Every day in the lab consists of different experiments to conduct, exciting protocols to learn about, and new lessons take home. In the mornings, I work with my mentor Carl, a PhD student in Dr. Wrays lab, to assist him in the various questions he is asking as he continues to solidify what his PhD research question is. On some days I may be transforming cells, harvesting virus, or just routinely feeding and passaging my HEK 293T cells. One thing that stays constant is the schedule my cells are on to be passaged. On Mondays the cells get passaged 1:15 – meaning that the cells are detached from the plate and 1/15th of them are transferred to a new plate – and on Thursday the cells get passaged 1:20. Even though the process may seem tedious and repetitive, it has taught me important pipetting skills and how to correctly work under sterile conditions in the hood.
In the afternoons, I work with Micah, a first-year graduate student in Dr. Wray’s lab – as he begins tackling his thesis involving induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Working with the HEK 293T cells has been a good introduction to cell culturing, but iPSCs seem to be a whole different story. They require routine checking, special environments, and delicate handling. Every day, I look at the iPSCs under the microscope to make sure that they are working towards confluency (proliferating until they cover the entire plate) and look healthy; then, I feed them by changing their media and look at them again to make sure they haven’t been disrupted too much. These cells are also passaged once a week to help discourage differentiation of the cells. Eventually, I will work towards differentiating them into neural progenitor cells that can be used to study various characteristics.
Outside of my work with the iPSCs, Micah teaches me various valuable skills and protocols used in the lab. So far, I have learnt how to cryopreserve cells and virus, prepare lentivirus, make competent cells, digest plasmids using restriction enzymes, conduct gel electrophoresis, make a viral titre, and do a maxi/mini prep. I have greatly enjoyed getting more comfortable with the motor skills and protocols used in a genomics lab.
Outside of my time in the lab, I spend time reading different research papers, learning about protocols online, or attending weekly lab meeting. During my spare time, I spend time with friends, cooking meals, going to the gym, and reading books. So far, this summer has been exactly what I hoped for.