In the summer after first year I spent six weeks in the Samuel Kwon Lab at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, USA. Having visited family in Michigan on holiday the previous summer, I contacted neuroscience labs in the University of Michigan for an internship, keen to learn more about research in an academic environment and to help me be sure of my Part 1B options.
I worked alongside two undergraduate research students on our own project exploring the role of Grin2b in cortical circuit assembly, using mice as our model organism. Our experimental approach was based around the cre-lox recombination system, which leads to knockout of the Grin2b gene, which codes for the Grin2B protein subunit of NMDA receptors. I enjoyed contributing to the development stages of the project wherein we honed our experimental approaches, which involved manipulation of neural activity using surgeries, virus injection and genetics, as well as quantitative behavioural analysis, in vivo imaging of neurons, and immunostaining. I followed each stage of the scientific method and for me, the most valuable part of my experience was being involved in the analysis and evaluation of the project, whether in weekly lab and group meetings, or just at my desk with my project team mates. I also had the opportunity to attend a University of Michigan Neuroscience Conference, which gave me an insight into different research areas and seeing a diverse group of people achieving highly, motivated me to continue to pursue a career in scientific research.
Outside the lab, I explored Ann Arbor, a university town similar to Cambridge. I enjoyed walking around campus in the sun, visiting different department buildings, museums and parks, as well as eating at many different restaurants. For the first four weeks of my trip I lived in university accommodation in north campus, a bus ride away from my lab. There, I enjoyed spending time with other visiting summer students from around the world; on one weekend we visited the annual Art Fair and on another, had a pizza and movie night. As the new academic year was due to start however, I moved out and into a shared house in the centre of town for the final two weeks. Here, although I was walking distance from the lab, roadworks outside my room became my new alarm clock.
This internship allowed me to gain many new lab skills and enhance my analytical skills, as well as helping me develop my teamwork, confidence and understanding of neuroscience research. I am grateful to the Gateway Challenges Funding, Rosemary Murray Travel Exhibition and Barbara White Fund for making this opportunity possible.
Natural Sciences (Biological)