Another week has passed by like the blink of an eye (hey, I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it! Sigh, I’m such a nerd) and my experience in a lab has only gotten more interesting and fun. This update will be shorter, considering I’m not going into all the introductory stuff. (In case you missed it, I wrote an update for week 1 with all the intro stuff, check that one out here: http://tanzerina.weebly.com/blog-archive/liberty-science-center-partners-in-science-update-week-5-1)
As expected, a whole lot of stuff happened this week. And because my grad student mentor, Alexa, is one of the main instructors for THED, we were alone 99% of the time. This week was also a day shorter because on Wednesday there was a mandatory workshop at Liberty Science Center itself, where we talked about our final powerpoint and poster presentations, as well as the research paper we had to submit. This week was also the week of lab accidents. We dropped our IHC slides in the sink while doing one of the washes, and a significant amount of the tissue got wiped off, and we dropped a glass container that had stain diluted in methanol in it. Not a great week for our lab safety/caution. But aside from that, here’s a quick overview of what happened this week.
On Monday and Tuesday, Alexa was (as anticipated) busy because of THED, and so we had a lot of work to do. We started IHC on more slides on Monday, this time with a different antibody, COX2, and that took us the whole day. In the middle of the day, THED has daily career talks for different fields in science, and Monday was the doctor one, so we decided to go check it out. They also had free lunch (!) so duh, who doesn’t want free lunch. Even though it took like 2 hours for the talk and the lunch, it was good (even if it was a talk meant to scare us from medicine), and because I was an LSC student I got to hang back and ask the presenter (who was a 5th year general surgery resident at RWJ) more specific questions. Plus she brought in an amazing laparoscopic surgery machine where you can perform surgery on a piece of felt - the object of the exercise is to cut a perfect circle using the outline on the piece of felt in under 5 minutes, something the residents are tested on during their first few years. The first time I did it, on Monday, it took me 15 minutes to even cut any semblance of a circle (that thing is so harddd) and I was sweating and shaking by the end of it. The second and third time I did it, a few days later, I got both in under 7 minutes each, but my circles were still a little wonky. Ideally, I’ll be able to practice enough to get a passable circle (it’s supposed to be right through the black outline of the circle) in under 5 minutes by the end of next week. It’s hard, but it mostly just takes some getting used to. And serious depth perception skills. Cause turning a camera image into a 3D visual is the hardest part. (By the way, this part - the THED part - is specific to where I work, I only get to do this stuff cause my PI is the founder/head of the program, and Alexa is one of the main coordinators. But it’s definitely a plus side to working in EMSOP/EOHSI.)
On Tuesday we finished up the IHC in the morning, went to THED for another career talk and more importantly, free lunch, and did a new stain in the afternoon. This was still IHC, but an ultra condensed version. So, as a part of THED, the kids in the program get to do a shortened version of IHC, the whole thing takes about only a day, maybe 3-4 hours. And of course, the IHC wasn’t working when the instructors had tried it a couple days ago. And THED was supposed to do IHC the next day, on Wednesday, so us, as the bottom of the totem pole LSC students, were given the slides and the protocol to figure it out and somehow make it work. It was a much simpler process, with a PCNA antibody that is much more general in its target. It actually didn’t work the first time we tried a revised version, which was clearly not the ideal result. But we (with Alexa) eventually figured it out; we needed to dilute one of the stains for it to bind, and it was like a big “duh” moment. Besides that, I also took some notes on all the slides we stained from the first week, both on how well we stained them (so we can fix our technique as we go along) and to see if they were preliminarily supporting our hypothesis. (Our staining was great, our hypothesis… not so much.) Later, we’ll have to eventually scan these slides in the hated VS120 (I dread the day we have to do that) and count the cells (sigh, even more tedious) to get actual data, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Thursday morning we were handed a ridiculously long to-do list (I’m surprised we still managed to leave on time). But along with that, there was the THED talk (which we skipped, cause we realized we wouldn’t have time for it - but we picked up the lunch, of course XD) and the SURF student presentations. SURF stands for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and these are undergrad students who spend 10 weeks at EMSOP/EOHSI focusing on completing an independent research project. Their final presentations were that Thursday, and since we were gonna have to give our own presentations on our research in August, we figured it would be a good example to follow and emulate. So those presentations were 3 hours (but we only stayed for half-ish). Besides that, we had to coverslip an ungodly number of slides (I swear, she leaves all the dirty work for us - do you know how monotonous yet draining coverslipping is?), we had to do a lot of the post-takedown procedures (we missed the huuuuge 30 mice takedown on Wednesday) like fixing the mice lungs (all 30 of them) in ethanol and staining 48 (48!) cytospin BAL (bronchoalveolar lavage) slides. That took forever. My god. At least it was a much easier/faster staining than something like IHC.
Friday was an even longer day (I was supposed to leave at 3:30, take the Friday evening off, chill a little, I left like near 6). But we started off with a different staining process, PAS (Periodic Acid-Schiff) staining, which is used to detect polysaccharides and mucosubstances (different from our usual antibody staining). We started this (also long, but shorter than IHC) process in the morning, and realized that our slides had not completely deparaffinized (meaning the wax preserving the slide was still covering some of the tissue) and so we had to reverse the entire first part of the process to prevent messing up the slides and then start all over to fix them. Thankfully, the rest of the procedure was shorter than IHC, or we would’ve been there until Saturday. But in between the staining, all the LSC students in EMSOP/EOHSI were required to come and have lunch with the THED students and talk to them about what we were doing in the lab (and listen to another career talk) over lunch. That took a little more than an hour, but a little while after, the LSC student I’m working with had to leave, so I finished the PAS by myself. Then another high schooler/technically college freshman (who’s dad is a PI and therefore gets to just work in the lab for fun whenever he wants - so lucky) dropped off a ridiculous amount of slides for me to Giemsa stain. (And he didn’t even tell me he was dropping them off, just left them in the downstairs lab - I mostly work in the upstairs lab - so I spent a good hour finding him and asking him to teach me how to stain them.) These were more slides from the BAL from that huge takedown, but I’m not entirely sure why he was using a Giemsa stain, it’s usually for blood disorders/looking for parasites in the blood. I finished that process (which is another one with a lot of waiting) and left the slides to air dry for him to pick up.
Well, that was my entire second week as a part of the LSC Partners in Science program. As always, it was fun and eye-opening and amazing. :) Lot more work though, but can’t say I didn’t like the added responsibility. Next week is the other session of THED, so we’re going to jam packed then as well. Cannot wait! :)
Thanks for reading!