Boston Children’s Hospital, Neurosurgery Department, Boston, MA
This past summer I was a research intern at the Neurosurgery Department of Boston Children’s Hospital. I worked directly under the guidance of Dr. Xin Tang, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and Principal Investigator (PI) of the Tang Lab. The research project I worked most closely on was attempting to induce oxytocinergic neurons from stem cells or progenitor neurons by upregulating key candidate transcription factors. This is a multi-stage project that combines wet-lab techniques along with bioinformatic tools to attempt to perform a cell differentiation that has not yet been achieved.
Much of the time I spent during the project was concerned with proper plasmid design to create a system capable of effectively upregulating and downregulating key genes, thereby modulating the corresponding transcription factor proteins that they produce. This process requires plasmid design, primer design, transforming bacteria with plasmid, culturing bacteria, gibson cloning, T4 ligations, and sequencing to ensure that the necessary plasmid has been created. The next stage of the project would be to begin transformation of the plasmid into target cell types (stem cells and/or progenitor neurons) and to determine if the plasmid is present and has an effect on its corresponding gene expression.
This internship experience has had a large impact on how I will approach my future academic and professional work. The holistic style of learning that combined wet-lab techniques, bioinformatic tools, online learning, lab meetings, presentations and more provided a great learning environment for me to quickly learn large amounts of the underlying biological concepts and the methodologies necessary for successful research. By having multiple parallel learning processes ongoing at the same time, it allowed me to more quickly and thoroughly learn the research concepts. I ended my internship by giving a 30-minute presentation on the work that I had performed which pushed me in new ways and ultimately made me feel more confident with public speaking.
Working in the Tang Lab also has solidified my goals of pursuing further learning by way of a Ph.D. program. My primary academic and professional motivation has always been to explore my scientific curiosity and finding ways to immerse myself into a research environment continues to be rewarding. My goals of completing a Ph.D. program and then to continue to perform research, either in academia or industry have remained the same. I now feel that I better understand what scientific research looks like in a medical environment and know that this is a type of work environment that I would happily perform work again in, in the future.
I would like to thank the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for providing this experience this summer in the Tang Lab.