Thursday, July 25, 2013

Through their lens: Jessica Wang learns that cures come out of long hours in the lab

This summer we're sponsoring high school interns in stem cell labs throughout California. We asked those students to contribute to our Instagram photos and YouTube videos about life in the lab, and write about their experiences. 

Jessica Wang, 17, is a senior at Walnut High School. She is a summer student at the City of Hope and works in the Department of Pathology.

Jessica Wang submitted this composite photo of to CIRM's Instagram #CIRMStemCellLab collection. She was also responsible for our recent featured photo
I had a family friend, five years older than me, who went to study at MIT a couple of years ago. The last conversation that I had with her involved the research she was doing in college. “What are you studying over there?” I asked. She told me about how her work involved “thermal ablation”, or delivering blasts of intense heat to tumors. We were conversing over plates of spaghetti. When she started talking about using gold nanoparticles and lasers to perform this “thermal ablation”, I put the deck of cards I had taken out previously back into my bag. I’d planned for us to play Egyptian War, like we always did. But this time, I sat for a long time riveted by her vivid descriptions of her work, and how much she enjoyed doing it.

That was my first taste of learning what research would be like. Her fascination with it was infectious; I left that night wondering how well of a fit I’d be in this practice. I’d never really been much of a “science person”; I never really tried to have fun with it. But she made research sound like fun and something I could see myself pursue.

This summer I’ve landed in good fortune. I’m currently at the City of Hope as a summer student in the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Academy. Research is not what I expected it to be, in more ways than one. In the few weeks that I have been here, I have learned not just about transposable elements and their theorized involvement in tumorigenesis, but also about stretching my own limits. Most importantly, as obvious as it seems, I have realized that all great treatments and cures come from the tireless hours that dedicated scientists, many like the ones I have met in the past few weeks, pour into their work. There’s always something about being directly involved in the process that is more eye opening than reading or hearing about it a hundred times.

Research is a lifestyle. One that I’m still unsure of whether or not I want to adopt, but one that I am certain that I have plenty to learn from in the time that I am here.

Jessica Wang

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