A group of 31 Duke University sophomores are working in the lab for the first time, and blogging about their experiences. The students are part of the Howard Hughes Research Fellows Program, and they are finding that working in a lab isn't always what they expected.
As you might expect, some of the participants have dived right into blogging, with interesting posts and photos of their experiences so far, while others, not so much. I think it's a great way for the students to practice communicating about their research and for other students interested in pursuing a career in science to get a glimpse of what it's really like to work in a lab.
You can read an overview of their blog entries, or read the individual blogs over the course of their eight week program. The young women in the program include:
- Alaina Pleatman
- Catherine Hartman
- Jacquelyn Sink
With no significant research experience under my belt, the complexity of lab life came as quite a surprise. I realized just how much I didn’t know about the basic techniques of science - how complicated dilutions, elecrophoresis, and even growing yeast plates could be if you have never been forced to perform it yourself before. I had to recall all of the things I learned in high school but thought I would never use. I guess it was good to realize that those things you learned oh-so-long-ago will definitely come in handy later in life!
- Jessica Shuen
- Julie Sogani
So instead on Thursday I watched Liz (a fifth year graduate student) perform the final step-”detection”- of a Western Blot, i.e. incubation with a primary and secondary antibody and developing pictures of the gel. Unfortunately the results weren’t as good as Liz hoped. If I had worked nearly five days preparing and conducting such an experiment only to get so-so results I would expect to surely feel disappointed. Yet Liz didn’t appear to be too disappointed. As I have learned in the lab this past week, one shouldn’t expect to get great results his or her very first try (or even the third or fourth tries!) It takes time (and much tweaking) to get results that can even considered for publication.
- Julie Stevenson
- Kristin Knause
- Lulit Price
- Monica Hamilton
This first week has been dedicated to simply handling the mice so that when we pick them up and place them in a maze, they don’t go berzerk from the anxiety of being touched by those darn nitrile gloves. You might imagine that the mice are cute. Well, they are at first, but after the hundredth time that your hands are used as a bathroom, the cuteness starts to wear off.
- Priyanka Amin
I’ve used the sectioning machine, which is -22 degree Celsius and therefore, as you can easily imagine, very, verrry cold. Cleaning it is probably my least favorite activity since the blade is very cold and my glove became mildly stuck to it. But what is research without a few sacrifices? The people in my lab are amusing, friendly, and helpful. I was glad to learn they all enjoy free things (like food) as much as I do, and I enjoyed some breakfast and ice cream in a day thanks to a vendor fair.
- Racquel Quarless
One great thing about my lab is how laidback it is. I enjoy working with my boss Melissa B. and I like how she treats me as if I was an equal and not a mere intern. I have learned /refreshed my knowledge of how to make media(I worked in a lab last summer also), plated cells, and counted them using a hemacytometer… Another great thing about my lab is how many women there are. Of the six of us in the lab, two are men, and four are women(including myself and a Pratt Fellow). It is really inspring to see how successful these women are and their dedication to their work.
- Rebecca Liu
- Samantha Pearlman
I mentioned before that I had (still have?) a pretty skewed idea of what “lab life” is like…but today, I realized something monumental: scientists don’t work all the time, 24/7. There IS such a thing as “down time” (thank god!). No one is expected to survive 7 straight hours of micropipetting (unless you have ridiculous forearm muscles).
- Sara Leiman
[. . . ] knowing that I have produced consistent and expected results in the trial runs I have done this week has increased my excitement for the research I will begin on Monday.
- Sarah Nam
- Sarah Steele
While I really like the lab because it’s interesting working with mutated worms and determining their genetic activity/makeup, etc., I love the lab because of my co-workers, who are amazingly hilarious and intelligent…it’s kind of like having my own version of NBC’s The Office, except that Alejandro is a great boss, unlike like Michael in the show.
- Tessa Carducci
- Trisha Saha
I’m glad I finally found an area of research I’m really interested in. Don’t get me wrong, I do like finding out about new genes and obscure proteins but sometimes it’s refreshing to just look at the BIG picture, as well. What I love most is that my project encompasses many of my interests such as epidemiology, pediatric cardiology, environmental science, and cell biology.
- Vanessa Kennedy
- Vishnupriya Khatri
Every lab has some sort of routine maintenance thing that is not fun, but just has to be done. For our lab, it is transferring those hundreds of vials of Drosophila into other hundreds of vials of fresh food. In my first week, I might have transferred about 500 vials (not bragging or anything). It took some time to get used to; especially since the first one was a fiasco. Have you ever seen a picture of a cute kid releasing a jar of butterflies, with a serene expression of his face? Mine still frame of my first vial would be me staring in terror at the fruit flies escaping to freedom (some bumping in my face, some meeting the wrath of my deadly hands). Don’t worry, the situation was under control in a few seconds—I stuffed cotton down the vial.
- Wendy Liu
- Yishan Cheng
And we all thought we were home free after work. But instead of making this useless occupied webspace that I’d dread writing in, I want to approach it with a purpose in mind: a real account of all the activities occuring behind that incomprehensible science paper of which you only read the conclusion. Specifically, I hope (once Duke gets this science blog thing going) high school and other college students thinking about going in science/research will find my ramblings useful.