Only a couple months left…

Graduation is coming up in just two months so I only have a little bit of time to finish up my research here at UCSB. It is both exciting and stressful thinking about finishing up my undergraduate career and moving on to other things. Undergraduate research has definitely been one of the best things I have done during my undergraduate studies. Just taking classes would have still educated me but it would not have given me the hands on practice I have received working in a lab. I am very glad to have had this experience and I am glad that I enjoy the research I have been doing. I believe that having had this type of experience in undergraduate studies will definitely help me in my future. All the skills I have learned will help aid me in graduate school and in my future career in research. I would highly recommend for anyone interested in research to pursue research in undergraduate school because it is a great experience and it helps prepare students greatly for the future than just taking classes alone.

I also recommend working in multiple labs during one’s undergraduate career in order to get a taste of the different kinds of labs out there. I have worked in a couple labs now and it was great to be able to work in different types of environments and do different kinds of work. And starting lab work earlier during undergraduate studies than later to get more experience before graduating is what I also recommend. I regret not trying to work in a lab earlier than I did, because I could have experienced more and gained even more skills before I graduated. But I am still glad that I was able to get the experiences I did through the CEEM internship and through the other labs I have worked in.

Balancing school with doing research

The past month has been pretty busy in the lab. I have been working on my project for about 15 hours a week, which is hard to balance along with the tons and tons of school work I get. I am a Pharmacology major so I have had to take a pharmacology lab that meets once a week for 8.5 hours, and sometimes it even goes over that time. In addition to being in that lab class for so long, I have to write weekly lab reports that have sometimes been up to 40 pages long! Don’t get me wrong though, I absolutely love that class, it is probably one of the best classes I have taken here at UCSB, but balancing that class, along with my other classes and the research I’ve been doing has been a challenge. It is important to plan your time wisely every week in order to be able to get everything you need to get finished done.

I also have a job on top of school and research. So time management has been a very important skill for me to develop, or else I could not have been able to get through the past two quarters so easily. Sometimes I stay in my lab a little later to work on powerpoint presentations that I have to prepare every week about my results from each week. It really helps to stay and do this in the lab then worry about working on them at home. This is an example of how I plan my time wisely so that I do not have too much to worry about when I get home from school and I can focus on finishing other school work.

So my main message is: know how to manage your time well when you work in a research laboratory and have a heavy course load (and maybe even a job).

On another note, I have really been enjoying working in the lab this past month because my results are starting to look a lot better. In my last post I mentioned how things don’t always go right and it is important to be patient. The patience is finally paying off and I am seeing some promising things and can’t wait to see where I will go from here!

First months in the CEEM program

My first few months in the CEEM program have been pretty interesting. I am working in Daniel Morse’s lab and I am working on a project where I am looking for certain proteins called reflectins. These proteins are involved in iridescence in the giant clam. Not much research has been done looking at the giant clams, but research has been done in the Morse lab looking at the iridescent properties in squid. The giant clam appears to have similar properties, therefore, I am trying to determine if the giant clam has the same reflectin proteins as the squid.

My first impressions of my research project was that it was going to be quite simple and I was almost expecting it to yield some positive results. However, I ended up running into a few challenges and receiving some results that were unexpected. In doing research, many problems often present themselves and it is very important to be patient and keep working to solve these problems in order to be able to achieve desired results. My mentor had me troubleshoot some parts of the experimental procedure in order to try to figure out what was going wrong. We ended up figuring out that too much of certain reagents were being used and these high amounts were exhausting the substrate that is used to produce the signal I am supposed to be getting as a result of my experiments.  I was getting very faint signals in my experiments and this troubleshooting helped me figure out why this was happening. It was very enlightening to be able to figure out what was going wrong and patience was a very important aspect of determining what was causing these problems.

Working in the lab has been both exciting and challenging so far. It has been interesting to work with a new species I have never worked with before, nor even really thought about before. The subject I am researching was new to me in the beginning but learning about it has made me so interested in it. I think that the research that is going on in the Morse lab is so exciting and new, I love the concept and want to keep doing research to learn even more about this species and its iridescent properties. It is exciting to think about how these properties of the giant clam could be used to make energy efficient materials in the future. Being part of the CEEM internship has allowed me to be immersed in a new subject area of research that I have not previously worked in before. I would definitely recommend for those interested in research to try out working in labs in different areas of study because it could open up a new path that you might not have know that you would be so interested in. 

The CEEM internship has been really great so far, I am excited to see what else is in store for the rest of the quarter.