SPARK Blogs

Bright Future by Saja Zidan

June 12, 2017, this was the day I was about to embark on one of the most fulfilling learning experiences of my life. After meeting my mentor that day, Dr. Ping Zhou, I was officially able to do the biggest task I have ever done, stem cell research.

From this internship I have acquired many skills that I did not think was possible to obtain as a high school student. However, I was proven wrong after spending countless hours on the bench and in the tissue culture room. Culturing cells, changing media, pipetting, plating mouse embryonic fibroblasts, passaging hemophilia cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, these were techniques I was able to learn by the second week! Each week these skills were strengthened and all the fear of messing up disappeared.

SajaZidan_microscopeOne of the most rewarding experiences from this internship was watching my cells grow. After changing media and tracking their growth under the microscope, I felt like I was making a difference in the world. I could not help but smile each time I looked at them through the microscope and saw little happy cells. Who knew that these really tiny cells have the ability to change the world for the better?!

I would not have understood the impact these cells can have on the world or know what I was even doing in the lab if it wasn’t for my stem cells course that was taught by Dr. Gerhard Bauer. Through this class I was able to learn about the world of stem cells on a much deeper level, which inspired me to explore more careers in the field of regenerative medicine. The class also helped me feel more confident about presenting my research project about the differentiation of induced pluripotent cells to smooth muscle cells because I had more background information.

I can’t thank everyone at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Medicine enough for allowing me to participate in the SPARK program. May the future of stem cells continue to be bright!

No Need To Choose! Become a Research Scientist and a Doctor by Sanika Walimbe

I am not going to lie, on the first day I was terrified to start the Internship. I remember while getting ready thinking:

What should I wear?

Were they going to like me?

Was my mentor going to be nice?

When the other Interns and I anxiously walked into the lab meeting, I was in shock. Wow! There are so many smart people here was my first thought… which is still true.

As we walked around the beautiful UC Davis Medical Center, I was in awe. I couldn’t believe that I had the opportunity to be able to have an Internship at my dream school.

After the tour and a presentation on Safety, I met my amazing mentor, Julie Beegle and it turned out that my mentor was the complete opposite of the big scary mentor image I had conjured up in my head before the Internship.

SanikaWalimbe_mediaprepOn the second day, I was not prepared to do any serious lab work, and I was surprised when I had to do a bacterial transformation with the plasmids we needed for my project. When Julie first explained the project and the disease I was trying to treat (which was to study how effective it would be to transduce cells with a gene coding for Beta-Galactosidase to treat GM1 Gangliosidosis). I had a plethora of questions, I didn’t understand anything at first. But luckily, Julie was patient enough to explain everything to me multiple times. During the bacterial transformation, my hands were shaking. I had never touched a real pipette in my life, only the cheap plastic ones. I cautiously performed all the steps, with much help from my mentor, and at the end of the day, I felt like a real scientist. The whole experience was different from any chemistry experiment I did at school, and I loved it.  I knew that this was my first real step into the amazingly complex world of science.

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Spinning Vector-my favorite thing to do on Fridays!

Throughout the weeks, I gradually started to get a feel of how to pipette, proper sterile technique and how to use and understand “researcher jargon”. Professor Bauer’s lectures were beginning to seem like not such an alien topic.

My favorite part was listening to the guest lectures from Dr. Kuppermann, Dr. Belafsky and Dr. Wheelock. They were inspiring figures because they made me realize that it was possible to do both; be a scientist and be a doctor. Before, I was under the impression that you could either be a doctor or a researcher, no in between. After hearing the diverse career options, this internship has inspired me to be like the doctors that we listened to, do research and also be a doctor.

Overall, this Internship was a life changing experience that has shaped me into the person I am now, and the person I will be in the future. It has helped me define my career, connected me with 9 other incredibly smart Interns from across the region and my lovely HIV Team and most importantly, it has opened me up into the world of science. I will forever be grateful for being able to experience this one in a lifetime opportunity. I am extremely sad this internship is coming to a close, but I can’t wait to visit and continue to study science for the rest of my life.

The First Step by Anh Vo

With college selectivity increasing and acceptance rates plummeting, the competitive nature within every student is pushed to the limit. In high school, students are expected to pad up their resumes and most importantly, choose an academic path sooner rather than later. However, at 15, I felt too young to experience true passion for a field. As I tried to envision myself in the future, I wondered, would I be someone with the adrenaline and spirit of someone who wants to change the world or one with hollow ambitions, merely clinging onto a paycheck with each day passing? At the very least, I knew that I didn’t want to be the latter.

