From Fish Tank to Lab

Marcella Soewignjo, COL ’25, Bayside, NY

When I was eleven, I was obsessed with my pet goldfish: Sassy and Flippie. So, when they started to grow white freckles panic ensued. After a frantic google search, I found that my goldfish had contracted white spot disease, also known as ich. Alarmed, I investigated all the possible methods of treatment, spending weeks testing varying water temperatures and salt concentrations. Yet, even after their recovery, I pondered: how could I have prevented the disease from causing so much damage in the first place?

While I am no longer the same 11-year-old with an unquenchable fascination for aquatic life, my interest in researching the effects of diseases and injury still stands. With the assistance of the Career Services Funding this summer, I had the opportunity to further my work in the Vaughan lab at Penn Vet’s Department of Biomedical Science, researching the mechanisms of lung regeneration after injury by viral infections such as influenza.

Under the guidance of my mentor, I was given the opportunity to assist in examining the role of tuft cells in pulmonary immune responses as well as the mechanisms that lead to their development within the alveoli. I learned how to section, stain and mount tissue in order to identify proliferating patches of Krt5+ basal cells, areas wherein tuft cells are typically identified, as well as image quantify Krt5+ cells in lung slices of wild-type and knock out mice missing Pou2f3, a transcription factor for tuft cells. During my time in the lab, I was also able to dive into cell culture work, genotyping, and mice handling.

Beyond the experimental skills and laboratory techniques that I was provided the chance to learn, I was also able to spend much time this summer reading research papers pertaining to the ongoing experiments within the lab. While reading such long texts loaded with information had been daunting at first, analyzing scientific literature has now become far more manageable.

I am extremely grateful for the resources provided by Career Services. Without the summer funding, this invaluable experience would not have been possible. My time at the Vaughan Laboratory has solidified my interest in scientific research as I hope to continue doing research for the next three years of my undergraduate career.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 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

By Career Services
Career Services