Working at the Mann Lab - full time for 10 weeks - this summer has been exciting, lots of work, thought-provoking, and challenging. I had the opportunity both to carry out a complete project of my own and to work with others in the lab on their long-term projects. Working on my project was both very exciting and very challenging because, for the first time in the lab, I had to take full responsibility. The project started off slowly, as I became familiar with the dissection technique, antibody staining, and using the confocal microscope. I also had a great time creating my poster for SRI. Creating the poster made me more aware of what I knew and did not know about the project. It also allowed to me to gain valuable insight into how to present results and how to provide background information. My SRI poster was the first scientific poster I made, so I learned about making figures and the different ways posters are created in science.
The projects I have worked on independently, such as the genetic cross projects, have also taught me a lot. By monitoring my own flies, I learned about the fly life cycle and genetics. For each cross, I had to determine the possible genotypes of progeny we might get, which reinforced my understanding of genetics. I have always enjoyed genetics, in school; this summer, I got a chance to see a type of genetics research in a lab setting. I enjoyed the challenge of understanding advanced genetics; I am looking forward to taking genetics at Barnard, this upcoming year.
Working at the Mann Lab, I had a chance to speak with and observe many biology graduate students and post-doctoral students. Working in academia, in a STEM field, is by no means easy. Many of the researchers, who I work with are highly determined. However, I think the most successful researchers are the ones, who have a flexible attitude, in addition to perseverance. Frequently, there are unpredictable variables in the research setting. Equipment may break, or genetic crosses may take longer than anticipated, as mine did. People with flexible attitudes seem better able to deal with these ups and downs. Another characteristic that the successful researchers have is curiosity. Curiosity is what drew me to science; science allows and encourages you to ask questions.
This summer, I have worked more independently than I ever have before. In labs at school, the instructions were always very clear, and there was not much to figure out on my own. I could always speak with classmates or consult my book or protocol. But this summer, I could not always find resources easily, and my mentor encouraged me to think about the crosses and other projects on my own. At times, I felt very challenged by the large amount of independent work, but as a result, I now feel more confident tackling scientific questions and experiments on my own. I also learned that I enjoy collaboration. In my last two reports, I discussed collaboration, and its importance to STEM education and research. Collaboration is key for STEM discoveries. However, on the day to day basis, many of the researchers primarily work independently and are in charge of making all or most of the decisions for their work. Working independently so frequently, this summer, also made me aware of the satisfaction in working as part of a team towards a common goal. However, both are important aspects of science.
My experiences, this summer, have reinforced my love of science and the research process! I look forward to continuing to do scientific research throughout my time at Barnard.