Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Through their lens: Ariel Lowrey learns that research moves slowly

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.
Ariel Lowrey with one of her mentors in Michelle Monje's lab at Stanford University. She submitted this photo to our #CIRMStemCellLab Instagram feed.
This summer I have been working in Michelle Monje’s lab at Stanford. It has been wonderful and I'm very grateful that I've had the opportunity to take part in research so early in my life. The research program I am participating in has enormously changed my perspective on stem cell research. When I started I thought that there were only two types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells that existed in certain tissues. After a few lectures, I learned that were stem cells in many more adult tissues than I previously believed, and that there were cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that function similarly to embryonic stem cells, but are made by genetically reprogramming adult cells. I also learned about therapies using stem cells that could help improve cancer survival rates and help with childhood diabetes. It was eye opening because before taking part in this internship I never really thought about what stem cells could be used for clinically.

I applied to a medical internship program because I know that I am interested in working in medicine, but I was unsure what part I want to play in the medical field, from being a practicing doctor to being a lab based researcher or something in between. After this internship I am still sure that I want to work in medicine, but I am still not sure where. I really enjoyed doing research, but I don't see myself doing only research for the rest of my life. I would like to look into what it would be like to be a practicing doctor. I know that if I go to medical school I will be able to continue doing research, so I won’t have to make a final decision for a while.

One thing that I found surprising about working in the lab was the amount of time I spent waiting. There was always a PCR machine or for a gel to finish running. For some reason I expected to be working nonstop from 9‐5 every day and it was actually very nice to find that in reality things don't work that way. There were some days when I was working constantly and stayed a bit later than I expected and there were days when I only had a few things to do because the next steps were time sensitive, for example when I was doing all the preliminary steps for cloning on a Friday and I couldn't do transformation (putting vectors with inserted DNA into bacteria) until Monday because I couldn't come in on Saturday to check the colonies. That said, I know that if I were not an intern I would probably just come in on the weekends to do things; a lot of the other researchers in the lab do.

In all it was a great experience and I'm really happy I decided to apply to research internships this summer.

Ariel Lowrey

Ariel sent us these videos of her experience:


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