Kiara Tan ’23

Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA

This summer I worked at the Mannix/Meehan/Qiu Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital. Broadly the lab works on exploring traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and concussions. They look at different treatments for concussions, blood biomarkers for analyses and behavioral outcomes. They currently use a mouse model but are looking to expand to include a model involving larger animals that are more characteristic of humans in terms of brain morphology. At the lab I took part in research for the National Football League (NFL), Department of Defense (DOD), and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Kiara Tan in the lab.This summer was one of learning and growth. I had a vision of what work at a world-class research lab would look like, how it’d function and what my role would look like. While each project looked slightly different and had different focuses, there were two consistent themes: treatment and clinical applications. I took various roles in each of these projects.

One main project I was working on involved mice that were given an antibody treatment. The treatments were initially more frequent but later tapered off to be one dose every two weeks. For this project I ran behaviorals like Elevated Plus Maze to assess anxiety-like behavior, Morris Water Maze to assess spatial learning and memory, Open Field to assess both locomotor and anxiety-like behavior, and Rotarod to assess motor coordination. I presented the six-month behavioral data at a lab meeting to our primary investigators; the data indicated that the antibody treatment had a limited effect.

Another project I worked on was adjusting the impact model used by the lab. This involved two main variables: the height of the drop and the location of impact (center or side). These variables were carefully titrated to ensure that behavioral results were not skewed by other effects like blindness, allowing attribution of behavioral deficits to the TBI. I also participated in the sac process, which involved drawing blood and brain dissection. It was a different experience to be working on projects simultaneously and to see some projects in their infancy while others were having their results analyzed and written up for publication.

This experience provided benefits in three main areas. The first was that I was able to learn techniques helpful to the lab that will be carried over to my honors thesis with Professor Marlene Sandstrom. Two of the most relevant techniques are brain dissection and blood draws, as I’ll use them for protein quantification and blood biomarker analysis, respectively. The second was that I was able to bounce ideas regarding my thesis off of coworkers and even primary investigators, and further develop an outline and get valuable input and direction. Lastly, opportunities like these are invaluable in providing the groundwork and for moving forward and reaching my dream of being a medical doctor.

I would like to thank the Kraft Family for their generous support that allowed me to take part in this internship at the Mannix/Meehan/Qiu Lab as well as the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for their guidance throughout this process.