contribution to both my lab and science. After taking numerous science classes in high school and during my first year, I’ve learned about many common lab procedures and attempted them within our class setting. I was also a Work Study in a lab during the school year, so I was able to observe certain processes but not assist. Now I can finally apply my scientific knowledge to a project that might contribute to my field while understanding and performing the experiments myself.

Second, I hope to learn more about common techniques in a lab and gain practice with technical skills. Soon I will be doing these procedures on my own, so this is a good time to practice the protocols and learn from my mistakes. There are so many brilliant graduate students and postdocs in my lab that would love to answer any questions I have, especially my mentor Veronica, so I know I should take advantage of the collaborative environment as I learn to eventually clone guide RNAs or culture cells on my own.

Finally, I’m excited for the unexpected. Each lab I performed in class had an expected result and the teacher knew exactly what would happen. We had studied the biology and chemistry behind each step and could determine why an experiment failed based on our knowledge. In a research lab, a hypothesis can be made, but often the results are surprising or disappointing. I could make a discovery that leads to plenty of new questions or my experiment could fail and I would need to start all over. I anticipate failure at some point, but I must be prepared for any outcome because scientific research is often unpredictable. Overall, I hope this summer will teach me a lot about both scientific research and myself in a lab environment that will cultivate my passion for discovering the unknown.

There’s only more pipetting from here on out…

My first week in the Perfect Lab

My core expectation for the summer is to gain a general perspective of how research is conducted. In addition, I would like to at least be exposed to some of the basic experiments and techniques used in molecular biology and possibly master these skills by the end of July. I’m currently working with members of Dr. John D. Perfect’s lab. In general, the lab focuses on various strains of Cryptoccocal neoformans but has several projects taking place simultaneaously. However, the project I’m working on pertains to a transcription factor, BZP4, in C. neoformans  that may be associated with the expression of melanin, which is affects a fungu’s extent of virulence.

Over this past week, I feel that the lab has and will exceed my expectations for the summer. On day 1, I was being trained to perform gel electrophoresis and patch plates with transformed E.coli. By the end of last week I had been taught to innoculate fungi, perform PCR, precipitate DNA from PCR, clone DNA, conduct biolistic transformation and prepare media for plates. My mentor, Dr. Jennifer Tenor, has taken the time to sit down with me to not only fully explain the project but the general construction of a research project. Such projects start with a question, individual research and then a plan of activities to answer the question. The Perfect lab is very organized and, in my opinion, a “perfect” example of a lab that efficiently contributes to science and medicine.

More importantly, I’ve learned how the social atmosphere affects the efficiency of a lab. Each person in the lab has a relationship and there is a general positive energy in the lab everyday. The lab is welcoming and people are almost always willing to help. Moreover, everyone has a technical/intellectual strength that they bring to the lab and that helps forces the project further. My hope now is that I’ll be able to develop such a strength from this summer and be able to carry it into the future.


Week 1 – What will come?

For years I envisioned myself sitting at a bench, working towards unearthing new discoveries that’ll change humanity’s understanding of the natural world. With BSURF, I now have the chance to know what the reality of working in a research lab is like. In the upcoming weeks I look forward to learning what research entails: from spending a day in the lab preparing samples to reading literature related to your research to finding out that your results may not end up like you hoped. In the past week, I already learned that a research scientist (who’s dedicated to their work) is subject to their research and would work late hours just to ensure that they completed all tasks needed to be done for the day (along with any prep work for the next one).

I also hope to develop relationships with my mentor, other members in the Alberts Lab, faculty at Duke, and my peers that are a part of BSURF and other research programs. My mentor, Dr. Laurence Gesquiere, welcomed me into the lab this past week and taught me the procedures I’ll be doing for the upcoming weeks for my project. (I’ll explain more about my project in the next blog!) Dr. Susan Alberts (my PI) has been absent this past week, but I look forward to talking with her again about her career and interests. Although the other members of the lab and a few other undergraduates are focusing on their own projects, there are opportunities to talk and interact with them in the lab. Similarly, engaging with Duke faculty and other students here over the summer could enhance my experience here at Duke this summer.

