Life in the lab varies from day to day, but most consist of at least one of the following: observing or doing surgery, slicing / imaging / recording from visual cortex (V1), or figuring out Matlab. Performing surgeries on mice has definitely been the most surreal part of working in a lab. There have been multiple times where I stop and ask myself “who let me do this?” That said, it has also been the coolest part. So far, I’ve learned how to do two surgeries (burr hole injections and perfusions) but I’ve done significantly more burr holes than perfusions. Although I’ve only performed those two types of surgeries, I’ve observed others in the lab doing other kinds of surgery. Everyone I’ve shadowed has been great in answering any questions I have about the surgery, and overall it’s been incredibly rewarding to witness. So far, I’ve mainly done practice surgeries and have been injecting dye into V1 instead of the actual virus. However, last week we began injecting the virus. This is exciting because it means that we’re going to be able to start collecting data over the next couple of weeks.
We collect our data by slicing the brain and either imaging the slices or recording cellular activity. With the practice dye injections, I’ve only imaged under a microscope. We were able to see where I injected the dye (and whether or not it was where I was supposed to inject it). We got decent results, and it was nice to get some validation that the surgeries I was doing worked. I’ve also enjoyed learning to use all the equipment because it makes me feel like I can be more independent. Once we finish up the virus injections, and wait a couple of weeks to get it to express, we’ll begin recording from live cells. I’m hopeful that we’ll see good results.
Finally, Matlab is the program we use to do our analysis. For this project, we use it to create graphs of cellular activity (that we’ll collect from the recordings) across different conditions. Given that I have zero prior coding experience, there is definitely a learning curve that I haven’t quite reached yet. However, once I become more comfortable with Matlab, it will be cool to see our results and be able to tell whether our experiments worked.
Overall, my time in the lab has had a healthy amount of variety. It has been a good balance of building a repertoire of skills while focusing on perfecting the ones that are particularly relevant to the work I’m doing. It’s crazy to think that I’m working towards the point of being able to carry out experiments with minimal help. I love that I’ve been able to learn so much in such little time and that every day brings new opportunities to learn even more!