Internship, Co-op or Research Site:Colorado State University Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Molecular Biosciences
Position Title: Research Intern
Work Term:Summer 2018
Tell us about your internship, co-op, or research opportunity, including your day-to-day responsibilities.
I had a phenomenal experience in the Colorado State REU in Molecular Biosciences in summer 2018. I had the pleasure of working in the lab of Dr. Erin Osborne Nishimura as part of my first long-term research experience through the REU. My project assessed the impact of two common E. coli dietary sources on the health and behavior of the free-living nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, an unexpectedly charming model organism of study with many useful and fascinating characteristics.My day-to-day responsibilities included media making for the worms and bacteria, worm transfer between various agar plates and growth conditions for experimentation purposes, counting worm populations, conducting protocols to stain for fat levels within the worms, tracking worm movement, and creating weekly reports and updates for my work.
Describe the process of obtaining your position. When did you hear of the position and submit your application?
As a student in the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at UMBC, I received lots of guidance in applying for summer internships, including help with drafting personal statements and a resume. The UMBC Writing Center and Career Center were also instrumental during the revision process for my application materials.I began to research summer 2018 internship positions as early as fall 2017, mostly utilizing resources from the Research Opportunities webpage on the UMBC Undergraduate Research website. I submitted my applications in January 2018, since most summer research internships I applied to had deadlines in February and March 2018.
What have you enjoyed the most about your position or organization?
Every aspect of the REU program was phenomenal and far exceeded my expectations. My lab members were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and the people I met in the program and in other labs at Colorado State helped me to develop as a research scientist. This development remains incredibly important to me, since I intend to pursue a graduate research degree in developmental biology or molecular genetics. Through the REU, I strengthened my understanding of developmental biology as well as my professional skills. The opportunity to spend ten weeks away from home developing my passion for research also provided me with the space to grow personally and learn about a school that I will consider attending for graduate studies. Lastly, and most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed working with C. elegans, and its usefulness as a model organism continues to constantly fascinate me. For example, adult C. elegans worms have exactly 959 cells, and researchers know exactly when each cell type will arise during development. The worms take only four days to grow from embryo to adult. They can even be frozen indefinitely and brought back to life!
How do you believe you have made an impact through your work?
My particular project was one that lacks comprehensive study in labs that use C. elegans as a model organism. Most labs culture worms on agar plates seeded with the OP50 E. coli strain as a diet for the worms. If labs want to grow very large quantities of worms, a thicker-growing strain of E. coli, NA22, is instead provided as a diet for the worms. These two E. coli strains are often used interchangeably in C. elegans studies, and worm health under the two diets is largely assumed to be similar. However, sensitive genomics assays, quantitative experiments, or investigations into behavior or intestinal biology may be confounded by even subtle differences in worm development. Thus, we aimed to quantify effects of the two food sources on three key worm phenotypes: worm brood size, intestinal fat deposit levels, and motility. My project excited me and made me feel that I made a worthwhile impact in C. elegans research.
What advice would you give to another student who is seeking an internship or similar experience?
I would advise students to visit the Career Center, Undergraduate Research website, and other campus resources to browse opportunities they are interested in and keep track of deadlines well ahead of time (for internship applications, 3-4 months ahead of deadlines). I would also advise students to make appointments with the Career Center and Writing Center on campus to prepare the strongest possible application materials, including statements, resumes, and requests for letters of recommendation.
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