Pre-Grad Intern) Senior
This semester I had the pleasure of continuing to work in Dr. Richard Morrisett's lab under his graduate student Armando Salinas. During this semester I planned to use this internship to continue doing research, get to know more about how graduate school is like, and submit a research proposal to the Undergraduate Research Fellowship. I am glad to say that all I accomplished all my three goals.
Before I took part in this internship I was already pretty familiar with the basic concepts of patch clamping a neuron to measure its electrical activity. This semester I continued to master patch clamping and began implementing it to record changes in NMDA currents under different conditions. NMDA currents are involved in triggering neurons to depolarize, which means to become more positive in charge. What made these currents of special interest was that they are supposed to be reduced in the presence of alcohol. This was important to us because our lab is interested in learning more about the mechanism by which alcohol affects individual neurons. We are hoping that our research will lead us to find if the peptide cocaine and amphetamine regulated transcript (CART) is involved in the inhibition of the effects of alcohol. During this past semester we discovered that the cell line that we where using to study the effects of CART on Alcohol inhibition possibly did not respond at all to the peptide. The reason for this is that the particular hybrid cell line that we were using may not have had enough or any receptors for the CART peptide. These results led us to begin to use primary cell cultures, since we are certain these cells should have CART receptors because of previous literature. Currently we are continuing to explore how CART interacts with alcohol, but work has been slow because the semester has become heavy with schoolwork for both my graduate student mentor and I. Hopefully once finals are over with I will continue to be able to work full time in Dr. Morrisett's laboratory.
Thanks to this past semester's experience I have learned how hectic the lifestyle of a graduate student can become when he has to balance between research and schoolwork. Currently the graduate student that I am shadowing is preparing to take his qualifying exams, and is also having to submit a proposal for his future research. This introduced me to the process by which graduate students go about getting their doctorate degrees and how they go about making proposals. I learned that a graduate student first has to go through a few laboratory rotations before he chooses where he wants to stay. I also learned that a graduate student has to select an advisory comity that should help him or her on their way to graduate. In addition I have become familiar amount of time required to study for graduate student tests and how many of their classes are team taught by several different professors. I found it quiet interesting that specific sections of the courses where actually taught by professor who specialized in the topics covered. I also realized how challenging this must be when it comes to testing since every professor has his own style of teaching and asking questions. It was interesting that it seemed to me that the way they teach in graduate school differs greatly to teaching in medical school. From what I gathered it seems that graduate schools teach their students to think deeply into their own novel ideas, while medical schools each their student to retain large amounts of information and then find ways to use this information. Hopefully this summer I will continue to learn more about graduate school since I will be attending a research conference in Washington D.C. where I will be presenting a poster with my graduate student mentor.
I really enjoyed getting to know my graduate student this semester and I have learned many things. Thanks to him I encourage to come up with my own novel idea and apply to the Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Armando help me a great deal in teaching my how to go about writing a research proposal and teaching me how I should format my proposal. While I only barely finished my research proposal on time for the deadline I am proud to announce that I was able to get the Undergraduate Research Fellowship and I was awarded a grant totaling 900 dollars. This money will go to buying more of the CART peptide and it will also pay for some of the materials I will need to implement my own idea. While this semester has certainly been biting time into my research I hoping that this summer I will be able to continue to work on implementing my idea.
Overall I had a great time doing my IE internship. I would especially like to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to able to attend the research convention in Washington D.C. It was very interesting to able to interact with other students in different majors and learning how graduate school differed between sciences and the arts. It was also nice to see that there where people in my major that where doing thing very unrelated to my specific research topic but where still researching under the field of neurobiology.