Puzzling Topics in Neuroscience

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 Jackson Powell, COL ’24

The summer of 2021 was the first time I was able to directly work toward my longtime dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. I am from Tallahassee, Florida, and I would have had to go home for the summer if not for the stipend given to me.

I had the wonderful privilege of working in the Song Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a lab dedicated to elucidating many of the puzzling topics in neuroscience. A strong bounty of different avenues are explored at the Song Lab; lab members study everything ranging from neuroregeneration to brain tumors and mechanosensation to ALS, locomotion, and behavior. I personally focused on neuroregeneration and mechanosensation, and was able to make significant progress and discover some things never seen before.

The bulk of my work centered on genes involved in Drosophila oviposition pathways; in other words, the mechanism dictating where flies choose to lay their eggs. The topic might not sound particularly relevant to humans, but through the study of homologues (genes shared between flies and humans) we can learn a great deal about ourselves through flies. In particular, we’ve studied one gene implicated in human diseases, which showed a unique phenotype in fly oviposition. Through in depth analysis of this strange, unexpected trait, we may be able to discover more about this disease and potentially unknown sensory aspects of it. Outside of this main project, I’ve been screening through genes possibly involved in neuroregeneration using a method invented by Dr. Song. Therefore, through this opportunity, I’ve had the great chance to study multiple aspects of a field I’ve always deeply cared about.

Additionally, the mentorship afforded to me by Dr. Song has been so much better than I could have hoped for. I have learned such an astronomical amount about how to conduct good research and how to forge important, considerable results through fly research. Many lab members have been very helpful and interesting to get to know. Since there are so many different projects, many unique perspectives arise each time we discuss a problem. I enjoyed my experience so much that I am continuing work through the school year and beyond. I will always acknowledge that everything that comes of my work, such as publications, spawned initially in this summer.

Outside of lab, I had some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I lived with my best friend in an apartment and was able to explore the city with them and have experiences that I’ve missed over the past year. Visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes Museum, Mutter Museum, walking around City Hall, and feeling more at home in Philadelphia is all thanks to this stipend. I learned how to cook, found a favorite coffee shop in the city, and truly just enjoyed myself.

By Career Services
Career Services