2017 HIP interns supported by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) share their summer experiences.
In my research I worked with early-developed chick embryos where my goal was to try to find specific reactions that define its size, shape, and its body formation using specific cells of the heart. This research is important to regenerative medicine because studying the proper development of cardiomyocyte cells can lead us to having better understanding of the importance and development of the heart. My project helps us understand how cardiomyocytes cell fuse into a cell that shares a cytoplasm but has two nuclei; we do not know yet why there are two nuclei in one cytoplasm. The techniques I learned during my time in the lab were isolating a chick embryo using several tools, being able to dilute a solution to get less concentration, and also how to keep items sterile to be bacteria free. Before I was able to do lab work I was required to read articles, take tests on lab procedures, lab safety, and also classes with the SEP program about the things that may be involved while you’re in the lab. In my lab we had two scientific talks where my mentor, scientists, and other interns working in the lab talked about the projects they are working on so the whole lab could be up to date on the things we are working on during this time. This internship has changed my perspective on stem cells and medical research because I got the experience of what it’s like to work in a field this important and how it’s not easy to do but it has gotten me more involved in science; I enjoyed being with actual scientists which has made me want to become more connected to the science world. Now that I have participated in this program I know what stem cells are because it was all we talked about and worked with in the lab! When I first got here I didn’t know what stem cells were. I would ask lots of questions about stem cells and thanks to this internship and my mentors I now know what stems cells are and what they do and why they are important. The best part of this internship for me was being able to do hands- on experiments because in my school we wouldn’t do much and that made it harder for me to learn. The hardest part was doing the experiment all over again because something went wrong and you had to repeat it until you got what you needed to advance to the next step. I would love to pursue a career in science research because I like to help people and if I follow up on being a science researcher maybe one day my research will help many people. My family was happy that I joined this program because they always knew I loved science and now that I have had an opportunity in this science program they tell me go for what you want to do and have fun doing it!
My internship was the best experience I had this summer, and it still amazes me that I got to work with researchers in the everyday science field. Of course my 8-week internship did not exactly grant me the time to conduct a full-on research project, but I got to learn many things and meet many people that I will remember for rest of my life.
In the beginning, I was relying on my knowledge from the AP Biology course I took to understand the basic concepts my mentor was teaching me at the lab. But after a short amount of time, I started to take off onto a whole new branch of biology. I felt like a padawan, learning the ways of the force, understanding the fundamentals of how our environment works, and using the knowledge I had to help others. In this case, my mentor, Navneet Matharu, taught me the ways of molecular biology, the fundamentals of genes, and how to use this knowledge to help cure genetic diseases within the gene regulatory elements.
It was kind of hard because I was reading dense research papers filled with terms I did not understand and performing procedures that were designed for professionals in the science field. After doing the procedures enough times and discussing with Navneet about the concepts I did not understand, I started to get the hang of things and understood why we do things a certain way in the lab. In addition to learning about the science of my project, I got to work with a lot of people in my lab. One of the lab members, Ajuni, helped me with setting up in the lab since I had to do some trainings before working with chemicals and machines in the lab. Ajuni also helped me with my project’s experiments and without her support, it would have taken me a longer time conducting some of my experiments.
In addition, I got to work with another lab member, Serena, in learning some of the procedures I had to do for my project. It was awesome because I was given a lot of advice and help on the procedures and they were really fun to do. One of my favorite procedures is doing the gel electrophoresis because it reminds me of baking a cake! Making the gel, preparing the samples for the gel, running the samples in the gel within a gel bath, and then imaging the final products after an hour of waiting. It is a long task, but it’s exciting to see the final results at the end!
After each day at the lab, I would tell my parents about what I did and explained the procedures since my parents did not know what they were. It was so much fun to talk about because it was fascinating to know how advanced the science field was in solving questions and further expanding our perspective on concepts. It was as if the science world was this massive ocean riddled with simple questions on the surface, but only to contain more complicated questions as you swim deeper into the endless water.
From my experience, I learned a lot about the science field, but I also learned what it meant to be a real scientist. I learned from my lab that everyone works together as a team to achieve a goal and if you put in effort and time, you can achieve anything! I will take this experience in heart and go forth towards my passion of science.
