Learning Molecular Cloning

April Ng, COL ’24, San Francisco, CA

Before this summer, my only lab experience was from biology and organic chemistry courses. I found the hands-on nature of my lab courses to be quite engaging and unique compared to learning in lectures. Wanting to gain more experience in the field of lab work and research, I began working on Molecular Cloning with the Barash and Hand (Rader) Lab.

The team consists of computational and bench scientists that aim to assess the feasibility of interfering with non-coding sequences in mRNA as a novel approach in ameliorating lentiviruses. We hope to see if this approach is applicable across more (and possibly all) genes.

During my first week at the wet lab, I quickly found that the lab techniques I had acquired from class were in no comparison to the new ones I had to learn. I struggled with having to immediately learn all the techniques required for cloning and didn’t understand the concepts behind adding a certain enzyme or running the PCRs at a certain annealing temperature; although I was new to the lab, there seemed to be no space or time for mistakes. We worked on multiple genes at once, each at a different step of the cloning process. Some steps such as digestion, ligation, PCRs, minipreps, and running gels were easier to learn. The later steps of transformation and transfection into HEK293T cells were more difficult. As I delved deeper into this research, I began understanding the significance of each step and how they all connected.

On the computational side, I attended lab meetings and RNA club meetings where I was given the opportunity to learn about RNA through scientific papers and lectures. Hearing the experiences of the computational students and seeing the beautiful friendships they developed was insightful.

I plan to continue with molecular cloning on more genes throughout the academic year, to better understand the concepts behind what we do in the lab, and how we can apply our findings to human cells and beyond! I’m very grateful for the opportunities that Career Services provided me with this summer and will carry this experience with me in my pursuit of research and medicine.

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