On-campus research (during the school year):
“I have been involved in Professor Deborah Bauer’s Neuroscience lab on campus since fall of 2015. The lab works with C. elegans that have different knockouts of the glutamate transporters. For the past two semesters I have been doing lab research for credit on the effect of transporter knockout on receptor redistribution.
I found the opportunity by emailing professors whose research interested me and going to talk to them about it. Professor Bauer was more than willing to meet with me and although there was no space in the lab the first semester, she allowed me to volunteer. Volunteering in a lab is incredibly useful because it gives you an idea of how the lab runs and what your role would be. You can also then shadow different projects and learn skills along the way, so my first semester, I spent a lot of time transferring worms and getting acquainted with the lab setup.”
–Silpa Karipineni, Class of 2018
On-campus research (during the summer):
“I worked in Professor Rachel Stanley’s lab during Summer 2015. I heard about it from my Chemistry 120 professor, who recommended me to Professor Stanley and told me about the opportunity to apply for a position in her lab through Wellesley’s Summer Science Research Program. My project was on measuring the concentrations of noble gases in the environment using a portable Hiden mass spectrometer. In the past, this mass spectrometer was taken into the field and supplied continuously with a water sample at a fast rate. However, to get initial data on gas exchange in salt marsh tidal creeks without damaging the mass spectrometer or bringing large samples of water to the lab, I had to adapt our mass spectrometer to analyze discrete, small water samples. I learned the computing language Matlab through this experience which was incredibly important to obtaining my current research position in a brain imaging lab at Massachusetts General Hospital. I also participated in the Wellesley Summer Science Poster Session at the end of my experience which was useful in learning how to present a project at a conference.”
–Kanupriya Gupta, Class of 2018
“Wellesley’s summer research program aims to provide students of all years with the opportunity to gain experience in laboratory research in a Wellesley faculty’s lab. As part of the program, you are provided with a stipend to cover living and transportation costs, a separate stipend to cover some costs related to research (materials, supplies, etc.), and required to present at a poster session at the end of the 9 or 10 week program.
I had never done research in high school, but was very eager to try it out once I learned that students could do it on campus. The application for the research program opens around the end of January and closes sometime in February. You’re required to submit 2 letters of reference, as well as talk about why you want to participate in the program and any research experience that you have.
A daily snapshot of a day in the lab would include going into lab in the morning around 9am, training each rat for 1 hour on their respective behavioural tasks, logging their performance on a spreadsheet, fixing broken equipment in the training chambers, and perhaps doing a recording session with one of the rats. One of the things I learned as soon as I started was that research mainly consists of preparing for the actual experiment and fixing things that go wrong. Not a lot of time was spent conducting the actual recording sessions as most of my time was devoted to setting up the correct behavioural tasks and fixing any malfunctioning equipment. The amount of background work was surprising to me and made me gain a deeper appreciation for all of the experiments I read about in scientific papers.
Of course, an individual’s research experience is heavily dependent on the field that they’re working in. If I had been working in a microbiology lab, I would probably have spent much of my time pipetting things into tiny wells. But working in a cognitive neuroscience lab allowed me to experience working with animals and introduced me to data processing through MatLab. The most enjoyable part of the experience for me was probably learning to handle the animals, as there are very strict guidelines detailing how the research animals are taken care of. Their weight needs to be monitored if you’re depriving them of water or food for an extended period of time (this practice is common in tasks where you want the animal to be motivated to perform a specific task), the animals have their bedding changed daily by the animal facilities personnel, and they are checked regularly for any signs of infection or sickness and given prompt treatment. The most important thing I gained from the experience is a respect and understanding for the way animals are treated in the lab. Scientists consider it a privilege to conduct animal studies, so they go to great measures to make sure that the animals are treated in the best possible way and suffer as little as possible.
If you’re interested in gaining some research experience and feel slightly lost, don’t worry, you’re not alone! I found out about undergraduate research experiences after I set foot on Wellesley’s campus and was slightly intimidated by all my other classmates that had already worked in research labs in high school and had publications. But Wellesley provides you with a lot of opportunities to explore research, so take advantage of it and try it out!”
–Helena Yan, Class of 2018
Off-campus research (during the school year):
Off-campus research (during the summer):
Summer Internship at the Reproductive Medicine Group at NIEHS: Reproductive Medicine (Artificial Oocyte Activation)
Duration of time: June 2016-August 2016
How I found it: Googling, haha. My mom also works at NCI so she recommended a government internship, which pays pretty well and is extremely educational.
How I applied: Cold e-mail to the principle investigator and online application on NIH SIP website.
Most rewarding part: How intense and applicable my research was. My data is being used for the patent application & the paper.