This summer, I had the honor to be a part of the Sarwal Lab in the Department of Surgery at the University of California San Francisco. The project I worked on focused on validating clusterin, a protein that is overexpressed in urine when kidney damage is present, as a biomarker for kidney injury. Performing this research may lead to further medical advances in detecting early kidney injury and eventually result in earlier actions taken to slow down the progression of kidney damage. In order to validate clusterin as a biomarker for kidney injury, I had to determine clusterin concentrations among multiple cohorts through an assay called enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
While I was working on my project, I really enjoyed how supportive the lab members were. When I first got into the lab, they welcomed me with open arms. When I had any questions or needed clarifications, they responded without any hesitations. One specific example would be when all of the lab members came to watch my presentation. They were all cheering and it was comforting see them in the audience supporting me. Additionally, I gained a really close relationship with another lab member; her name is Shristi. We worked on the clusterin project together which allowed us to spend a lot of time together. She is a friend I know I will keep in touch with forever. Despite all the great bonds I built with each of the lab members, there were some challenges while performing the research. During the first few times while I was performing the ELISA, I made critical mistakes, which caused me to have to redo the assay. It was frustrating repeating the experiment because I knew it could have been prevented if I was more careful and attentive to the protocol. However, because I made mistakes, I knew how to avoid the errors in future experiments.
After this internship, I realized that research may be a career I want to pursue in the future because I had the opportunity to build great bonds and perform important research that is vital for the future of medicine. With such an important role, my family was very supportive of my work and hope I continue on this path of becoming a professional that impacts health care.
When I first started my internship here at the University of California, San Francisco I was worried that I did not have the necessary skills to be able to pull any of it off. I was hesitant in the lab, worried more about not making mistakes than actually learning something new. I was almost ready to give up, I felt so hopeless. I couldn't make sense of what I was doing in the lab or why I was doing it. After giving it some thought I realized that everyone in the lab has been in school for countless years and has way more experience than I do. I realised my state of confusion was appropriate, no one expected me to understand any of what I was doing right away. Once I realized that, everything became easier for me, I was able to understand more because I was not worried about screwing up all the time and I asked more questions, and soon I understood everything what I was doing in detail. Once I stepped out of my “bubble” and began to feel like I actually belonged in the lab. My favorite part of my internship was going along this journey and learning things that I would have never learned in a high school. I met different kinds of people and got to learn so much from them. Before I started my internship, I knew what research was but working in a real lab this summer, I have a better understanding and appreciation for research/researchers. Being in the lab I learned not only about my research project, but the whole dynamic of a lab. Having this experience definitely sparked my interest and I would love to pursue a career in research now. When I first told my parents that I was accepted into this program they were super thrilled. As time went on and I started to explain to them the kinds of things I was doing in the lab, they were amazed. They were almost in disbelief that I was able to perform these tasks in such a short amount of time. All in all being a part of this program has made a huge impact on my life and I will carry this experience with me for the rest of my life.
For this summer, I worked as an intern in the Huang lab of the Pathology department at UCSF Parnassus. I was honored to be an intern under the mentorship of Amy Tang and Julian Dishart. My lab project was about the cortical neuron density in a mouse model of Coffin-Siris Syndrome (CSS). This internship has provided me new knowledge and several opportunities. It’s been absolutely amazing to be a part of this program.
Most of the work I did consisted of sectioning, rinsing, staining, and quantifying the brain tissues I’ve collected. I really enjoyed using the cryostat to cut thin slices of the brain samples; it was actually kind of relaxing! Staining was fine too but it takes up a lot of time since I have to rinse the tissues after every step and the whole process of staining takes up two days to do. I did lots of amazing things in the lab that I didn’t think I could do before. Although I really enjoyed the work I did in the lab, what I enjoyed the most is the company of my truly amazing mentors. I was always kind of hesitant to ask questions in fear of asking the “wrong” question or a “dumb” question but Amy and Julian were always glad to give clarity to my inquiries. They encouraged me to ask tons of questions. Amy told me that being inquisitive is one of the most important qualities of a good scientist. Sometimes I worry that I may be asking too many questions but Julian and Amy always reassured me that it wasn’t a problem. Because of their encouragements, I learned many new things about the lab, about neuroscience, about autism, and even about college. I can’t stress enough how much they’ve guided me to where I am now. Even though a lot of the concepts in neuroscience were challenging for me, from the big concepts about the brain to the nitty-gritty details, I was able to understand and overcome these challenges. I never really considered research as one of my career options but working with these wonderful people is kind of changing my mind. I’ll be coming back next summer to the lab as a volunteer and I’m really excited for the more amazing things to come!
