When people talk about the best parts of the research community at U of M, they often mention the openness to collaboration that is fostered here. One of my favorite aspects of my internship in the Shakkottai Lab is the ability participate in this collaborative community.
Toward the beginning of the summer, my mentor and I identified macropinocytosis, a non-clathrin mediated form of endocytosis, as a potential pathway for dendritic degeneration that we see in our mouse model of SCA1. Studying macropinocytosis requires a comprehensive set of tools and reagents that might have resulted in a significant road block if we weren’t at an institution like U of M. However, it happens that Joel Swanson, one of the definitive leaders of macropinocytosis research in the last 20 or so years runs his lab across the street from the BSRB. We used his work to base the design of our experiments and asked the labs around us for help with our tissues culture and staining techniques.
More recently, we identified another potential pathway that involved Rho GTPases, which are regulators of actin skeleton dynamics in the brain. Our lab didn’t have the antibodies we needed to perform the assays we wanted to but my mentor reached out to another lab in the medical school and a week later we had the materials to perform a pilot experiment.
My work this summer has taught me to value collaboration for the expediency it lends to one’s own work. It’s important that even if you don’t feel totally comfortable asking people for help, you go ahead and ask anyway. Scientists care about discovery and will be happy to contribute.