Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY
I have spent this summer working remotely as a research intern for a laboratory in the Cardiovascular Research Center at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York. The lab is run by Dr. David Goukassian, and is working on numerous active projects in collaboration with NASA relating to the effects of cosmic irradiation on cardiovascular health. The lab seeks to better elucidate the pathways by which the background radiation present in space can increase morbidity and mortality in humans. We used a murine model, studying mice who were exposed to controlled doses of radiation at various time points.
I was originally planning to work full-time in person, but due to Covid-19-related restrictions at Mount Sinai laboratories, I was forced to remain remote for the duration of my summer internship. I worked most closely with a Ph.D. candidate, Abrisham Eskandari, who is doing her research with Dr. Goukassian. We frequently met over Zoom and shared information and files over email. Early in the internship, I spent a good deal of time doing background research on the field so as to better understand the material we were studying; reading up on Dr. Goukassian’s past published works and gaining a broader perspective on the physiological mechanisms involved in the development of radiation-induced cardiovascular disease. The majority of my contributions to the active research were in the form of data collection and some calculations. I used a computer software called ImageJ to analyze photographs of longitudinally dissected mouse aortas, becoming increasingly proficient in using the program in order to quantify the aortic plaque development in mice exposed to various amounts of radiation at different time points since irradiation. I collected and organized the raw data in Excel and prepared it for statistical analysis by Abrisham.
I have found this internship to be a very valuable experience which I will bear in mind as I prepare to enter a career in the biomedical sciences. Up until recently I was fairly certain I wanted to go to medical school, likely specializing in cardiac medicine. While this internship has cemented my interest in cardiovascular physiology, it has also opened my eyes to other possible routes through which I could exercise and engage this interest. Although I am disappointed not to have been able to work in a biomedical laboratory setting in person, I have still gained valuable insight into the goings-on of a biomedical research project. Moving forward, I will be sure to explore research-based biomedical careers, with the goal of becoming a physician-scientist engaged in clinical medicine as well as clinical research. This internship has also shown me the potential for blending my scientific curiosities in fields I previously considered disparate, such as astrophysics and medicine. In fact, inspired by this internship, I am planning to enroll in an astrobiology course this fall, in which I will get to study in far more depth how biological and physiological processes are affected by extraterrestrial environments.
Overall, this internship has been enjoyable and rewarding, such as when I recently got to watch data I had collected being presented over Zoom to NASA scientists. I am extremely grateful to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and to Don Carlson ’83 for this opportunity. Thank you so much for all of your support!