My ultimate expectation (at least for right now) is to figure out if I foresee research in my future. I’ve idealized the idea, but having the first-hand experience working in a lab will help me determine if I would want it to be my future career. While my interests and plans can change throughout the upcoming years (and the rest of my life), BSURF is an opportunity that will help shape the rest of my time here at Duke and beyond.

If anything, I expect the next seven weeks to be fun, hard-working, and enlightening. And if the past week gives any indication of the rest of my time here, then I think my expectations aren’t too far off from reality!

(I also forgot to take pictures in lab, but next week I’ll be sure to include some!)

Episode 1- Great Expectations

My expectations for this summer research experience are all about discovery, particularly about myself, science, and my relationship with science. Sure, there will be ups and downs, breakups and makeups, but, as with most things, the experience tends to be worthwhile.

As for discovery of myself, there are somethings I hope to learn: how do I function within a laboratory setting? Do I ask enough questions? Do I ask the right ones, and the right person to answer them? What should I do if I need help, and do I realize when I need help? Should I try to be more confident in what I do or say, or should I be more cautious? Are the notes I take useful? The lab setting is something so different from what I’m used to (especially since I’ve never had a job before), that I feel as if I’m going to need to learn a new set of skills or refine those I already have to really thrive in this environment, but before I can do that, I first need to have a better understanding of what I need to work on for myself. I hope I begin to develop an idea of those things throughout this summer.

Then there’s discovery of science, which comes with its other set of expectation. There have been a variety of papers that I’ve been suggested to read, and others I’ve found on my own that I thought would be helpful or interesting. As I progress through the summer, I hope that I’ll become more accustomed to the language used in these papers so I won’t have to stop every couple of sentences to look up what a particular phase or jumble of letters mean, and subsequently become distracted by other interesting research papers. Additionally, it’s nice to be able to understand what others in the lab are talking about so I can participate in discussion. I also hope that perhaps I might come across something in the literature that sparks an idea for research of my own to do in the future.

Lastly, thought most importantly, there’s how science and I interact with one another, since, after all, research is a two-way street. Not only do we impact science through every bit of research we do, either successful or unsuccessful, by showing what works and what doesn’t, but also science impacts how we analyze the world around us and can become heavily integrated into our lives. What I expect from these internship more than anything is insight into whether or not this kind of lab-focused science is the right one for me, or if research is for certain what I wish to dedicate my life to. Perhaps I won’t find that answer in a mere 8 weeks, but at the very least I expect that it might help turn me in the direction that I’m better suited for, whether it be lab work or another broad area of science. So far, I feel pretty at home in the lab, but there’s still a ways to go.

Anyway, here’s me using a microscope to look at some sea urchin embryos that I was practicing injecting with fluorescent dye:

And here’s a bonus photo of a small, scaly friend (broad-headed or five-lined skink?) I found sunning in the garden earlier this week:

Week 1-Great Anticipation…

During the next eight weeks, I am excited to expand my research experience, that I started last semester, in Dr. Boyce’s lab with my mentor and friend, Brittany.  In the coming weeks, I hope to learn and grow as a person, a member of the Duke community, and a member of the scientific community.

Firstly, I would like to learn to make mistakes.  From my research experience so far, I learned that people make mistakes, and there is a lot of failures. However, I am still hesitant and afraid to make mistakes.  It is my primary goal to get outside of my comfort zone, to try new things, to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes.  To add to this goal, I want to learn that it is okay to “fail” and that failing is a part of the process.

Secondly, I would like to learn to be patient.  Science sometimes can be a slow and tedious process.  Sometimes you don’t get what you expect and have to follow up on them.  Sometimes you have just enough downtime so that you can not do anything else other than wait.  The scientific process relies on delayed gratification.  However, I enjoy immediate gratification, therefore I procrastinate ( More on instant gratification and procrastination check out this Ted Talk by Tim Urban), thus, I hope that this opportunity will allow me to practice patience, and appreciate things when they come into fruition.

Finally, I hope to be able to communicate and learn from the community around me.  Through this program, I am fortunate to be able to spend the summer with my peers from BSURF, BioCoRE, and Huang Fellows.  Each individual is taking part in a diverse set of academic research.  As a program, we will have the opportunity to share our research, thus helping with our communication skills, and listen to their research, thus expanding our scientific knowledge.

