First Lab Experience

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Cody Eskandarian, COL ’24

This past summer, I had the incredible opportunity to work in a research lab for the first time. The lab primarily studied gene activation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Our lab
utilized single molecule dynamics and microscopy to study gene expression during embryonic development. Although we studied fruit fly embryos, the discoveries we make about gene expression/activation are more applicable generally.

During my 8 weeks at the lab, I read countless scientific research articles, spent plenty of time in the fly room and microscope rooms, and did work in the wet lab such as doing PCR tests, gel electrophoresis, genotyping, DNA cloning via plasmids, embryo extraction, and many other assays that study proteins/gene activation/molecular dynamics. The funding I received, which made this possible, not only made me feel as though I was doing work that was making a difference, but also made me feel as though I had found a home for the foreseeable future. I also was given a task to work on alone, which was to compile molecular dynamics data in a database. I became very enthusiastic about this project as it really felt like it was ‘mine’ and that the ideas that the principal investigator of my lab put into it had serious potential to make a difference in the community. Along with this, getting more freedom in the lab as I became more acclimated with the literature and wet lab was a very rewarding process. I’m looking forward to optimizing my research career by taking on even more responsibilities in the lab in the future.

The experience I’ve gained also came from the people around me, who were in a wide variety of stages of their career. I had the pleasure to work with older undergraduates, PhD students, graduates and postdocs, all of whom had an incredible array of wisdom to share with me about career choices. I entered the lab struggling to decide what my graduate degree would look like (MD, PhD, or MD/PhD) and even what my majors would be, but the answers to both of these questions are now very clear to me.

This past spring semester was fairly frustrating because I didn’t have the time or means to get involved in a lab, and felt as though there was something very wrong with this. I truly didn’t know where to start and was a bit overwhelmed. I finally was presented an opportunity to pursue this goal and the funding I received this past summer was what helped me achieve it. I feel like I have something to look forward to in the long-term and in a continuous sense, and no words would do my gratitude justice. But, I can still say: Thank you!

By Career Services
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