The research internship I have been blessed with at the Biomedical Research Center here at the University of Michigan has been one of the most gratifying experiences so far in my college career. To provide a little more context, I work in the Ben Allen lab in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Primarily, I work with a post-doctoral researcher in exploring the Hedgehog signaling pathway in the olfactory epithelium in adult mice. Throughout my past two years here at Michigan, I have been developing a passion for the field of developmental biology and was hoping that my time here as an intern would allow me to immerse myself in the field and give me a better sense of what the world of scientific research involves. In the fall semester of my sophomore year, I took a developmental biology class at Michigan where the professors who taught the course first primed me to the processes of thinking that go into developing questions regarding biological mechanisms. Thus, for this summer, I wanted to get a first-hand experience into the different lab techniques and questions that go into making discoveries, problem-solving, and collaboration.
Thus, what has surprised me so much this summer is how much I am capable of accomplishing as an undergraduate research intern in this lab. Because this lab focuses on working with the undergraduate student and teaching the student how to do research, I have been learning how to cryosection mammalian tissue, stain with antibodies, genotype using several different techniques, collect and embed tissue, and recently, I have been focusing on electroporation and dissection. As an undergraduate student, I think it is easy to feel as though such hands-on opportunities are far-off and uneasy to obtain. However, I have been learning more and more that putting yourself out there and having a genuine interest in whatever field you are doing goes a long way. If you want to learn more, asking the graduate students and the P.I. questions in an attempt to seek more information goes a long way too.
As one of two undergraduates working in this lab, I sometimes have been feeling a lot of pressure to not make any mistakes. And at times, I have found myself afraid to ask questions for fear of giving off the impression that certain concepts are too difficult for me. However, the teachers in this lab are constantly showing me that in the field of scientific research, making mistakes is okay. As long as you are constantly trying to reason through and optimize your project, you are doing something right.