Internship, Co-op or Research Site: Lieber Institute for Brain Development
Position Title: Research Intern
Work Term:Summer 2017 to Spring 2018
Tell us about your internship, co-op, or research opportunity, including your day-to-day responsibilities.
I work at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, and I am researching psychiatric diseases including Schizophrenia and Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome through stem cell research with induced pluripotent stem cells. I reprogram human fibroblast into induced pluripotent stem cells and then differentiate them into neurons. I am specifically interested in the development of neural progenitor cells. I also grow mouse embryonic fibroblasts to use for cell culture plates. On a day to day basis, I assess my cell cultures and decide whether to passage them, expand them, conduct molecular analysis, or to freeze them. The goal of my research is to understand how stem cells from patients with psychiatric disorders develop in comparison to stem cells from patients without these disorders.
Describe the process of obtaining your position. When did you hear of the position and submit your application?
Two summers ago, I shadowed a psychiatrist at Hopkins. The experience went very well and he became a mentor for me. I mentioned that I was interested in research and he suggested I apply to work at Lieber. With his recommendation, I was able to submit an application and the stem cell group decided to take me on as an intern. The UMBC career center was also pivotal to my success by helping me tremendously improve my resume.
What have you enjoyed the most about your position or organization?
The part that I have enjoyed the most about Lieber is the welcoming environment and the encouraging members of the lab. When I first started my internship, I knew almost nothing about cell culture. The scientists I work with were patient and supportive through my entire learning process. They continue to challenge me every day, and support me through my successes and my failures. This is the reason that I have learned so much in my time at the lab. I have loved working with a group of people who are always happy to teach, guide, and support me and everyone else in the lab. I have loved being a part of such an amazing team of scientists.
How do you believe you have made an impact through your work?
I believe I have made an impact in my work by joining a team and helping our team be successful. More importantly, I feel that I have found my niche in the lab. For example, I quickly grasped the skill of culturing mouse embryonic fibroblasts, which are essential for growing stem cells. By growing these cells for the lab, I have saved the lab money that can now be spent in new ways to improve our research.
What advice would you give to another student who is seeking an internship or similar experience?
I would urge students seeking internships to seek environments with great people who are willing to teach. The best advice I got when looking for an internship was to ask "Who is the most fun mentor?" Thanks to this advice, I was paired with the most enthusiastic scientist in the lab. He is always happy to explain concepts and experiments to me, no matter how simple or complicated.
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