Caroline Broude ’23

Miami University of Ohio, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Oxford, OH

This summer I conducted research in the biomedical engineering field at Miami University of Ohio in the Jones Lab which focuses on the study and synthesis of psychoactive compounds native to psychedelic mushrooms and produced in E. Coli vectors. Molecules like psilocybin have shown great promise in treating many psychiatric conditions, especially PTSD. The lab’s first objective is to continue to discover an array of psychoactive molecules. Using native metabolic pathways of E. Coli, the lab also works to produce high quantities of already discovered psychedelic compounds for a small sum of money. With their partnership with PsyBio Therapeutics, the lab hopes to change the world of psychopharmaceuticals.

On the Miami University Campus.

Walking into the lab on the first day, I certainly felt very out of place. As a chemistry major, I was not familiar with the techniques used in biomedical engineering work and so the first few weeks were characterized by a steep learning curve. The laboratory students and staff were eager to assist me—they taught me how to conduct everyday tasks such as setting up overnight cell cultures, extracting DNA through MiniPrep kits, splicing the DNA with restriction enzymes, ligating DNA components together to produce recombinant DNA, transforming cells with integrated new DNA strands, and cloning cells to produce all together new E. Coli plasmids. By the first week, I already started my first project.

Although I would love to share the intricacies of the projects I worked on, I must refrain. Dr. Jones and his team are pioneers of the field and work tirelessly to produce innovative patents before any other labs publish analogous discoveries. As such, we are asked to only discuss the findings of published materials.

What I can say about my summer is that I learned a lot. After nine weeks of tireless lab work, I feel very comfortable with the standard techniques used in a biomedical engineering lab—skills that go far beyond what I have learned in classroom or chemistry research settings. I know how to produce E. Coli plasmids to conform what products are made in their metabolic pathways. I learned how to analyze HPLC spectra and how to modify protocols to achieve desired peak separation. But most importantly I learned how to accept failure.

Unfortunately, neither of my projects produced the exact results that we were hoping—in both cases, the products that we desired were only made in microscopic quantities. In my second project, however, we were able to make a large quantity of another potentially useful compound, yet we are just not sure if this molecule will be of any use. At first I was absolutely heartbroken about my two failed projects. I struggled with feeling that it was something that I had done wrong and thinking that I had wasted my summer and Dr. Jones’ time. But he assured me that my accomplishments were nothing to shy away from and that my work would assist with the lab’s future endeavors.

My ultimate career aspiration is to become a pediatric anesthesiologist. While I had never considered the Ph.D./MD route, this summer confirmed that stance. I do not see myself thriving in a research environment where my hard work may never amount to the success I desire. So while I absolutely loved my time in the Jones Lab, I will not be pursuing research and will stick with my dream of becoming a physician.