Internship at University of California, San Diego
During the spring semester of 2014, I interned at a medical lab at UCSD. In this lab, they are studying the functions of a scaffolding protein called caveolin and its affect on the heart. As an intern, I was in a lab every day, working with and around professionals from undergraduates to post-doctorates. In this lab specifically, they were animal testing.
Below, you will find my blog I kept.
22 May 2014
When I arrived at my job site, there first thing I noticed was that there were no windows. Everything is enclosed, and you need a badge to get from here to there and back again in the room. Everyone like knows where and what they have to do. People for the most part were very friendly, and happy. There is like a "joking" sense between coworkers, everyone has a quirky sense of humor. Everyone has a great attitude as well, and is more than willing to tell you about their experiment/study. Because I am a minor (and have 0 experience , just about) I am really limited to just observing and sometimes they'll let me throw something away. You have to go through a lot of schooling and training to be able to do what Jan and Louise are doing.
In the (main) lab I am observing in, they profuse mouse hearts. This means they extract a heart from a mouse (still living) and hang it to a machine that will allow the heart to beat on its own. (Yes, the mouse is dead.) The machine gives the heart nutrients, salt and oxygen (acts like "blood"). Basically they put a small balloon in the left ventricle, so the heart beats against it, building up pressure. Then Jan changes a setting to turn off the nutrients, simulating heart failure. After some time, he turns the nutrients back on to observe the recovery of the heart. This process basically simulates a heart attack.
So for example, if I wanted to be able to do what Jan and Louise do with the heart profusing, I would have to go through a lot of schooling and experience. Not necessarily to do the exact job they are doing, but to get to where they are. To be able to use the resources and conduct a study in a lab like this, you have to be studying in college for your post-doctorate (the research would go towards your thesis/general information), or working for someone as a Biological Aide.
I am really happy to be here, and Im not only observing/helping Jan. There are a few other lab rooms I have been in and the people studying in there have been nice enough to let me watch what they do.
27 May 2014
I interviewed my coworker, Andrea
She is (sort of) a 3rd year undergraduate student. We say "sort of" because she actually has her RN, but went back to school.
Out of high school, Andrea went to Nursing school right away. In Florida the school system is a bit different compared to California. In CA, you have to get a 4 year degree and then go to nursing program, but in Florida you can go almost straight to a nursing program. It wasn't until she was working in the OR that she realized she wanted to be a surgeon. So she went back to school to become a surgeon. This research assistance is part of her requirements.
She has mainly been a research assistant at this facility. She comes and assists Dr. Schillinger and Louise with the mise between classes, like anytime she gets. She is at this facility for the experience. For this particular position Andrea had to go through the basic training. She took many online courses regarding lab safety, handling animals, and so on. There were also many prerequisites that she already had gained prior to this position. For the most part Andrea is "learning as she goes" like a classroom outside of the classroom experience. She works closely with the people in the lab and assists them as needed. The other people in the lab guide her on certain tasks so she can learn how to do it too.
Andrea has been a research assistant for 1 year now. She again chose this position because of the education and experience it offered her. Although it is unpaid, it will count for a portion of her college credits she needs.
She stressed that research is really just a transition point of her career. People in research are working for someone higher than them. People in the research field are often blinded from the bigger experiment to avoid biast or tainted data. While she is in this field at the moment to finish her college education, many people working here are aspiring Professors, Private Investigators, and Doctors.
This position has allowed Andrea to gain a lot of experience and "tricks of the trade" from people who have experience and have been doing this work a very long time (not to mention a resumè boost).
Some advice Andrea gave me was to always keep learning, and that if I choose a career and change my mind, its ok too. She said to try and don't be afraid to pursue what *I* want.
30 May 2014
My estimation of internship was changed I guess because I didn't know what to expect. I am independent, and kind of left to fend for my own. I have to really take action/responsibility if I want to see something or learn something. My internship is like based on what I want to make of it I guess.
I really enjoy coming to "work" instead of school. 1. There are no annoying kids. That is my favorite part. 2. I get to make my own hours and be by myself if I want, or with a lot of other people if I want to . I think I am definitly ready for the work place, in the fact that my hand doesn't need to be held all the time.
