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.