The unrelenting anxiety induced by the uncertainty of my own ambitions was intoxicating. As my high school career reached its halfway mark, I felt the caving pressure of having to choose an academic path.

AnhVo_labgroup“What do you want to be?” was one of the first questions that my mentor, Whitney Cary, asked me. When I didn’t have an answer, she assured me that I needed to keep my doors open, and the SPARK program was the necessary first step that I needed to take to discovering my passion.

As I reflected on my experience, the SPARK program was undoubtedly the “first step”. It was the first step into a lab and above all, into a community of scientists, who share a passion for research and a vehement resolve to contribute to scientific merit. It was the integration into a cohort of other high school students, whose brilliance and kindness allowed us to forge deeper bonds with each other that we will hold onto, even as we part ways. It was the first nervous step into the bay where I met the Stem Cell Core, a team, whose warm laughter and vibrantness felt contagious. Finally, it was the first uncertain stumble into the tissue culture room, where I conceived a curiosity for cell culture that made me never stop asking, “Why?” .

With boundless patience, my mentor and the Stem Cell Core strove to teach me techniques, such as immunocytochemistry and continually took the time out of their busy day to reiterate concepts. Despite my initial blunders in the hood, I found myself in a place without judgement, and even after discouraging incidents, I felt a sense of consolation in the witty and good-humored banter among the Stem Cell Core. At the end of every day, the unerring encouragement from my mentor strengthened my resolve to continue improving and incited an earnest excitement in me for the new day ahead. From trembling hands, nearly tipping over culture plates and slippery gloves, overdoused in ethanol, I eventually became acquainted with daily cell culture, and most importantly, I gained confidence and pride in my work.

I am grateful to CIRM for granting me this experience that has ultimately cultivated my enthusiasm for science and for the opportunity to work alongside remarkable people, who have given me new perspectives and insights. I am especially thankful to my mentor, whose stories of her career journey have inspired me to face the future with newfound optimism in spite of adversity.

As my internship comes to a close, I know that I have taken my “first step”, and with a revived mental acquisitiveness, I eagerly begin to take my second.

Memories: The Building Blocks of Life by Maya Tureez

I did not know what to expect during my next 8 weeks at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures. Such as my other peers, I was nervous, yet very excited. We walked into our first lab meeting, and as I viewed all of the individuals coming in, I wondered, who was going to be my mentor. After introducing ourselves and being introduced to the many lab members, we were escorted to attend our first lab safety training. By the end of the day, the moment that I had been waiting for had finally come. However, before I was told who my mentor was, I received astonishing news. During the start of the day, we were informed that two students were going to be working across the research lab. I was quite astonished when I found out that I was one of those students. Prior to this year, I had visited the Institute for Regenerative Cures with the Decision Medicine team. We had the opportunity to visit the research lab, and a few of my peers, including myself, had the greatest opportunity of visiting the corridors of the GMP facility (Good Manufacturing Practice facility). We had met with Brian Fury, who ironically,  was my fantastic mentor during the SPARK program. By this time, I knew my experience during this internship would be a bit different than others. My project would entail working with gene therapy vectors rather than stem cells. No matter the differences, I was very excited for what was to come.

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Bioreactors, what are they, and why do we use them? These were the questions I had when starting my project on expanding endothelial cells in an efficient manner. Endothelial cells play a vital role in vascular functions, and unfortunately, we do not have good models for the expansion of endothelial cells in tissue culture. My project, using a bioreactor to expand such cells. Using a hollow fiber bioreactor, a culture system with a very large surface area and a continuous media perfusion, cells are able to grow under in vivo-like conditions. Expanded endothelial cells are extremely useful for the manufacturing of expanded hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. A bioreactor has the capability to grow billions of cells, and is proven to be efficient for speeding up the process. The results provide evidence that endothelial cells can support stem cell expansion. There was so much material I had to learn about my project and the research linked with it.  I am so grateful for this internship and the insight that came with it.

MayaTureez_GerhardBauerThis summer has been full of learning and opportunities. I would have never been able to be part of or experience so much without this internship. Opportunities such as these are hard to come by for younger students, and it is crucial for the development for younger individuals for this is a great insight into medical research. Memories made during these times are what contribute in our lives and stay with us till the very end. I would like to thank CIRM for this opportunity and allowing students to partake in such prestigious programs. I would especially like to thank my mentors, Catherine Nacey, Brian Fury, and Doctor Gerhard Bauer, for always being there to clear my confusions, help me throughout my research, or to simply put a smile on my face. This internship is truly something spectacular, and I cannot wait to further my studies in stem cells and other biological sciences as I embark on my journey into science!

