This summer, I had the distinct pleasure of working in the Chodosh Lab in the Department of Cancer Biology. Prior to joining the lab, I had superficial notions of what research consisted of. I was fortunate enough to have been paired with wonderful mentor–Dr. Matías Escobar–who guided me through how things work in the lab, helped me develop a working research question, and was fundamental to my learning experience.
What drew me to this lab in particular were the broader implications of the research happening there. At present, the mechanisms enabling dormant cancer cell survival and recurrence are poorly understood. The Chodosh lab works to identify and investigate the pathways that underly cancer dormancy and recurrence. Having a rounded understanding of these things is one of the first steps in designing therapies to target such pathways. I spent the summer investigating the JAK/STAT3 pathway which is thought to assist in dormant cancer cell survival. My interests lied with what goes on upstream that activates the pathway.
Admittedly, some of my experiments did not pan out as I had anticipated. Although initially discouraged that some of my results did not match my predictions, I quickly came to understand that research is not about arriving to simple and satisfying conclusions, but rather, developing and addressing meaningful questions.
In the span of a mere ten weeks, I learned basic cell culture techniques, how to perform in vivo and in vitro immunofluorescence, how to carry out a number of assays–including ELISA, CyQUANT, and qPCR–how to design a CRISPR-Cas9 knockout experiment, and even developed proficiency with a number of imaging softwares and techniques. In a broader sense, I learned what research is and what it looks like on a day-to-day basis. I can’t thank the Penn Undergraduate Mentorship Program enough for affording me this opportunity and everyone in the Chodosh lab for their wonderful help and guidance. I left the lab having gained a wealth of knowledge and a newfound appreciation for research and admiration for all those who partake in it.