This summer, I worked in the Visual Productions department at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. The National Aquarium is a non-profit public aquarium that provides an opportunity to connect with the life that lives underwater, both in the oceans and the local harbors. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first accepted the position, but not even six hours after I arrived in Baltimore I realized that I was going to have an incredible experience. The night before my first day I received an email that said I would be helping to film sea turtles the Aquarium was rehabilitating the morning of the first day, and soon after that I was told I’d be going on a four day trip to Delaware to help film an educational camp the Aquarium provided to inner-city kids. Later, I helped to take photographs at a turtle surgery–I didn’t even know those happened. This isn’t even including all of the experience I gained with filming equipment and editing software. I had no idea how accommodating and incredibly helpful my mentors would be. My mentors hadn’t met me yet and I was already being offered these mind-blowing opportunities. This internship was invaluable to me, and initially, I wasn’t even going to apply. I didn’t feel like I had enough experience, nor was I completely comfortable living in an unfamiliar city. So, one of the most important things I learned was to just take a risk–maybe you’ll get a turtle surgery out of it.
This summer, I was lucky enough to spend three weeks as a research volunteer on African Impact’s South African wildlife research and conservation project. Since I eventually want to conduct my own animal behavior research with African mammals, this experience was the perfect lead-in to this kind of career. One of my most memorable days on the project was a conservation morning. On these days, we would spend a few hours doing physical work to improve the game reserve. This particular day was only my second one on the project, so I was still learning a lot. We were doing bush clearing, which basically meant removing thorny plants from the road with machetes. Never in my life have I wielded such a weapon, so that in itself was an experience. After about an hour and half, we were all very sweaty and sore. The drivers were moving the cars up when we heard a branch snap a few hundred meters to our left. After craning our necks, we finally saw that it was one of the reserve’s Southern white rhinos! It was one thing to see these impressive animals from the cars, but since we were all on foot with nothing but our machetes, it was both exhilarating and terrifying. We had to immediately get in the game drivers, but it was a moment I will never forget.
I worked as a student intern in the Neuroimmunology/MS subdivision of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus. On my first day, I was given the chance to oversee the data management from a three-year clinical trial. This was definitely trial by fire, as I had never done anything similar. A week later, I had a meeting with the head of Neuroimmunology/MS to present my work. The meeting, thankfully, went well and I continued my work on the project. This experience showed me how much I’ve learned from all of my late-night study sessions. I was able to anticipate what information would be asked for and not be caught off-guard even though I had almost no idea what I was doing!
This summer, I was provided with the extraordinary opportunity to conduct biomedical research at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, MD. I worked under Professor Mukoyama’s Laboratory of Stem Cell and Vascular Biology in order to understand the neurovascular alignment in obese conditions along with embryonic pericyte development.
The Laboratory of Stem Cell and Vascular Biology focuses on understand the neuro-vascular interactions during embryonic development and in disease conditions. Many of the projects that are being completed focus on imaging techniques, where the researchers try to observe the alignment between nerves and blood vessels along with chemical signals that foster such interactions.
This summer I was able to work for the National Institutes of Health. I worked in the NIDDK, or the Institute for Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney diseases. The NIH is located in Bethesda, MD, but I was lucky enough to live in DC for the summer. My lab was looking at the effects of a certain growth factor, TGF-Beta, on different tissues of the body in regards to diabetes and obesity. My work was primarily with neurons, which was unexpected because I had literally no neuroscience background when I entered the lab! I had to do a lot of hard work and reading in order to get a handle on what I was doing, but it has been totally worth it. Just learning about how to learn all the new topics for lab research has been a great skill in itself. I think that is one of my biggest takeaways from this experience. Lab work isn’t about knowing a ton about your topic of research, but having the mind to ask the right questions.