Srikar Yelamarthy, COL ’24, Warrington, PA
Over the summer I had the opportunity to work in the Lampson Lab and conduct research in the field of cell biology. The lab focuses on the cell biology of meiotic drive in mammals, a phenomenon many people are unaware of, including myself before I joined the lab. Meiotic drive refers to genes passing onto offspring ‘unfairly’ – a gene will pass onto offspring in percentages greater than 50%. This is in opposition to what I was taught in my introductory biology classes the year prior. Mendel’s laws are widely known and part of them includes the idea that genetic inheritance is essentially random, which would result in an expected inheritance of 50%. But this is not always the case, and the mechanisms behind unfair inheritance are fascinating and varied.
Before starting I had a lot of apprehension about starting in a lab where I did not know much about the techniques or the topic. However, I was pleasantly surprised, because the lab was incredibly welcoming and supportive. Aside from my PI, my mentor oversaw my day to day work. He taught me about the process required for good research, and emphasized the importance of rigorous care when designing and conducting experiments. And of course, he thoroughly trained me in the fundamental techniques used in the lab. From this solid foundation, I was better able to understand not only the goals of the lab in everyone’s experiment but also the thought process behind how their project came to be. It greatly illuminated the field of research to me, which I had never truly been exposed to.
I also participated in lab meetings whenever possible, where I got to see another aspect of science, specifically how it happens through peers and feedback. My PI would comment and ask questions about the presenter’s work, and I saw how their back and forth helped to further develop their experiment and generate new ideas. Of course, there was constructive critiques as well. Experiments were improved alongside presenting skills – research is not just about the benchwork but also how well you can communicate your work and findings.
Additionally, there was a unique joy to learning about a field I knew essentially nothing about. I had learned the basics in my class, yet here I was working on projects that refuted those very basics. Everything I learned, even the most mundane facts, were fascinating to me and it felt like I had discovered a new world. It made the summer enjoyable because I could look forward to learning something new almost every day.
Overall, my summer with Lampson Lab was different than what I expected it to be, but in a good way. I learned about the complicated world of research which I had only ever really interacted with in classes rather than in a lab. I learned a lot about a new field I never knew existed. I learned new techniques and the rationale behind designing experiments. And as I continue with research in the future, I know that my foundational experience from this summer will guide me in becoming a better scientist. This opportunity would not have been possible without Career Services generosity, and I am thankful for all the help I have received this summer.
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.