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 Alvin Yu, COL ’24
This summer, with financial support from Penn’s Career Services Department, I had the incredible opportunity to conduct research at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. I worked in the Milone Lab under the guidance and mentorship of Qian Zhang where I helped develop CAR T cell technology that could be used as immunotherapies against cancers.
As a lab assistant I was introduced to many common techniques used in wet labs such as PCR (polymerase chain reaction), gel electrophoresis, DNA sequencing, and tissue/cell culture. I spent my first couple of weeks learning basic techniques under the guidance of my mentor and coworkers. After initial hands-on training, I familiarized myself with the purpose of the research being conducted so that I could find ways to contribute and further the mission. While the workload was challenging at times, the experience of constant learning and analysis has prepared me well for my future classes here at Penn and for my eventual career. While many of the skills and knowledge I take away from this internship are tangible, much of it is also intangible, memories of both the mind and muscle that will always be with me.
From this research experience, I also learned the dynamics of being in a laboratory surrounded by everyone from PhD students, to post docs, to the lab manager. I formed relationships and friendships with those I worked with and learned to navigate a professional laboratory environment. My co-workers and mentors were vital in creating a positive and enjoyable internship experience for me. Tasked with various projects throughout the summer, I was able to turn to anyone in the lab for advice, guidance, and help.
With the addition of two new lab members halfway through my internship, I also played a role in familiarizing them with the lab environment and aiding them as they learned how to perform common lab procedures. As I became more familiar with the lab’s physical layout, experimental procedures, and the overarching mission of the research, I was able to work independently on experiments at my lab bench.
Whether that involved helping a project my mentor was involved in or starting a novel project on my own, I gained a sense of satisfaction from working independently during the summer.
As I look back on this internship experience and reflect on my career goals as I start my sophomore year, I can’t help but feel extremely grateful, proud, and inspired. My internship in the Milone Lab at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine was humbling and eye opening. I gained vital experience in an academic and professional field that I aspire to one day work in. This experience not only reaffirmed my interest in the medical field but reinvigorated my ambitions to pursue my dream career. I gained valuable exposure into the intersection between medicine and clinical research, and how powerful translational medicine could be in creating treatments and cures against disease. This summer has solidified my plans to gain even more experience and I plan to apply to medical school in order to take the next step into medicine. I realize the power of collaboration and I now seek to one day work in a space that fosters a strong sense of teamwork and creativity.