EPISODE I: Pilot
I walked into the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures feeling excited and anxious to embark on the 8- week long journey that is the CIRM Spark internship. My fellow interns and I nervously trickled into the conference room to attend the weekly Monday morning lab meeting. I watched as each person entered, wondering who would be my mentor for the summer. After being introduced to the (many) lab members by our lovely lab director Jan Nolta, we made our way into a smaller conference room to endure an important (yet slightly tedious) lab safety training. Then, after our first lunch together as interns, we then attended a guest lecture about stem cell therapies for advanced peripheral artery disease. At the end of the day, the moment I had been waiting for finally came. I got to meet my lovely mentor: Dr. Fernando Fierro, who explained that I would be working on Mesenchymal Stem Cell migration on the wound team, with a focus on the differentiation capacity of MSCs when they are Enter a captiontransduced with certain lentiviruses. I didn’t know what that meant yet, but soon enough, I would find out.
EPISODE II: The Hood
It was only the third day of the internship, and it was my turn to learn how to change media to transduced MSCs. I put on my stiff, white lab coat and sprayed 70% ethanol on my purple gloved hands. As soon as I my hands entered the biosafety cabinet, I felt my heart pound, not only because I was scared, but because I felt like I was finally doing something worthwhile—that I was contributing to legitimate stem cell research. My hands were shaking I peeled the pipet wrapper and prepared to remove media from the T225 flask. As a dispensed the old media into a waste bottle, I froze. Did I just throw the cells away? My mentor felt my tenseness, and luckily, I was reassured that the cells actually adhered to the plastic of the flask, and I was barely able to let out a relieved laugh. This media changing became a procedure that I repeated so often this summer that my mentor even coined it the “Ranya method.”
EPISODE III: The Bench
Along with work in “the hood,” I completed some procedures on the lab bench. I remember the first time I did a staining experiment, I ended up staining the bench mat more than the cells; but I got better with practice, thanks to my mentors who I will always credit with teaching me how to pipet the right way.
EPISODE IV: The Bay
One of the most rewarding experiences of working in the Nolta lab was getting to know my lab team as well as my fellow interns. From catching Pokémon around the lab to anxiously watching my mentors load a western blot, to coming up with enough episode ideas for an entire season of a hypothetical TV show called “Coats” chronicling the lives of lab researchers, this summer has been one for the (lab) books.
EPISODE V: The End
I can say with total confidence that the SPARK internship at the UC Davis IRC has been the greatest learning experience of my life. I am extremely disappointed that it has to come to an end, but I will remain forever grateful to have been a SPARK intern as I embark on a (hopefully stem-cell filled) future career. Stay tuned for the next season of Coats, (starring me: incoming scientist, Ranya Odeh) coming next summer to a TV screen near you.