Stanford University School of Medicine, Bollyky Lab, Stanford, CA
The Bollyky Lab is an immunology lab at Stanford University with a focus on studying bacteriophages or viruses that kill bacteria. I worked alongside Tejas Dharmaraj, whose research centered on developing a way to quantitatively measure the function of phages (without using a time-intensive assay) and the creation of a hydrogel for long-lasting wound phage therapy.
This summer, I learned a wide variety of techniques, some of which were universal to many labs such as agar plate pouring, buffer making and how to create a growth curve experimentally. Some of the skills were more analytical. For example, I learned how to analyze academic papers in order to complete a literature review. I gained skills on two machines: I was certified to use a DLS (dynamic light scattering) machine and was able to observe the operation of a transmission electron microscope and learn how to take photos of phages with TEM. Finally, I gained skills more specific to phages. I completed hundreds of plaque assays (a technique used to quantify the function of the phage), I learned how to grow phage and test their titer (or concentration) and I was able to be a part of a study modeling phage therapy in wounded mice. Additionally, I had the opportunity to design my own experiment. I was challenged with the question: Are phages stable in blood? I then had to independently design and conduct multiple rounds of experimentation with three different phages in order to come to a conclusion (in vitro phages are very stable in serum).
There was a significant amount of vocabulary I needed to learn to understand the experiments going on in the lab. With the tutelage of the wide variety of MDs and postdocs in the lab, I was able to reach a proficiency level where I not only was fluently conversing on bacteriophage science, my work also became used in small parts of lab projects. I created three growth curves of pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterial strains, which were used to determine the amount of bacteria needed to infect mice for an in vivo phage therapy model. The phages that I grew were used to treat the infected wounds on the same mice.
This experience will be invaluable to me at Williams. Not only will I be able to bring the techniques I learned to my lab courses in biology and genetics and hopefully future research on campus, but I will also bring critical thinking skills developed from a summer of research and surrounded by imaginative thinkers. I have a deeper understanding and recognition of the frequency of failure in experimentation but also the necessity of continuing onward and learning from those failed attempts.
I want to thank the Estate of James Kellogg and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for making this experience possible. Because of this internship I am more passionate and determined to follow my goals of becoming a doctor and biologic researcher than ever before.