No One Sees, but We’re Always Working to Answer the Big Questions in Science by Monserath Mendoza

I will never forget the first day of the SPARK program at the UC Davis Institute of Regenerative Cures. I was mixed with emotions, ranging from nervous to excited all at once. I met with the other 9 lucky students who had been accepted as well and started conversation, getting to know the people who I’d be spending my entire summer with. A new friend group with people with the same drive and passion as I was found. I developed strong friendships, especially with Giselle Toscano who I now consider one of my closest friends. We sat together in anticipation as our mentors and other future colleagues walked in. I didn’t know what to expect from it all; questions and worries flooded my mind and my heart raced with anticipation. Then, I found out that I would be working under Dr. Karen Pepper under the vector core, as well as with Catherine Nacey. We went through the safety lectures and then made our way into the lab for the first time.

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Before this summer, I imagined a lab that was very strict and hard working. People would go in, do their jobs, and then leave. However, at the Nolta Lab, that isn’t exactly the case. Hardworking yes, but also very lovable and kind. As the weeks went by, I familiarized myself with the people I was working with and began to grow a bond between them. The graduate students and the other mentors slowly became more than just acquaintances. On Thursdays, we would do yoga in the hallways and in our spare time, visit each others bays and learn more about the different disease teams. On Wednesday, the SPARK students and Graduate students would go to a class together held by Dr. Bauer. We struggled studying for tests together but we were able to succeed under Dr. Bauer’s wing and guidance. He may seem intimidating at first, but he has a big heart and care for his students. Everyday, laughter and smiles would be exchanged just as people roamed the hallways past one another.

Every student’s main goal was to begin a project focusing on the disease team they were placed under. Since I was with the vector core, my project this summer focused on gene therapy and vector/virus development. Together, we attempted to create a treatment for Sanfilippo syndrome, a disease that affects children’s development and is often referred to as childhood Alzheimer’s. I spent hours on Google and YouTube trying to understand the nitty gritty details of the disease to be able to further understand it.

MonserathMendoza_pipettingWe started off slow, learning the basics about vectors and how they function and how what we do could potentially save lives. Then, we were able to start the lab work. I did mini-preps and maxi-preps, gel electrophoresis, and worked with other various machines to be able to create my vector. All in proper PPE, of course. And after weeks of this, we finally finished building our vector. I was over the moon when the final gel ran and we saw the confirmation. My mentor and I prayed to the kpop gods every time and I guess it worked. We high-fived and did a happy dance with our director, Dr. Jan Nolta. Dr. Karen Pepper made me laugh so hard my cheeks hurt and made me feel comfortable being myself around her. I will always appreciate her and all the work she put in for us. Knowing that I contributed to something so big that could potentially save lives was like no other feeling. This was research- the behind the scenes of medicine practice. We’re like the guy in the chair of superhero movies. No one sees, but we’re always working to answer the big questions in science.

MonserathMendoza_heartglovesOccasionally, I would work with Catherine Nacey. She is such a lovely person who slowly earned the title of being the “mom”. I mostly worked in the biosafety cabinet. At first, I was incredibly intimidated by the big machine and worried about doing something wrong. But, Catherine would take loads of care of me, guiding me through every passage slowly until I learned to work in the hood confidently. During those few hours, we would talk about everything. She made me feel safe and welcomed. I will always hold a special place in my heart for these two women.

My Absolute Favorite Summer by Giselle Toscano

I began my first day at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures as an intern SPARK student anxious and eager to begin my eight week program. As the 10 of us future interns waited, I found out we were all as nervous and excited to begin this journey. At the Nolta Lab Monday’s begin with our weekly meeting, discussing lab updates and having interesting science presentations; this was where I first heard who my mentor would be, Dr. Fernando Fierro.

After all the lab safety, and training, we walked down the bays and I entered the Wound and Orthopedic Team. I met the entire team and soon enough Dr. Fierro began teaching me about mesenchymal stem cells, and about what my project would be about. Since I had never heard about mesenchymal stem cells, my research began on YouTube, watching different videos about them.

