I’m a bit late on this week’s blog post because I’ve been in Singapore (crazy!) studying their education system and I didn’t have much internet availability.  More on that later!

Because of my trip I’ve only experienced a little over a week of my internship.  Despite the short time I’ve been working in the Nevzorov laboratory, so far it’s been an enlightening experience.  I’ve been working closely with Dr. Deanna Tesch who recently received her doctoral degree.  She is hanging on in the lab for another month or so to train her successors and I’ve been tagging along with that group to learn what I may.  We’ve been working on expressing and subsequently purifying an important membrane protein – the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor – which is involved in brain processes.

There have been many interesting moments, mostly involving different pieces of equipment.  For example, so far I have worked with a sonicator to lyse cells, an NMR machine to analyze chemical structures of proteins and ran an SDS page gel.  All of the equipment I’ve heard of before – some of it I even teach my students about – but have never actually seen or worked with in real life.  It’s very cool to see the process of science in person. However, I’ve learned that it can also be very tedious and include a lot of trial and error!  It’s awesome to have a better understanding of how this equipment works and also an appreciation for just how much time and energy is behind the scientific breakthroughs I read about in the news.

My biggest challenge during the internship so far has been the sharp learning curve.  Dr. Tesch doesn’t have a lot of time left in the lab and must train everyone as fast as possible.  Since I’ve been learning with people who have a lot more lab experience than me I’ve had to be much more confident and assertive than I would normally be.  For example, Dr. Tesch shows us how to do something once and that has to be enough for me to do it on my own again the next time.  It’s been fast-paced but I’m proud to say I’ve been able to successfully keep up!  Additionally, some of the mathematics and physics behind the NMR spectra readings are a bit beyond me but I’m diligently working on increasing my understanding there.

As it stands now my biggest takeaway is that science is hard and very time-consuming.  It’s taken us over a week just to get a few micrograms of one protein expressed and purified.  That doesn’t include the transformation process that came before the expression OR the tests that must be run after purification to check the quality of the sample.  I almost can’t believe any findings are ever published with how much time it takes!

Internship Experience

Leave a Reply