Examining Communications between the Brain and the Small Intestine by Measuring Food Intake after Infusions of Macronutrients

Olivia holding mouse model


COL 2021


Assistant Professor of Biology

Project Summary

When I was looking at colleges to apply to, I was always drawn to big research institutions. I knew I wanted to be engaged in research in my undergraduate years. I was thrilled when I got accepted to Penn for I knew how much outstanding research and advancements happened here. I expected to get involved in my sophomore year after I had taken various science classes. However, when I found out there was a program to do research as early as my first summer, I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. As I looked into the Penn Undergraduate Research and Mentorship (PURM) program more, I was amazed by all of the diverse labs and projects I could be involved in at Penn. As my intended major is the Biological Basis of Behavior, I wanted to learn about research in the biology field or neuroscience field, and I found both in the Betley lab! I learned more than I could have imagined this summer in this lab, and it will all be so valuable for my academic endeavors in the future.


The Betley lab is very collaborative and emphasizes teamwork on its projects as there are many people working there. I took advantage of this and aimed to learn as much as I could from the diverse group of staff. One graduate student taught me how to infuse mice, another demonstrated how to do an intra-peritoneal injection. I watched one of the post-docs perform gut surgery and then I learned how to close the mouse with sutures. I even grasped how to perfuse mice and then cut their brains into sections. Nonetheless, I also acquired fundamental lab skills, such as pipetting, making solutions, and recording and analyzing data.


As this lab is very cooperative, I was able to learn these skills while helping with other experiments, but they were very useful while I worked on my project, too. Infusing mice was a major component of my experiments, as well as making solutions and analyzing the data. Additionally through my project, I learned about the anatomy and biology of the gastrointestinal tract and how it interacts with the brain.


I find myself to be a visual and hands-on learner, so conducting research experiments like I did this summer is an ideal way for me to grasp information that is valuable for a BBB student. I could not be more grateful to have had this opportunity to learn how research is conducted at Penn. I am thrilled that my first research experience was successful and I learned many beneficial skills for the future.