Kinesiology Graduate Student Matthew Tierney
Apurva, my IE Pre-Grad intern, and I contributed to a study looking at the regenerative capacity of skeletal muscle in a defect model. Another graduate student in our lab performed the surgeries, where a section of a rat gastrocnemius muscle was removed and was either untreated or replaced with an extracellular matrix and/or adult (mesenchymal) stem cells. Following various periods of recovery we would then embed the tissue samples in paraffin and prepare sections of those samples for immunohistological analysis. These sections were then fluorescently labeled, imaged and analyzed using an epifluorescence microscope to identify cytoskeletal and neural markers within the area of regeneration. Much of the beginning of the semester was spent learning to prepare the tissue sections, and we currently are spending most of our time on fluorescent microscopy.
I think the experience has helped Apurva prepare for the year ahead as she plans to stay as research assistant for a year before attending graduate school. Before I attended graduate school I wasn't sure how a graduate student's day was structured or the responsibilities they had, and I think shadowing a graduate student has given Apurva a much clearer idea of what to expect. There is also a large difference between studying something and researching it, and getting a taste for research will help her make that distinction. Finally, Apurva has attended our weekly journal club meetings, and I think this has helped her to interpret and critically think about original research. Too often when you're an undergraduate, the professor is always assumed to be right; critically thinking about what is taught leads to a better understanding of whatever subject you are learning.
For me, its can be easy to get lost in research and not step back and think about everything that I do. Having someone asking questions about what I'm doing and why I do it has helped me to better understand my own research and, on occasion, redirect my research so it will be more applicable, relevant and will better answer my original research questions.