Due to having two mentors, my days in the Tadross lab vary quite a bit. I work with one mentor typically observing the behavior of mice after they have been injected with drugs into the brain 2-3 days a week, and I work with another mentor building electrodes that will eventually be used to observe electrical activity in neurons for the other 2-3 days.
When working with one of my mentors, Sasha, I show up and greet the fellow members of the lab around 11 am. When I’m working with her, I either observe her slicing the brains of mice for imaging and doing histology, or I perform behavior tests (aka open field tests) with the mice. These behavior tests analyze the impact of drugs that attach to dopamine neurons on the movement of the mice. After the drugs are injected into the mice by Sasha, I put the mice into boxes and video their movement around the box for an hour. This video is then analyzed using software that detects regular and irregular movements of the mice.
On a typical day of doing behavior tests, I take the cages into the room where we perform the open field test, which we call the “behavior room, ” and put on gloves and a lab coat. To set up the experiment , I take the mice out of the cages by picking them up by the tail and put them into the boxes (one mouse per box). I then spend the next hour in the dark behavior room (the lights need to be off in order to not distract the mice) doing miscellaneous work like reading papers and filling out forms while periodically looking at the computer screen to make sure nothing irregular happens to the mice (basically ensuring sure that they don’t die). Then, after the hour is done, I stop the video, save the files, take the mice out of the boxes and put them back into the cages, and clean off any excrement that the mice released while in the boxes.
When working with my other mentor, Zack, I typically meet him or a recent graduate now working as a research tech named Austin around 11. We then head to the cleanroom, a place in the Fitzpatrick Center where products can be manufactured. It is called a cleanroom because there is filtration that constantly removes dust and other debris from getting on the devices being built. The biggest source of contamination in the cleanroom is humans, so when we enter the cleanroom, we have to put on a suit including a hood, a jumpsuit, cloth boots (which I still haven’t figured out how to properly secure so they don’t fall to my ankles), gloves, and goggles. We then head to the lockers in the cleanroom and get our materials, including the glass disks on which we build the microelectrodes and the instructions for building the electrodes (printed on a special type of paper that does not shed particles like regular white paper). Each disk has four devices containing electrodes, and we typically work with 3-5 disks per batch. We then follow the instructions, spending 2-3 hours working on different sections of manufacturing the device a day. It typically takes around a week to get a whole batch of devices completely finished. We just completed the first batch of these devices, and I mainly observed Zack and Austin build the electrodes while taking notes. Next week, I will start making my first batch of the devices by myself!
Overall, I’ve loved how different each day working in the Tadross lab has been different. I learn something new every single day.