Last summer I worked in a lab that focuses its research on the effects of stress on memory and the relevant neurological structures.
I was mostly working on a projected with Aged Val-Met 66 mice that are prone to anxiety disorders and seeing if they had differing amounts of VGat and VGlut (which are amino acid transporter proteins) from the wild type mice. For the first couple weeks I spent my days slicing brains on the cryostat. After that I mounted the slices on slides, took pictures of different hippocampal and PFC regions with the microscope, and then collected and analyzed data about levels of different proteins. I learned how to slice brains, mount and stain them, how to run gels and develop membranes, to a qRT-PCR, how to change mouse cages, immunohistochemistry, how to score elevated plus maze videos, how to run a t-test, and how to work with the world’s most finicky computer and microscope. I really liked slicing brains. While my hands were freezing, the college students and I agreed that it was almost therapeutic. I also really enjoyed the work I was able to witness and perform with the mice. I was not technically allowed to interact with the mice but being able to actually see the effects on the anxiety disorders on their behavior was fascinating. The social aspect of working in a lab was very different from how I expected. Most of the discussions I overheard were about how tight money was and getting more grants. It also became clear to me that women and men were held to different professional standards (the way they dressed, acted, and spoke around the lab).
This summer I will be working with a lab that is researching how mindfulness and meditation impact student wellness and stereotype threat. I am not sure exactly what my responsibilities will be but as of right now I believe that I will be helping a graduate student teach classes on mindfulness to high school students.