I am excited to see what this summer will bring and as the summer progresses, I will keep an open mind to learn and grow as much as possible.

That’s it until next week, where I will reveal some exciting details on my summer project.

Western blots are cool.
(Photo was originally posted on the Boyce Lab’s website, check it out!)


I have a lot to learn!

Over the course of the next 8 weeks, I will be working in the Derbyshire Lab, a biochemistry lab dedicated to researching malaria parasite biology. Through this experience, I hope to learn new research skills and understand where my research interests lie to gain some clarity as to what I want to do in the future.

Before getting into BSURF, I had no experience working in an academic, research lab. My wet lab experience was limited to classroom learning and summer internship in the Quality Control Department of a company. While in the classroom, wet labs gave me some technical skills and ideas about lab practice. However, I had no idea in what direction I wanted to apply these techniques. When I interned at the company, however, I began to realize that I potentially enjoyed working with supplements and drugs, meant to improve people’s quality of life.

Throughout this summer, I want to understand where my research interests lie while simultaneously expanding my knowledge on lab procedures and techniques that are required in research. My primary interest academically is Chemistry, so working in a Biochemistry lab will help me gain exposure to lab procedures important to both Biology and Chemistry research. Additionally, my overall knowledge of techniques associated with Biochemistry (eg., protein purification, etc.) is severely limited. In my first week, I have already been exposed to new lab procedures! I hope to learn a lot about how to conduct effective research through learning new techniques, while also getting some experience synthesizing and presenting data. Through learning these techniques, I also hope to strengthen my background knowledge of both Biology and Chemistry and dive deeper into the topic that I am researching. I want to learn more about malarial drug therapies and what direction research on the topic is taking now, and working in a lab will give me a unique, firsthand approach to becoming more familiar and involved with the research. Overall, I really just want to learn as much as I can while being taught by people who are in the forefront of their field.

Since I have never conducted academic research, I am also using this summer to figure out in what direction I want to conduct research in the future. Working in an industry lab gave me a general idea of a research topic I could be interested in (the study of molecules involved in infectious diseases in order to work towards therapies). However, since I have never done and kind of research before, working in the Derbyshire Lab will help me figure out if this is the type of research I want to do. It will also help me gain a little more clarity on whether I want to spend my life in academia or go into industry.

In conclusion, I want gain experience with actually conducting effective research, directed by focused research questions. This summer will be a fantastic learning experience and I look forward to being taught (and messing up!) a lot. I am really privileged to have been accepted into BSURF and I really hope that I can gain the most from it!

(Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of me in lab, so I will upload that as soon as I can!)

Opportunities to Come!

As I embark on this new research journey with the BSURF program, I am filled with excitement and eagerness to learn more about the process and importance of research as a whole. With acceptance into this program I feel as though comes the acceptance of a responsibility to take advantage of this opportunity as a means of learning and exploring the world in a different way than most.

Prior to this program I participated in another research opportunity at the North Carolina Research facility in Kannapolis, NC. As I young high school student, my involvement in the lab was limited, therefore limiting my experience altogether. I felt as though I was just an extra body for them to use to get their own projects done sooner. This feeling changed immediately  once I was accepted into the BSURF program and was assigned my very own project. Being apart of this program is giving me the opportunity for me to possibly make impactful change, and I want to make sure I take advantage of every moment of it.

I hope that being a part of this experience gives me the opportunity to contribute to science in some magnitude, even if it only contributes to a small part of an entirely new project. I want to learn the process of research and its importance to those who do it for a living. I hope this experience opens up doors in the future for me to further explore my interest in the sciences as I progress to higher level education.

BSURF Episode 1: Goals and Dreams

This summer I will be conducting research in Dr. Susan Murphy’s lab in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology through the B-SURF program. Here, under the mentorship of Dr. Kelly Acharya,  I will get insight into how scientists conduct epigenetic research, helping me in turn to understand the many complexities of the epigenome.

One of my major goals this summer is to learn how to ask insightful scientific questions that could potentially lead to independent research directions. To do this, I am making it my goal in my lab to constantly ask questions about various processes in the lab so that I could understand the intricacies of experiment and assay design. By doing this, I will not only better understand how to ask scientific questions but I will also understand how to answer them.