Everything is going great. I am learning a lot and am very happy.
2 June 2014
Name and location your workplace.
Hemal Patel, David Roth Lab
VA Hospital: UCSD research extension
Purpose of your work site? Services it provides? What activities take place at the site? Why does it exist?
This facility studies neuro and cardio functions specifically through rodents, especially mice. The Patel lab focuses more on the cardio functions. They test, observe, study the heart. Right now they are looking at a protein called Caviolin (1 and 2). To do this, they observe the mouse heart at different stages (newborn through adult) through a number of methods.
My favorite method would be the ultra sound. Other methods include heart hanging, homogenizing (grinding up the heart and running it through different machines), and direct drug testing (injecting drugs into mouse/heart and observing performance).
This is a research facility.
Is if for profit, non-profit, private? charity? government? Where does the money come from? Where does it go? Who owns the place you work at? (Follow the money.)
This is a research facility located on the top of the VA hospital. Although it is not directly associated with the hospital, it is still federal property. All the money comes from the government and different grants the scientists apply for. The money given is to sponsor different experiments the donor finds relevant.
Who are the people working there? What positions do they hold?
The people working there range from undergraduate interns to post doctorates, to Principal Investigators. Basically different stages of the food chain.
How is your work site organized? What departments or divisions does it have? How is leadership structured? Who is in charge? Who reports to whom? Who is in charge of what?
Everyone reports to their principal investigator. The principal investigator is the top of the food chain, they have the main idea or question everyone is researching to answer. They do not really work in the lab, but to get to their position you'd have to be before. The researchers range from undergraduates to post doctorates. These people are all studying and usually as part of their study, help research in a facility like this. These people do almost the same tasks every day. Sometimes they have side projects that contribute towards their study, like their thesis or something. But in the big picture, everyone under a principal investigator is looking for the same answer.
What governing rules and regulations are there. How are decisions made in your work site? What power structures does it have?
There are weekly meetings on Tuesday. In these meetings, they discuss projects and everyone's progress. These meetings go over what resources or supplies are needed, what other experiments need to be done, etc. Overall, the boss is looking very closely and tightly over the budget. The budget is the real boss in this situation. If there is no money, there are no research and experiments being done.
5 June 2014
What skills and abilities do your co-workers possess?
Most of my coworkers all have basic lab skills. In the langendorff lab, they are able to hang a heart: which includes knowledge and ability to extract a beating heart from a mouse, and then of course how to attach it to the apparatus. The people who work in the cell culture lab have overlapping skills, but they are also able to use a number of different machines to analyze the data.
My coworkers do a number of tasks, ranging from experiments in the lab to administrative tasks like recording and analyzing data. The "activity" they complete would be a full experiment.
Training they went through ranges. Most everyone here has a masters degree, and is studying to get their PhD. Everyone had to go through online and classroom training through the VA. This training includes basic lab safety and animal handling.
These skills were acquired through online and classroom training. Also, prerequsites to these skills (bio/chem knowledge) were acquired in college.
Most of my coworkers have bio/ochem backgrounds. They obviously went to college and acquired this knowledge there. Everyone who works here however, is learning everyday. Many are PhD students, grad students.
9 June 2014
What did you learn from completing this internship?
Hm, To pick one thing to say I learned is very hard.
I think a main thing i learned was that i can and it is very important to keep my options open for life/picking a career. I guess by observing these three weeks I've seen that it is very important to like what you are doing day in and day out.
How did you make a meaningful contribution to your workplace?
I acted as a third hand to anyone that needed it. I labeled, washed dishes, cleaned, data entry etc. I also did the occasional lunch run. I think I was a really big time saver, and that I acted as the extra oil on the gears.
How did your project go from an idea or inspiration to a final product?
I didn't really have my own project: there wasn't much time for one, as science does move at a snails pace. But I was able to be a part of my coworker's projects, assisting them in whatever way possible. I was THE stereotypical intern.
What did you learn about the quality and quantity of your own work?