The staining, sectioning, and quantifications weren’t the only awesome things I did in this internship but also the people who supported me throughout the program – my mentors, my fellow interns, and the supportive program coordinators. I think my time in this program has been most incredible with the presence and company of all these amazing people.
This summer I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the SEP Program. I worked in a lab at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital that focused on Skeletal Regeneration. This internship has helped in many ways other than giving me this learning experience. I have created relationships and bonds with both my mentor and my PI, Risa Takenaka and Ralph Marcucio, and they have given me a great summer experience. My favorite part about this summer was having the feeling that I was creating change for my community by learning about cartilage cells, Craniosynostosis, etc. Although this was great, I did have some challenges. I did have some times where I did not understand my material and there were also times where I wanted to give up. Yet, with the help of my mentor, friends, and family I was able to push through. They helped guide me through what I needed to know and they helped me not give up so easily. My mentor Risa was a really big help because she was patient and created ways for me to understand what she researched for so long in only the 8 weeks we had in the program. I now know what I want to major in, which is neurology and scientific research, and I also know what kind of colleges I am searching for. I want to do all this to make my family proud because I would be the first in my whole family to major in the science field.
My family is a really big part of me and they are my biggest support. They always want me to push harder and go beyond the limits. If my family did not encourage me to do this program, I would not have gotten this wonderful experience of being in a wet lab, getting to know my Pi and mentor, and having the opportunity to learn about skeletal regeneration and craniology.
An unforgettable summer filled with curiosity, excitement, questions, and answers? These past couple of weeks at the University of California, San Francisco in the Science and Health Education Partnership Program (SEP) was a lifetime experience I was not expecting.
Before this program, research to me was sitting in front of a computer and studying facts and questions. I was unaware that it encompassed so much more until I stepped into it. Research is the world of possibilities and wonder for those who are curious and eager to unlock the door to unanswered questions.
This summer I had the chance to work in the Marson lab under the Department of Immunology and Microbiology researching about the genes that cause immune diseases. My project delved into the depths of correcting the Stat5b and Jak3 protein mutations known to cause Severe Combined Immunodeficiency(SCID).
Throughout my project, I learned many techniques associated to correcting a mutated DNA sequence: polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, assembly reactions, transformation of bacteria, mini-preps, and electroporation into primary T-cells through the use of CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Learning these techniques have shown what goes on in the life of a scientist besides having to read articles or scientific papers to keep up with new findings or preparing for a new experiment. Not only that, but these techniques would have also shaped the answer to my question: Will this method of designing and constructing a DNA template be a way of correcting these mutations and curing SCID? My goal of this project was to direct a newly sequenced DNA construct to the specific sites in the cell where the Stat5b and Jak3 mutations were located. By attaching a green fluorescent protein or GFP to our DNA template, we were able to identify whether or not the DNA was able to enter the specific site, indicating that correcting the mutations would be possible. Along with my mentor’s guidance, we saw positive results with cells expressing the GFP.
Before this research, SCID remained as an incurable disease with only various ways of treatment. If I can pinpoint these mutations in a patient with SCID’s cells, correcting the mutations would be a step closer to finding a cure and saving someone’s life. Working toward big questions is an adventure filled with trial and error, failed experiments and successful ones, and results that present hope and possibilities to those that are suffering. Research is the gate that holds the questions and unlock the answers, and we are the key to its success.
With this priceless experience and encouraging lab members to guide me, research would definitely be a path I would consider taking in the future.