Building on my previous goal, I also want to learn how to communicate more effectively in science. I have always struggled with conveying shortcomings or failures when it comes to my work, so I want to learn how to comfortably convey these shortcoming to my peers. While this may seem minor, the ability to convey mistakes to my colleagues will be an essential first step in learning how to effectively convey ideas to them.

Another component to this goal would be learning to talk to my colleagues as more than just researchers. To do this, I attend social events in the lab and share details about myself whenever appropriate.. An essential element to learning how to communicate scientifically is learning to communicate.

My final goal this summer would be to make a contribution to Dr. Murphy’s lab through my work. While I learned skills in my laboratory experiences in school, I found that I did not contribute to science in any meaningful way for having learned these skills. This summer, I want to use the skills that I learned in this lab to further their epigenetic research projects. There is so bigger motive for this goal other than to make a contribution to science through my work in the lab.

To be continued on the next episode of B-SURF: The Williams Chronicles

Lots of Questions…

This summer, through the 2018 BSURF Program, I will be researching in Dr. Brennan’s biochemistry lab. Specifically, I will also be working with a graduate student in his lab, Grace. Previous to this program, I had only really done wet-lab work in courses, college and high school, where students simply followed instructions and completed a lab report. This experience would be my first time independently researching within a lab, creating a sense of excitement, uncertainty, and curiosity within me.

Primarily, I am expecting to learn a lot about lab procedures and the topics relevant to my specific focus in biochemistry. As mentioned before, as this is my first official lab experience, I am excited to get a glimpse into the life of a researchers and how he or she goes about answering a scientific question. The basic lab procedures, writing in a lab notebook or how to develop certain solutions and results, will be knowledge for me that will be essential in the future. I am curious to know the “why” behind everything, being prepared to ask questions that helps me develop a better scientific knowledge and basis for why certain things are done. I am hoping this knowledge helps me gain a better understanding of the things I have learned in the classroom, as well as preparing me with concrete methods and approaches to solve problems in potential future research. Whether it is seeing why researchers in this lab use certain antibiotics of a specific chemical make-up compared to another or why an environment induced better protein expression than another will allow me to apply all those “textbook” concepts I learned in past courses and develop a new perspective on them.

Expanding off just gaining more knowledge, I am looking forward to this summer as a place where I can start solidifying what I will be studying or majoring in the future. Personally, I learn better in environments that are hands-on and places where I can make mistakes and discover more about the topics I am applying. This experience will allow me to see if Biochemistry or chemistry is a possible route of study I would enjoy, as I ultimately see myself applying the concepts in a classroom rather than just simply learning them. Working in this lab will give me an idea of what a specific learning path will lead to.

Lastly, I am definitely excited to meet new peers, mentors, and friends along this summer program. Seeing as researchers collaborate a lot, building a relationship with those in my lab and within the program is something I will be focusing on. Getting to know both Dr. Brennan, the graduate student mentoring me, and other people in the lab is something I can’t wait for. Furthermore, students in BSURF are a collection of some of the most intriguing and friendly people to get to know better. Other than that, people here still at Duke, such as the Huang Fellows, are more students to get to know better. Building these new relationships and networks will certainly make this summer quite the experience.

Till next time,

Luke Sang

End of First Week, but Only a Start to a Great Summer!

I have never doubted that I would be a biology major coming into college. However, at Duke, the many branches of this discipline make me both beyond fascinated and somewhat confused (what to focus on?!?!). I am so excited and thankful that I can have this chance through BSURF to explore neurobiology this summer at Mooney Lab. As I embark on this journey, I want to write down some goals and expectations.

While I had experience working in labs before, most of my work consisted of field work in an ecology setting. There were also very important field techniques that I had to learn–such as sweeping honey bees from their frames into a bucket, shaking the bucket strategically and scooping the bees into a jar to do sugar shake varroa test or collecting and staining stigmas. But when I stepped into my lab this Monday, I realized that the set of skills and the scale that we are work on are simply so different from what I used to get trained in. So far my brilliant mentor has already taught me a variety of techniques that require great precision and patience. It is so cool, too, that many of them apply what I learned in BIO201 this spring. This summer, I hope not just to learn as much neurobiology knowledge as possible, but also to learn and to eventually perform various techniques confidently and independently. I understand that it takes a lot of time and energy to train new people. I am very grateful that my mentor has been there for me. I hope I can become helpful and make positive contributions to the lab as well.