After many days of observing my team work in the hood making media, changing media, or passaging cells, I was asked on the second week if I would like to change media to a T225 flask. I felt nervous and scared, but still very excited; I eagerly put my sleeves on, sprayed ethanol my hands, and began by unscrewing the T225 Flask. My team guided me throughout the media change and after many weeks in the biosafety cabinet, I was able to change the media confidently. I was also beginning my project and so I had my own cells to take care of, which also meant I would be passaging and counting cells. Because my proliferation had many time points to passage cells, and soon enough I began lifting cells with ease. I also came to one of the more tedious experiments in my project, loading a qPCR plate. Running the plate is quite simple, since the machine does all the work, however loading a qPCR takes time from making the calculations, to making dilutions and the master mix. However, the qPCR helped me develop my pipetting skills. I gained a variety of skills, and absolutely loved working in the lab.

Along with working in our bay, and the biosafety cabinet, we were able to take a Biology 225 class, taught by Dr. Bauer. One of the greatest things about this class is everything correlated to what I was doing in the lab. For example, I was able to become familiar with the concept of Flow Cytometry the week before I would be testing what markers were present in my rabbit mesenchymal stem cells. Although it was a challenging class, one thing I enjoyed about the class is Dr. Bauer would make sure we actually understood concepts and not just memorized to pass the tests.

My experience at the Nolta lab will be unforgettable. This has been my absolute favorite summer, filled with many new friendships, and a deeper understanding of science and what it means to actually be a scientist. Thank you to the entire Nolta Lab and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine for giving me an amazing experience where my love for science could grow!

The Quantum Life by Shaniya Singh

Chapter 1: Discovering my Niche

pH. I will probably never think of this term the same again. And the quantum life will never be in ground state again.

Every classroom that I’ve entered so far has taught me the skills of cramming, memorizing, and eventually forgetting that knowledge to move on to the next. As much as that irritated me, I had no choice but to obey and move on because I was letting the potential of failure create a bubble of fear. Setting my foot into the world of stem cells popped the bubble that I wouldn’t dare touch. Ever.

Entering a bunny suit every day is like donning responsibilities; an armor so strong that I feel the depth of change in myself and in my ability to induce the same in this world. What is more phenomenal is the passion of the mentors that I’m constantly surrounded with. Each and every person that I seek, gives me an abundance of joy that I always craved while learning. There is never a “I cannot say for sure” answer. One thought leads into another and all of this weaves-very intricately- the person that I’m maturing into. In short, you can call my mentors the growth factors in cytokines and fetal bovine serum and me, the cell.

Chapter 2: Learning to Learn

Never in my life before have I understood better the importance of precision in both science and language. When trying to explain my thought process, I realized just how flawed it is but that is the beauty of failing at first. I still do not understand subject matters at the depth that my mentors do, but their commitment to help me achieve a deep level of understanding drives me to actualize the same.

Chapter 3: Rearing my Passion

Honestly, if one does not get awestruck by the level of beauty that science has, then I do not know what else works. From the doing to the viewing of your results, everything is magical. Because if cells that are stained with trypan blue do not resemble Earth, then I’m sorry to say, your imagination is limited. (Just kidding!)

When I was handed the task to transfect cells, I was more than excited and nervous at the same time. It was like guarding a baby, the delicateness with which I approached my work. One mistake had the possibility to result in contamination which would be a shame to my concentration. Isolating my attention solely to the task at hand, I carefully pipetted three DNA molecules and a transfection reagent into the cell layer factory from which I would acquire the supernatant filled with vector particles. It left me astounded to think that the world of tomorrow will rely upon the laboratory techniques that I learned so that we can manufacture gene delivery vehicles to treat diseases where there’s a lack of essential genes in the genome of a person. It leaves me so humbled and excited to have the chance to be a part of something so special right now, and even in the future. Something so special as to give life to someone who means a world to their family.

Chapter 4: Cradle of BlissIMG_1441

It is so heartfelt to realize that the internships that students like myself and my peers are being granted, is all to advance the future of stem cells and give us the platform where we can share our experiences and voices.

During this journey, I received the chance to meet amazingly successful people including Dr. Belafsky, Dr. Kupperman, Dr. Wheelock, Dr. Nolta and Dr. Bauer, who treated all of the students with so much love and respect that I doubt any of us would claim to deserve. They taught us, gave advice, and most importantly, deemed us deserving enough to be nurtured with the experiences they have faced.

Leaving this experience behind is the hardest thing that I will ever be asked to do, but nonetheless, I feel blessed to behold this in the true chapters of my life.