I learned that time really is all the money. Good planning and use of time really do go a long way. I learned that it is ok and actually good to make sure everything you do is full, and the best : no cutting corners. If you mess something up, you have to do it ALL over again: so it is important to follow directions carefully and fully.
10 June 2014
What qualities or characteristics did you see in your coworkers that you would like to develop in yourself?
One of the biggest assets I want to acquire is knowledge. Everyone at work is so well read and seems to know 2345230480598 things ive never heard of. I would also like to be more inquisitive, and not settle for the first answer. I don't know, maybe I can't change that and that's who I am but I want my mind to work (a little) like theirs.
How well did school prepare you for your internship experience?
Bio prepared me in all the sense that I didn't look like a (total) idiot when given direction. I knew what almost everything was called, how to properly clean it, etc. I knew conversions, and then of course basics in biology: like the anatomy of a cell etc. It was soothing to know that I was able to apply my knowledge!. I was also familiar with a lot of the biotechnology used in the lab, alike pipettes and analytical scales and centrifuges.
In what areas could school have better prepared you for your internship? What could you have done better?
I did a lot of reading on my own time about words and different things that would come up and I simply didn't understand. I was asking 20 questions constantly and I feel like I annoyed some people, but they all insisted that they like to talk about what they do.
How was your work as an intern meaningful to your education? What did it tell you about school?
School is very important especially in the science field. I know how to read, write, do math, speak properly, how to use the equipment, etc. School is very important. Everyone needs to go to school. Maybe you feel like you don't, but I could not count the times where I thought to myself, "oh, I learned that in school!".
This internship gave me a douse of real life, and I want to stay in school forever now. I love school. Maybe because I'm good at it- in the sense that I have it figured out. I don't know.
12 June 2014
How was your work significant or meaningful to the world beyond school and your specific internship site?
I don't understand this question really.
I mean, I can't really say that I made a big impact in the science community: besides breathe on a few things and break a rollie chair. My internship here has taught me how to deal with myself and work with others a little better. Perhaps better karma will be flowing through the air?
What new appreciations did you develop while working as an intern? How so?
The number one thing is what my mum taught me about cleaning. One of the tasks I was assigned was to clean the break room. Grown adults use this room mind you. All of them are DISGUSTING. I am so thankful that my mother taught me how to clean. I appreciate the fact that I am a clean person and value my hygine; which is ironic because these people are biologists and;; nevermind.
I also will appreciate anyone who has ever been an intern. I understand that most occupations you work from the ground up: but as an intern I was below the ground. Perhaps in hell, with satan. Being the invisible hand is hard, sometimes gross work, but everyone knows it was aprreciated. Its nice to know you are appreciated as well. It was nice to see their faces light up to find the microwave clean: or that someone went ahead and refilled the paper towels. And that well deserved "thank you" after you just labeled 75 microtubes with the same label. Interns are very appreciated.
How did interpersonal relationships or collaboration influence your views?
I don't really understand this question either.
I think that group work and being social in the work place is very important. I think that favors should be the only thing to barter with. Talking to different people in the work place has definitly shaped my views and enlightened me about life and the "real world" so to speak. As far as "working together" it depends on the person. I want to kill kenny anderson. But other than that, I am very friendly and open to collaboration.
How did your view of life beyond high school change or develop during your time as an intern?
My love for the medical field has been confirmed. Although, I do not under any (maybe one or two) circumstances want to work in research. I think I still want to go to college, maybe I don't know. I just know that I will have more options if I go to college. If I do go to college, I want to get my RN to eventually work in the labor and delivery room. From there I am not sure. I originally wanted to get my nurse practioner, but I might want to become a midwife? Who knows. But according to everyone in the workplace: I have two (really three years because of grade 12) years to figure out what the hell I'm doing with my life. To think about life beyond highschool stresses me out and makes me want to cry. I have a plan, but then what if I don't like that plan?
What new questions has your internship inspired you to ask about our world?
1. Do you need a college degree to be deemed successful?
2. What is success?
How might your internship influence your direction in life?
Same as above- I am not sure yet. I get scared thinking about it.