Bonjour tout le monde, this week I’m here to detail what a typical day in the Yin lab looks like for me.
Each day, my schedule heavily depends on the availability of the operant conditioning boxes in the lab. Recently, I’ve been scheduled to use them in the afternoon, which means that I’ve been splitting my day into two segments— in the morning, I’ll focus on analyzing the previous days’ data and graphing it, and in the afternoon, I’ll work on gathering more data.
To analyze and graph my data, I take a file from a program that tracks my mice’s behavior called MedPC and run it through a Matlab script that interprets the numeric codes along with each timestamp for when the mice press a lever, put their heads in a window to get a food pellet, or receive a reward. Matlab spits out a new excel spreadsheet and I then use programs like Excel, Graphpad, and NeuroExplorer to visualize the dataset and compare how mice act during stimulation and during nonstimulation periods. Around 12:30 or 1, I’ll hear a grumble in my stomach and head to the breakroom or a nearby eaterie to chow down the lunch I’ve packed for the day.
After satiating my hunger, I come back to the lab and enter the mouse house. It’s here that I weigh the mice and determine how much they should be fed for the day. I then put my mice in the operant learning chambers, attach optogenetic fibers and set up the stimulation program if necessary, and let them get to work. After they’re finished, I’ll put them back in their cages, clean the boxes, feed the mice, and tie up any loose ends on any data analysis from the morning.
I love that as the weeks have gone on, I’ve become increasingly independent in the lab. I still meet with my mentor, Francesco, two or three times a week to go over my results and work through any new ideas, but most of the day, I’m left to my own devices. It’s highly reassuring that Dr. Yin and Francesco have placed this type of trust in me, and now that my results are starting to come in, I hope they are proud of the work I have done. This summer in the lab has been a dream— often working until 6 or 7 at night and coming in on the weekends to do experiments seemed daunting at first, but now I understand that if you are genuinely interested in the work you’re doing, it’s much less taxing even if the time expenditure is much greater. I am thoroughly enthused to present my work soon to my mentors and peers, and I’m happy that I have been placed in a lab that trusts me and continues to keep me engaged and motivated.