~ Shaniya Singh

Introduction to the Nolta Lab by Jonathan Nguyen

As I walked into the Nolta Lab, I felt a rush of adrenaline. I had so many questions that needed to be answered. Who is going to be my mentor? What is my project about? Will I have any homework? I told myself to just calm down and go with the flow. The first two days were primarily focused on Biosafety Training and Lab Tours. Having a tour throughout the lab made me feel like a kid in a candy store. I was curious about all of the equipment especially the liquid nitrogen freezer farm. One of my biggest concerns was communicating with all of the highly educated and skilled researchers. What if I said something wrong and gave a bad impression? As I was meeting them, I realized how easy they were to talk to, especially my mentor, Catherine. I was having a conversation with them just like how I would with my high school friends.

Inside of the Liquid Nitrogen Freezer Farm!LiquidNFreezerFarm

 The Lab Work

Throughout the following weeks Catherine and I primarily focused on karyotyping cells for ongoing projects and creating vectors for gene therapy. During the initial weeks, I had my first experience inside a biosafety cabinet. I was fearful about contaminating my sample and making a big mess by knocking things over in the hood. Fortunately, I got passed the learning curve quickly and became very efficient at sterile technique. A process that initially took me 20 minutes to do became 5 minutes. At this point, I was assigned my project of testing methods to increase the titer of Adeno-Associated Virus. I also got experience karyotyping cells by matching chromosomes and looking for abnormalities. I recall my first time karyotyping there were all of these chromosomes all over the place and they all looked like little worms. When my mentor matched up a pair, it blew my mind how alike two chromosomes are.

Making Transfection Media inside the Biosafety Cabinet JNguyen_Transfection_Media

Karyotyping Cells
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The Lecture

Visit_UCDavis_ClinicOne of the most interesting experiences during the internship was meeting Dr. Belafsky (a specialist in the treatment of the ear, throat, and nose) in his examination room at the UC Davis hospital. He began the lecture by asking us which one of us would like a free medical examination. 3 of us volunteered and he made us choose a number between 1-10. Fortunately, I didn’t choose the right number because he was giving an ENT exam, which assesses the nose, ear, and throat. This was done by taking a tube with a camera and inserting it through the nose to get a view of the muscles inside the throat. This was very entertaining because the student being examined was told to sing at the same time the camera had a view of their throat. At the end of the examination, Dr. Belafsky told us about his experiences in medical school and his habits that enabled him to be successful.

The Class and Dr. Bauer

Taking the Introduction to Stem Cells class taught by Dr. Bauer was an amazing experience. Everything I learned ranging from the mechanisms of Gene Therapy to GMP manufacturing was being applied to real life clinical trials. When I was studying for the midterm, I was studying to pass the test, but I found myself studying out of interest. Learning all of these concepts that were recently discovered gave me a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. Also It was extremely interesting to get to know Dr. Bauer. As Dr. Bauer was proofreading my poster, he caught a grammar error due to his expertise in Latin. He explained to me how learning Latin is crucial to becoming a biologist because most medical terminology have Latin stems.

GMP Testing Day! GMP_Testing_Day_JNguyen

 

Conclusion

Working in the Nolta Lab and taking Dr. Bauer’s class was an amazing and unforgettable experience. I will most definitely miss the intelligent, funny community of down-to-earth researchers and the feeling of being a biomedical researcher. I am looking forward to advancing my career in science and knowing that everyday stem cell and gene therapies are becoming safer and more effective, this makes me excited for the future. I would like to thank the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine for giving me and future students to come such an amazing opportunity.

 

The CIRM SPARK Lab Experience by Yasmine Mahmoudieh

IMG_4370I’ve always been interested in becoming a doctor and directly helping patients. Until the CIRM SPARK Lab experience I did not realize how important research is to developing treatments. I now have a greater appreciation for the work that researchers do and an understanding for what is required to conduct research.

On the first day, I was assigned to the Precision Neurogenetic group. Working alongside my mentor Kyle Fink and four graduate students Jasmine Carter, Sakereh Carter, Peter Deng, and Julian Halmai has been the most gratifying experience of my life. Their passion for the field is clearly evident and it emanates in all of the work they do daily at the lab. All five of them have played an immense role in making this experience one that I will always remember.

