SOS: Summer of Science

Harley Haas, COL ’24, Sarasota, FL

This summer I had the opportunity to continue my research in the Eisch Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia under the guidance of Dr. Sanghee Yun and Dr. Amelia Eisch. After years of gaining lab experience in several behavior paradigms, data analysis, and statistics, the opportunity to lead a project was exhilarating.

Ongoing research projects in the Eisch Lab focus on the dentate-gyrus, an area of the brain relating to mood regulation, cognition, and reward processing. These projects have real-life applications such as treating addiction or depression and monitoring the effects of space radiation. 

I was first drawn to this lab my freshman fall, as I was itching to participate in research at Penn even if it was remotely during the pandemic. Over the years, my role in the lab has evolved from remote data analysis and graphing for a touchscreen experiment where we studied the effects of galactic radiation on hippocampal-based cognition, to running the in-person execution of the experiments as well. In the Eisch Lab, I’ve been able to explore behavior experiments in animal facilities and then further examine the molecular implications of the experiments through western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry. 

This Spring I received the NASA Augmentation Grant to study the effects of galactic cosmic radiation on translationally-relevant hippocampal-based cognition. This summer I was able to execute my experiments, including spontaneous location recognition and touchscreen autoshaping on mice that have been exposed to radiation. I’m excited to continue this project more in the Fall when I can further explore the behavioral and cellular implications associated with deep space flight. 

Having the ability to work full-time in the lab this summer solidified my passion for research and goal to eventually pursue a career as a neuroscientist. As a leader on the project, I learned to master the art of creating run sheets, developing protocols, reading literature, and animal care required for a project. I also got get an authentic experience of problem-solving and thinking like a researcher when things don’t go as planned. However, I felt my path as a scientist really start to take form when I was invited to write a chapter on touch-screen experiments, where I was able to hone my years of experience measuring pattern separation and cognitive flexibility in rodents while learning the new skill of writing a manuscript.

I had important talks with my mentor and PI about the possibilities of graduate school and gained important insights about a future in industry versus academia. I immensely enjoyed this experience, and I cannot wait to continue my journey in research. This opportunity would not have been possible without the help of Penn Career Services!

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