Columbia Medical Center, DOOR Lab, New York, NY
Over the summer I have been able to learn more about neuroscience research than I could have imagined. I ended up leading my own experiment that I plan to publish as first author of the paper sometime later this year.
My experiment focused on the way mice process different types of acute stress and the neuronal pathways at play during these types of acute stress. I learned surgery which I performed in order to get rabies viral vectors into the bilateral amygdala region of mice. I injected both a TVAG virus and a rabies virus into the brains of our experimental mice in order to trace synaptic connections that form at the time of acute stress. At the time of acute stress, animals were injected with a drug called tamoxifen which activates the viruses in the brain of the mouse. After the viruses are activated neuronal projections can be traced. In this way, we can trace the projections of neurons during the acute stress. We use a novel genetic line of mice to do this called TRAP2 mice. This line of mice has a CRE with a cfos promoter, meaning that in all neurons that are active during the time of the injection, will activate the virus. Cfos is simply a gene that becomes expressed when a neuron is active so we use it as a marker for neural activation. I really feel that my understanding and ability to develop my scientific questions and research proposals has improved significantly throughout the summer.
I plan to do a thesis at Williams and will bring some of the knowledge I have learned, specifically the surgical knowledge, back to the lab I work at here at Williams. I hope to spend much of my career sharing scientific ideas and learning lots from the scientific community. I would like to go to graduate school and will be applying soon for Ph.D. programs for neuroscience and neurobiology. This internship has given me the opportunity to connect with many people in the field. I have met a lot of lab personal investigators here at Columbia that have talked about different paths and experiences that led them to where they are today. In addition, I learned more about the graduate program at Columbia and I will likely apply. I will also be attending the society for neuroscience conference in the fall and presenting some of my work with the lab. This will be an incredible opportunity for me to meet other people from different graduate programs. I have also gotten to practice presenting papers to the lab and developing the skill of explaining other people’s work. I want to thank the members of the Class of 1994 for supporting me and making the experience possible.