Brain and Behavior

Amishi Mahajan, COL ’25, West Bloomfield, MI

This summer, I spent my time on a different side of Penn’s campus: the Perelman School of Medicine. Though I enjoyed my morning coffee runs at Starbucks and lunches at Gia Pronto’s Kitchen, the experiences I gained at the Eisch Lab were invaluable. 

Before this summer, I only had wet lab experience, however while working in this lab I learned more behavioral techniques. I started my summer learning the various ways to handle mice, from picking up and placing them on my arm to scruffing them. I also learned the ear punching system which helped us keep identify how many mice we had for our experiments. As students, not only were we responsible for keeping track of the lab’s mice, but we also had to do breeder maintenance. This was one of the more complex parts of my mice-handling training since there was so much to keep track of – pairing females and males, weaning the baby mice, etc. The important lesson here was that organization is key.

Not only was I able to work on the behavioral aspect of our projects, but I was also able to learn more skills in the laboratory setting. One of the more time-consuming activities was the microtome sectioning. Since I was in a neurology lab, I had to learn how to section, mount, and stain brain slices. The best part of this experience was that I got to learn so much about neuroanatomy, as I hadn’t yet taken a neuroscience class. Being able to physically identify all the parts of the brain and compare it to textbook drawings was very helpful in understanding what I was looking at and would help me later on in my neuroscience classes. After sectioning the brains on the microtome, I would have to separate each slice and mount it on glass slides, which I would then stain (for example, I would do a Fast Red staining) to identify certain cells for cell counting.

Apart from working in the wet lab and behavioral experimentation, I also got the opportunity to analyze data through MatLab. I had some previous coding experience, but I never used that software before, so it was cool to be able to expand my coding skill set. For example, I was analyzing fiber photometry data for my project, and though the data was complex, I was able to debug and understand what I was looking at with more practice.

Every week, we would have meetings from post docs, PhDs, and MD-PhDs where we could learn about their journey with science. Each story was unique, and I appreciated the opportunity to ask them questions, since I am forging my own path as well. I am grateful for all the experiences I have had with the Eisch lab this summer as it helped me learn new skills and develop a better idea of my career goals.

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