Learning Lab Techniques

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 June Ahn, COL’23

The summer hasn’t been anything but normal with COVID, but I have been fortunate enough to be able to conduct in person research in Philly this summer. Aside from the research, I have been able to explore a campus I haven’t been able to explore as much because of the abnormal first year, and I also went into academic buildings for the first time at Penn. (Van Pelt has some comfy chairs)

This summer I had the opportunity to conduct research in the field of chemical biology through the Chenoweth Lab. Prior to this research opportunity, I had taken many classes in the field of chemistry, especially in the area of synthetic chemistry. Having taken an organic chemistry lab class before, I came into the lab with a little bit of training on lab techniques, but the techniques when applied to new molecule synthesis was much less straightforward then expected. One basic skill that has helped me the most this summer has been learning how to use the schlenk line for reactions with many different conditions. The evacuate and backfill method helped me run air sensitive reactions, which many of the reactions needed for my chosen molecule needed.

Learning lab techniques was only one part of my summer experience this year. The other part of the experience was learning how the research project works outside of the experiments. I was given some degree of freedom with where I wanted to take my project, so I spent a lot of time reading papers in relevant fields to find applications for my molecule. For context my project was on using a photoconvertible dye tool for tracking lipids. Most of the time, I found myself getting lost with little details and papers that strayed far from what I was looking for. In this period of time, scifinder was my best friend, as it helped me narrow down on papers that were relevant to what I was looking for. This process of ideation and testing hypothesis gave me a better sense of the career I wanted to pursue.

As a result of this opportunity, I became more comfortable with a career I was interested in and I hope to be involved in this area of research in the future as well.

By Career Services
Career Services