My SPARK Research Scholar Experience by Vincent Truong

So I am a complete klutz sometimes. It comes from my dad’s side, who, when coming overseas from Vietnam, attempted to push a sliding door. Needless to say, there wasn’t a sliding door left. I have this unintentional, destructive nature. Everything I touched would break, snap, bend, or is ruined in some way.

But I applied to the CIRM Spark program at UC Davis and was accepted to do actual laboratory work alongside others in the field. It was exciting, yet, it was absolutely terrifying. I was excited to learn and to do things I normally wouldn’t do as a normal high schooler like gel electrophoresis, but I would be scared to pipette the carcinogen, ethidium bromide, needed to make it. I paid extra attention to how things are done and asked my mentors constantly to check to make sure I would add the correct buffer in the correct amount at the correct time.

Truong, Vincent montageSurprisingly, no major accidents happened. Although I struggled with some of the lab work that required finer motor skills (seriously, some of the things scientist do requires like 5 hands), they did not turn out too bad; I didn’t have to wipe up shards of glass along with the 5 hours worth of work splashed all over the floor.

Until, I broke something. As I was afraid that I would be late to a test for the summer class that the SPARK Students at UC Davis have to attend, I rushed to put the 2L flask of bacteria transformed with VSVG into the shaker. The result: a ton of glass and a flooded shaker. With nutrient broth dripping out of the shaker, I ran to ask for help to fix up my mess and, after wiping up the spills on the floor, I hurried to class.

That next week really sucked. With the help from one of mentors, Kyle, we cleaned the shaker. I smelled strongly of broth and ethanol as I cleaned the shaker out. My lab coat sleeves were covered with ethanol and I had to walk away from the shaker because of the nauseating smell, even with a face mask on.

Truong, Vincent science buddiesAlthough I felt absolutely terrible about it, the people at the Institute for Regenerative Cures were understanding of the mishap. Karen, the person who I asked for help during the accident, told me that the shaker actually smelled clean after my mentor and I cleaned it, even with all of the bacteria inside of it.

My time at in the CIRM Spark program was amazing but it had its hectic moments to. Some days, there would be so many things happening at one time: 2 Maxi Preps, Splitting Cells and Transfecting them, along with a class that day. Even though I did not physically do all of these things, it just seemed overwhelming at times. But I learned a lot throughout the whole program, especially to slow down and do things right.


A successful Western blot…not too shabby!:


Truong, Vincent western blot


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