For the past 8 weeks, I have shadowed them and learned about their research to target and modulate transcription of genes associated with neurological diseases by creating artificial transcription factors which are DNA binding domains fused with effectors that target regulatory regions of that gene. They use this technology to work towards the potential treatment of diseases such as Rett Syndrome, Huntington’s disease, juvenile Huntington’s disease, Angelman Syndrome, Glioblastoma, and CDKL5 deficiency. Traditional gene therapy has shown promise in early stage clinical trials to treat several genetic diseases. This is accomplished due to the addition of a known gene that is lacking in these diseases. In recent years, advancements in technology have allowed for genome modification and drastically altered the biomedical field.img_4371.png

My personal project was trying to optimize transfection efficacy to better integrate gene editing technologies for potential treatment of neurological diseases. Transfection is the integration of foreign DNA into cells using a non-viral method. I transfected SHSY5Y neurons and HEK293 kidney cells with a transcriptional activator VP64-dCas9-VP64, containing eGFP in multiple disease cell lines using the three commercial reagents DNA-In, Lipofectamine 3000, and PEI. I varied the amounts of DNA and reagents to determine how I could obtain the highest transfection efficacy. Through my experiments I was able to determine that the PEI reagent resulted in the highest number of GFP positive cells in both cell lines tested and transfection with the PEI reagent can be further optimized by using different concentrations corresponding to DNA concentrations.

During my internship as a CIRM SPARK Lab student, I have transfected two different cell lines, grown a cell culture, used the sonicator to homogenize brain tissue to extract RNA, done a mini prep to extract plasmid DNA, worked on the Nikon TiU inverted fluorescent microscope, used a flow cytometer, isolated DNA, and completed a 14-day sterility assay in the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Facility. The skills I have accumulated at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures are ones I will be forever grateful for as I pursue a career in the medical field.

 

A SPARK-tacular Experience by Tracy Ly

If there’s one word that defines my time at the Nolta lab this summer, it would be: SPARK-tacular.

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This CIRM SPARK program has given me so much exposure to how the research world is like, and I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity. It allowed to me to understand how it was like to work and think like a scientist (almost…I’m only a high school student). Not only did this program expose me to research, but also to other aspects of the science and medical field.

We had guest lectures from amazing and talented doctors: Dr. Kupperman, Dr. Belafsky, and Dr. Wheelock. Dr. Kupperman lectured to us about his past research to help prevent unnecessary CAT scans in children and its dangers if there were no regulations for doctors to figure out if a CAT scan was needed in a patient. Dr. Belafsky, with the help of our fellow SPARK intern, Saja Zidan, showed us what vocal chords looked like when singing “Star Spangled Banner” (seriously, Saja is a natural-born singer). Lastly, Dr. Wheelock taught us about Huntington’s disease, its effect on patients, and possible treatments. Hearing lectures from Dr. Kupperman and Dr. Wheelock and visiting Dr. Belafsky’s clinic was an addition that introduced us to fields outside of research.

Besides the lectures and clinic visits, being able to work at the Nolta lab is such a wonderful experience. I mainly worked with genotyping immune deficient mouse models that would help test stem cells or gene therapeutics for Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s disease (HD) is a progressive neuropsychiatric genetic disorder that involves the degeneration of nerve cells over time and eventually leads patients to death usually within 10 to 20 years after onset. It can affect both adults and children (juvenile onset). HD is fatal to patients and affects them both physically and mentally. Genotyping immune deficient mice to determine if they inherited the disease (transgenic) or if they did not (wild type) gives us mice for experimental and control groups used in translational research needed before stem cells and gene therapeutics can be used on human patients.

With genotyping, I really built my skills on DNA extraction, using the nanodrop, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and gel electrophoresis. And in all honesty – I loved every moment of it. From using the flexible pipette tips to remove the tiny amount of ethanol, combining the master mix, primers, dimethyl sulfoxide, and PCR-qualify water, and loading the gels…all to genotype mice used in translational research for an incurable disease. It’s crazy to think that such simple procedures compared to others could go such a long way to help treat or cure a disease. I will miss it.

Looking back, eight weeks of an unforgettable experience passed by really quickly. I do not know if there will be any internship experience that will top this. Not only did the internship expose me to the research world, but I also learned what it took to be a researcher. Everyone at the Nolta lab are truly intelligent, and after being with them the past eight weeks, I learned that it was not only about the brains, but also one’s dedication and personality to persevere through the many trials of failure and success.

Thank you CIRM, the SPARK program, UC Davis’ Institute for Regenerative Cures, and my mentor Jeannine White for the amazing experience that ignited and kindled my passion for science.

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