Additionally, I want to become more and more comfortable working with mice in the sense that they can feel comfortable when I handle them. I feel privileged working with and learning from these animals, and I want to make it as stressless as it could be for them, too.

Since this is a new field of biology for me, I want to develop my communication skills, especially through asking questions and discussing experimental setups/progress with others. Both inside and outside the lab, I hope to learn what others are working on and how they become interested in what they are doing. Dr. Telen’s journey in science amazed me. Her talk made me determined to take the initiative to learn more inspiring stories from other people.

When I started this week, one of my biggest goals for the summer is to explore a new area of biology and see whether I like it. Five days later, I already know that I’m so so happy I get to study in Mooney Lab. I am so fascinated by what I’ve learned in the lab so far and I can’t wait to continue learning here during the rest of the summer (and hopefully even after this summer)!

Me next to the habituation station!


Great Opportunities!

This summer, through the B-SURF program, I will be working in Dr. Calakos’ lab. During these next eight weeks, there are many opportunities that I hope to have. I hope that this summer will be a great learning experience.

One of the biggest expectations I have for this summer is for myself to determine if biological research is something that I want to continue. Although I have some experience in statistics research, I have never worked in a wet lab before, outside of class requirements. As such, I hope that I can learn about different lab experiments, like how we can collect data from biological specimens. Furthermore, I hope to even have the chance to practice experimental protocol as well. I have already learned so much in this first week from my awesome mentor as well as from the wonderful people in my lab. There is always something new that I learn every day, and although the learning curve feels a bit steep right now from inexperience, my main goal is to use this summer as a way to witness firsthand the value of research and science in a way that is transcendent above regular classroom work.

Similarly, during this summer, I expect to foster my ability to ask important questions and my critical thinking. Even if at the end of this program I conclude that biological research is not something I would like to pursue- though I do not think this will happen- I believe that from this experience I will learn the ability to solve problems, ask questions, and think creatively and critically, which will all be important in any career I decide to pursue.

Another expectation I have for myself is that I will make a contribution- however big or small- to the project I will be working on. I hope that the end-of-program poster session will be a success and that I will be able to explain the project as best as I can.

Finally, I hope to form new and lasting relationships with my colleagues in Dr. Calakos’ lab, as well as my peers in the B-SURF program. I would probably consider myself a relatively introverted and shy person, but I hope to put myself out there and be less nervous when talking to people about my interests and what I hope to achieve.




Expecting the Unexpected

As I begin my 8-week journey working full-time in the McClay lab through the B-SURF program, I have thought much about what I hope to accomplish this summer and the many expectations I have for myself and for the program.

Although I have been working in the McClay lab for a semester already, one of my major expectations is to be entirely comfortable doing all necessary experiments independently. From culturing embryos to doing in situ hybridization experiments, I hope to become more autonomous in the lab. However, experiments sometimes give unexpected results or do not work at all. Therefore, I hope to be able to troubleshoot and find ways to improve experiments or confirm results.

Conceptually, I wish to understand the reasons certain experiments are done over others. I also hope to gain more factual knowledge sea urchin embryonic development and transfating which will be achieved through reading literature throughout the summer. Another way to understand concepts better is to ask relevant questions to lab members and even Google. Therefore, I expect myself to continuously ask questions any time I am unsure of anything.

Finally, I hope to improve my science communication skills throughout the summer and into the school year because there is no use doing extensive research if you cannot communicate it to others. In addition to being able to present my ideas clearly at the poster session at the end of the program, I hope to also improve my informal science communication abilities. Starting from my everyday interactions with people, I hope to be able to be comfortable talking to my lab members and my peers in Research Fellows, Huang Fellows, and BioCore what their research projects are on and be able to articulate my project as well. I also hope to be able to talk about my experiences informally through these blogs and also through my science Twitter account. Follow me @Michael_Wen_

Although I might fall short of my expectations and goals, I know that I will at least have a fun and enriching experience this summer while learning a ton.

Huge smile just thinking of the experiences in the coming weeks