Under the Skin of Research

Gabrielle Ryu, COL ’24, Newark, DE

This summer I had the great opportunity to continue working with Dr. Stephen Prouty who is the Senior Research Investigator at the Department of Dermatology at the Perelman School of Medicine. I originally applied for the role and research opportunity at the end of the fall semester in junior year, out of a desire to explore other fields and specialties of medicine specifically in a research context. In addition to opening a window in learning about a specialty I have always been interested in, this research role provided opportunities to gain more experience working in a “wet lab” compared to the clinical research I have previously participated in. Doing research in this position, I was shown a very strong example of how labs actively coordinate and collaborate with one another, including preparing and processing samples for one another, lending each other equipment, providing feedback and explanations for research proposals, and more. 

I gained many of the technical skills that I anticipated learning, including the process of embedding samples into hot wax, cutting the wax blocks for slides, as well as preparing skin samples from patients and other subjects for processing. Along with these skills, I studied the science behind the lab practices. With every sample I interacted with, Dr. Prouty made sure to take the time to draw out the anatomy and explain the significance of the sample. At times it was challenging to embed these samples with the precision necessary, and I definitely struggled but Dr. Prouty was very patient and gave me as much practice as possible in order for me to improve and reach a point where I could be more confident with embedding and understanding the best way to present a sample for optimal study and learning. 

Looking at the slides that we prepared and stained under the microscope was a very valuable experience, and I was able to apply the information I learned from textbook diagrams in biology class to this sample that I had seen move through steps of processing in the lab after it was first taken from the subject. I learned a lot about the pathology that was at the focus of many of the studies that were being performed in the surrounding labs in the hallway, as well as the samples that we prepared in order to find more solutions for those conditions using mice.  

Prior to this summer experience I used to think that research labs were very separate and individualized components of a department, but the dermatology department proved to me otherwise. I was also exposed to the ways in which research was translated from the research building to the hospital dermatology clinic, where rooms were filled with microscopes through which dermatologists looked at hundreds of slides. 

Overall, I am very grateful to have had this opportunity and would like to thank Dr. Prouty and the Department of Dermatology. I am also thankful to have had this part of my career in research and pre-medicine be supported by Penn Career Services and the donors without which this experience would not have been possible. 

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 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

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Career Services