Before this internship I never stepped foot into an actual scientific lab; I remember the anxiety I felt when I first stepped into the lab for the first time. Soon the anxiety disappeared because the lab almost felt like a second home. For the first two weeks of my internship, I spent most of my time reading articles over and over again and writing down piles of notes. I came into the lab with little to no experience and knowledge in scientific research but the past eight weeks that I have spent working with my mentor in the lab has changed that. I enjoyed my whole experience in the lab but there were challenges that came along side. One challenge for me was the amount of information I had to digest in a short amount of time, which is why it helped tremendously to keep a notebook with me at all times and write everything down. My family knows about my passion in neuroscience so I first told my parents about my biology teacher nominating me for a scientific research internship they supported me and told me to give it my best shot. This internship opportunity has opened my eyes and mind about what it is actually like to do research. If someone would have asked me what copy number variants were and what induced pluripotent stem cells were in May I would have just stared at them blankly but now I know that copy number variants are a structural change involving alterations in the number of copies of regions of DNA and induced pluripotent stem cells are a type of pluripotent stem cell that can be generated directly from adult cells. The internship has not only expanded my knowledge in science but it has also helped me gain confidence to speak scientifically and communicate with others. I am so grateful that I had been given this wonderful opportunity.
My research project this summer was about investigating the role of Usp9x in embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells (ES cells) are derived from the undifferentiated inner cell mass of a blastocyst, a structure formed in the early development of mammals. ES cells differ from other cells because they have many genetic properties: they are unspecialized meaning they are able to specialize into any cell type, they are pluripotent meaning they are able to give rise to all cell types, and they are able to self-renew as ES cells. Because they are capable of reprogramming, ES cells are employed as useful tools for both research and regenerative medicine.
I worked with Usp9x this summer because I wanted to work with something that was unheard of. I also knew that there are millions of genes in the body that are essential to embryonic development. When I heard about Usp9x, I knew I wanted to find out more about. As I did research, I found that mutations in Usp9x can negatively affect embryonic growth, resulting in an abnormal phenotype and a unique female-specific recognizable syndrome with developmental delay and congenital malformations. But I wanted to go deeper and find out Usp9x’s level of importance in embryonic stem cells.
My goal for the summer was to figure out what role Usp9x plays in mouse ES cells. I hypothesized that Usp9x is important in embryonic stem cells. In other words, without Usp9x, embryonic stem cells would not develop normally. In order to prove my own hypothesis, I had to find out how degrading Usp9x in ES cells affected its growth rate. To do this, I performed many different experiments.
But before I could get into degrading Usp9x, I had to find out what Usp9x is linked with in order to degrade it. Luckily, there’s already a method used to degrade proteins which is by adding auxin, a chemical that signals for different proteins to get degraded. Because I wanted to figure out what happens to ES cells when I degrade Usp9x, I knew my first step would involve degrading Usp9x by adding auxin.
My next step in my research project was to set up a growth where I would count the number of live ES cells I would have each day in response to the auxin treatment. The reason I set up a growth curve was because I found out how to degrade Usp9x, but Usp9x degradation didn’t necessarily tell me anything about its effect on embryonic stem cells. In theory, adding auxin on a day-to-day basis to ES cells would cause a growth defect in my cells. I want Usp9x degradation to cause a growth defect in ES cells because I am trying to prove my own hypothesis of determining whether Usp9x is important for embryonic development. If my cells do not grow normally when I add auxin, then I could possibly say that Usp9x is important for development since ES cells do not grow without Usp9x. But sadly, my results for the experiment were not what I expected.
My results show that Usp9x degradation made my graph fluctuate every other day. I cannot say that Usp9x causes a growth defect in ES cells because the number of live ES cells I had in response to the auxin treatment was ether significantly large or small. However, I can say that because I saw low numbers of live cells every other day, I can say that Usp9x degradation does affect the growth rate of ES cells in some way.
In conclusion, not a lot can be concluded from my experiment because my results were different from what was expected. I can say that adding auxin to ES cells definitely depletes Usp9x, but I cannot say that Usp9x is important for embryonic development. Less Ups9x in mammalian ES cells may impact development, but because not a lot is know about Usp9x, it is unclear towards what impact it will cause. Further tests and experiments are definitely needed to be performed if Usp9x is actually important for embryonic development.