I have been working at the Schwinn Lab for nearly three weeks now, and it has been a whirlwind of new information! Located in downtown Seattle not far from the Space Needle, the laboratory is a part of the Mitochondria and Metabolism Center of the University of Washington School of Medicine. The Schwinn Lab mainly focuses on studying Alpha-1 adrenergic receptors, which are proteins found in cell membranes. Recent studies have found that single mutations in this receptor can be found in many hypertensive patients. Working with rat and mouse models, our laboratory is further exploring this possible correlation between hypertension and a mutated Alpha-1 adrenergic receptor.
I became involved in summer research because I realized last Winter during my sophomore year that I needed to explore the scientific field more deeply. As a biomedical engineering major I learn about biological systems and ways in which breakthroughs in scientific research and engineering are helping to shape the future of human health. My goal for this summer was to get a good feel for what research is all about, as well as deepen my understanding of biomedical science. Knowing that Seattle is a hub for biotechnology and global health, I began to email researchers around the area to ask whether they were willing to take me in and help me learn over the summer. Luckily, I found one!
During my first day at the lab, I was first given a crash course on lab safety. Soon after, I began to take copious notes on how to extract and purify DNA while the scientists showed me the process. The day flew by very quickly! During my second week I was given my very own set of H9C2 cells (part of the rat heart cell line) for me to maintain. With the guidance of my mentors, I learned how to grow these cells and keep them healthy.
Everyday I learn new techniques and also try to practice other techniques that I have already learned. For example, the other day I learned how to introduce foreign DNA into mammalian cells through a process called transfection. Today I am learning how to gauge the success of the experiment through the use of fluorescence, as well as practice replating cells in order for them to have more room to grow.
Having only spent three weeks in the lab, I now have a clearer understanding of how each individual experiment fits in with the bigger picture. I also realize the amount of precision and dedication it takes to have a successful project. Everyone has been so patient in teaching me how to do certain things so that I can conduct more and more experiments on my own and perhaps even start my own small project. I am so grateful that the scientists of the Schwinn Lab are willing to take me under their wing, because I am definitely trying to learn as much as I possibly can this summer!
About the NU Intern Blogger Program
This summer, over 50 Northwestern University students will be sharing stories about what they are experiencing at their internships from across the country and internationally. Each week new students will share an inside look at what it means to be an intern. Please contact Betsy Gill, Assistant Director, Internship Services if you have any questions.