This summer I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work in a Neuroscience Lab at the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus. Ever since I got the research position during Spring Semester, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I had finally found research that sparked my interest and it was something that I could see myself being involved in for the rest of my time here. Everyone in the lab was extremely sweet, helpful and seemed genuinely excited to have me work with them. And I can’t even begin to explain how much I’ve learned during this experience and how much I’ve enjoyed it.
I’m not gonna lie, the first week all the words my PI and grad students were telling me sounded like a bunch of mumbo jumbo. My beginner’s excitement quickly faded into slight panic as I couldn’t keep track of which experimental variable was testing which hemisphere of the brain and which key on the computer would help me circle the right cluster of neurons while analyzing data. Also I wasn’t the most comfortable with the idea of putting a mouse through an experiment buuuut thankfully I was kept on the task of building the drives that are implanted into mouse brains to record neuronal data (WHICH I THINK IS SO COOL). And I started to get the hang of it.
But warning…when you get the hang of things people start trusting you more and start giving you bigger and harder things to do, and I so did not see it coming. Suddenly, I was learning how to set up the experiment to run the animals. I was holding a mouse for the first time (it was so cute, it gripped onto my hands with its little paws and I wanted to keep it) and I was terrified. I was setting up complicated computer programs to make sure the right data was collected. I was learning, alongside the grad student I’m working under, to slice brains so that we can track exactly where our implants have been placed (!!!!). Just today I started learning how to make a new type of drive, one that the lab recently started using. And it’s all so incredibly interesting but also SO frustrating. I’ve been given responsibility, but with that responsibility comes the expectation to work on my own and figure things out. The expectation to find shortcuts and methods that will not only help myself but also everyone else in the lab. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many mistakes I’ve made. Just today I spent 8 hours working on the same three drives over and over again, because each time I made a new mistake. I felt like I was going crazy hunched over at the lab bench, not even moving to say hello when people walked by me. But finally at 5PM…I made a somewhat decent drive and I’ve never felt so thankful, relieved, and accomplished at the same time.
So it’s been scary, it’s been fun, it’s been instructive. I’ve learned a lot about neuro but even more about what it takes to learn something new and move forward with it.