How this experience will influence my career plans: I already knew I wanted to go into assisted reproductive technology and reproductive medicine.
How I apply what I learned in my courses: I learned a lot about pre-implantation embryo development, assisted reproductive technology, and mouse embryology which helps a lot in genetics and my current UROP!
–Christina He, Class of 2018
“My past summer was spent mostly in an immunology lab at Tri-Service General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan. I grew up in Taipei, so I was quite familiar with the hospital and I applied online. The lab’s goal was to dissect the immunopathogenic mechanisms of type I diabetes in order to find potential therapeutic cures for this autoimmune disease. The model organism was Non-Obese Diabetic(NOD) mice that was split into two kinds: 1) Th1 and Th2 double transgenic mouse that helped us study the differentiation of helper T cells and 2) IL-12 knockouts that provided a model for us to investigate directly the regulation of IL-12 on autoimmune response.
From Monday to Friday, I would go into the lab bright and early in the morning at 8 in the morning and leave at around 5 at night. My project involved mating the IL-12 knockout NOD, weighing them religiously everyday, cutting their toes to do Western Blots and PCR. I have never taken an immunology course before, so the internship during the summer was quite challenging for me in the beginning. Fortunately, the graduate students were willing to answer any questions I had and I slowly caught up. The weekly lab meeting and journal times were long, but they were very helpful to the learning process. It was the time to ask questions, read more scientific papers, and listen about other papers to understand novel research trends.
Other than learning a lot of technical work in the lab and understanding how the field of immunology works, I felt like I had a new “home.” The graduate students there were like my brothers and sisters who teased me endlessly but still went their way to teach me. The senior researchers were very much like my parents who constantly asked if I was well, having fun, and learning. This past summer experience was quite rewarding for me so I strongly encourage people to apply to labs for the summer!”
–Teresa Chen, Class of 2018
“The Wellesley-CHOP scholarship was established by an alumna a few years ago and aims to give a Wellesley student (including graduating seniors) a chance to experience clinical research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). As the program only consists of 1 student, it is very flexible and most of the details (time range, research topic etc.) are up to discussion with the doctor you’ll be working with.
I heard about the Wellesley-CHOP program through the neuroscience department at Wellesley. This program is Wellesley-specific and a previous recipient gave a talk on her experience during the spring semester. The application consisted of a cover letter, apersonal statement, a resume/CV, a transcript, and a letter of recommendation. All of the materials are due by mid March, but the application isn’t released until after spring semester starts.
A normal day at research varied, as I had the opportunity to shadow the physician I worked for at the beginning and end of the time I was there. The weeks that she was on service started at 8:30am and went on until 4 or 5 (rarely until 6). These times were quite unstructured, but showed me that the life of a physician revolves around the life of their patients. Lunch breaks are scattered and the ending times of each day varied on how many patients the doctor needed to talk to that day. The weeks that were simply clinical research were as structured as you made them, as you basically make your own schedule. Most of the time, I was doing literature reviews of papers on neurological diseases pertaining to the neurologist’s specialty, but there were times when I reviewed patient databases to identify possible subjects eligible for new studies. Those weeks were spent staring at computer screens for extended periods of time, but there were other people working in the office that I interacted with on a daily basis.
A bonus that I didn’t expect was the opportunity to attend grand rounds each week, both for neurology and general paediatrics. Grand rounds take place around 7:30am one day of the week for each division and consists of a doctor going through case studies or updating their colleagues on new research in a specific area of medicine. While waking up early was painful, I was astounded at the work doctors put in to stay on top of their disciplines and learned more about the difference between medical and academic papers.
As I had taken neuroscience courses at Wellesley before starting my work at CHOP, I had a basic understanding of how the brain functions and the delicate balance required to maintain a healthy brain. This summer experience showed me how basic scientific knowledge can be applied to address real-life needs and has motivated me to pursue medicine after graduating Wellesley. While the knowledge I gained was very useful, the most valuable thing I gained during that summer was the experience of interacting with a wide variety of people, getting a glimpse of what it’s like to be a patient, and seeing how the actions of one doctor, or a team of medical professionals, can impact a patient and family.”
–Helena Yan, Class of 2018
“I had the opportunity to work in an immunology lab at a premier cancer center in Houston, Texas for the past two summers. I was under the guidance of a graduate student and learned about immunology at a very advanced level. I became familiar with several important lab techniques, such as Flow Cytometry, Western Blot, Bradford assay, Elisa assay, among others. These techniques are so common that they are not only restricted to immunology labs and can be applied to any other lab. I was able to get this opportunity through the recommendation of a physician I shadowed during high school and winter break my first year at Wellesley.”
–Maria Khouri, Class of 2018