High School: Hawken School
Description of project worked on: Small Molecules Activation of Protein Phosphatase 2A as a therapeutic strategy for Lung Cancer.
Mentor and years in program: Rita Tohmé and I participated in the program during the summer of 2016.
Skills obtained: Learning and operating lab equipment, harvesting protein from tumors, running protein quants and western blots, developing western blots, RNA quantifications
Future professional aspirations: I am hoping to pursue a career in the medical field. I am particularly interested in the field of cardiology.
What influenced your interest in research?
Generations of both sides of my family have always been involved in the field of medicine. Thus, I have been surrounded by it my entire life. The field of oncology is an interesting but rather complex field to study and experiment in. I found myself fascinated with it when I learned about the work that had been done in Dr. Narla’s lab in the previous years. I believe that all medicine specialties share one common goal of finding a cure to aid those suffering from a disease, and this is something that is very appealing to me. Putting forth an effort to continuously help others, regardless of the extrinsic benefits, is something I have been raised by. I think that by contributing my efforts to research, I am putting forth my best work to see a brighter tomorrow.
How did you hear about the Young Scientist Foundation summer research program?
After a long and careful search, I found Dr. Narla’s lab, which really caught my eye. As I became more interested in the field of oncology, I contacted other members of Case Western Reserve University research community and found the Young Scientist Foundation program an excellent way to spend my summer.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about programs like this?
Negative experiences of others are at the root of many misconceptions about participating in a summer research program or training in a lab. Having heard some stories about negative lab experiences from my sister, I was initially doubtful. While some labs tend to give their interns a project without any instructions or training, Dr. Narla’s lab does quite the opposite. Working in this lab wiped away all preconceived ideas I had about having an unproductive time. The Young Scientist Foundation defies all negative expectations and goes above and beyond to make your time in lab memorable.
How did you overcome some of the insecurities you faced early on in your training?
On my first day, a bunch of new scientific words were thrown at me, which left me feeling tense. However, I quickly bounced back and found my way around the lab after learning the proper use of tools and equipment. I was able to piece together bigger ideas, understand challenging scientific concepts and work diligently and with confidence.
What is the mentorship relationship like? How would you describe your mentor?
My mentor was one of the key reasons I was so successful in this training program. Ms. Thomé was extremely supportive, something that I believe a lot of interns need during their time in a lab. She would sit down with me, despite her busy schedule, and help me learn what things meant and how to make use of them. Though there were some harder concepts to grasp, Ms. Tohmé would ensure everything would make sense to me in the long run. Her passion for research and her energetic attitude made my work fascinating each day. In fact, every graduate student that I worked around made my time in the lab better by his or her knowledge and expertise; this helped me grow not only as an individual, but also as a researcher.
What is the one thing you wish you knew before starting the program?
I think the one thing I wish I knew before entering the lab is the diverse environment that I would be working in. Early on, I felt a bit intimidated, however, the diversity served as a great place for growth. As I became more familiar with the other people in the lab, I gradually became more comfortable asking others questions, even those who I did not know well or talk to on a daily basis. It really shows that, in this lab, you are not limited to those you work with; everyone is working towards a common goal.
What was the most exciting thing about this program for you?
It is not about the extrinsic rewards, but rather the intrinsic benefits. My contributions to the lab during the summer became more amplified as I realized the possible benefits that the research project that I was working on could have on patients. This really stimulated me and allowed me to become more passionate about my time in the lab.
How was this training meaningful to you?
This training is not about working one summer and being done. The training that I went through and the skills that I acquired are something that I can quickly remind myself of to help me conduct my own studies in the future. This training can be thought of as a life skill that is sure to come in handy in the future, especially if you are planning to pursue a career in the medical field.
What is the most beneficial thing you believe you learned during your training?
I think that the most beneficial thing I learned was the importance of collaboration. Medicine and research are two fields that always rely on joint effort, directly or indirectly. Training in the research lab made me really understand that the field of medicine is not about one person trying to be the best, instead, it is about multiple people working synchronously together to shape a better tomorrow.
Do you think the training influenced your future career path? If so, how?
I think that this training really opened my eyes and made me more passionate about wanting to be a doctor. At the end of the day, when I reflected upon my work, I would think about how the small steps I took in the lab could add up to helping a patient one day. While I may never know that person, the feeling that you have helped someone is priceless, and that feeling is something that I want to experience continuously during my life.
What inspires you?
My parents continue to inspire me every day. Being immigrants is not easy, especially if you plan on pursuing a career in medicine. Today, both my parents are successful doctors in their respective fields and they continue to serve the community by giving back every day.
What are you thankful for?
I am thankful for the countless opportunities I have had in my life so far, especially my internship in this lab.
What are you concentrating on now?
Currently, I am a junior at Hawken School and I am continuing to work hard as I plan on graduating next year.