Through their lens: Fyezah Nazir learns about the many hurdles to developing a cancer therapy

This summer we’re sponsoring high school interns in stem cell labs throughout California. We asked those students to contribute to our Instagram photos and YouTube videos about life in the lab, and write about their experiences.

Fyezah Nazir worked in the lab of Brunie Felding-Habermann at Scripps Research Institute.

Fyezah Nazir learning lab techniques. She submitted this photo through Instagram to CIRM’s #CIRMStemCellLab collection.

In the future, I hope to see that my summer of 2013 as an intern in the Scripps Research Institute played an influential role and a major impact on my career path. I hope to be able to use the knowledge I gained this summer in a way in which I can benefit society as well as myself. I now have a better grasp on what I wish to accomplish as an established stem cell researcher and scholar of the scientific community.

This summer my mentor, Erik Wold, and I had various projects we worked on. However, all of the projects were cancer related. In fact, the largest and most important project for our team this summer was based on cancer tumors in the brain. There are two kinds of cancer tumors: malignant and benign. Malignant tumor cells are potentially more dangerous than benign tumor cells because they are able to transport themselves to other areas in the body through the bloodstream. This “mobility” is what helps spread the cancer much more rapidly and uncontrollably. Malignant tumors are more difficult to eradicate because they are difficult to locate and then target. My mentor and I aim to create and produce a protein that will locate the cancer-binding antigen in the tumor and eradicate it. We hope to find the protein that could target the antigen on the tumor but do so without damaging the surrounding healthy cells and brain tissue. However, once the protein that has the capability of eliminating the cancer tumor cells is found our team will still need to develop a technique for the stem cells to be able to produce or secrete the protein.

Another aspect of our research is focused directly on therapeutics to cancer-related illnesses. Therefore, once the protein is found we will still have to find a means to transport the medicine to go beyond and pass the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is the brain’s own natural way of restricting and prohibiting unknown and foreign agents with the intention of protecting itself.

As an intern at the Scripps Research Institute, I have gained a new and more knowledgeable perspective on stem cells and their role in the development of science and medicine. I admit that prior to being admitted as in intern in Molecular and Experimental Medicine department of the Scripps Research Institute I was not an advocate of stem cell research. However, after taking several classes and participating in many workshops I now fully understand and recognize the importance of stem cell research and the benefits they may pose in the future. This internship has been a great experience for me as student as well as individual who would like to grow and mature into a respectable and knowledgeable scholar of science.

Fyezah Nazir

Fyezah sent us this video of her experience:

Through their lens: Dustin Nguyen finds independence in the lab

This summer we’re sponsoring high school interns in stem cell labs throughout California. We asked those students to contribute to our Instagram photos and YouTube videos about life in the lab, and write about their experiences.

Dustin Nguyen worked in the lab of Jiang Zhu at Scripps Research Institute

Dustin Nguyen looking as cells under a microscope. He submitted this photo through Instagram to CIRM’s #CIRMStemCellLab collection.

My name is Dustin Nguyen and I intern at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. I am in Dr. Jiang Zhu’s lab and there are currently only two weeks left of the internship. I am not happy that it is ending, but I appreciate the great opportunity to spend my summer here.

I really learned a lot from this experience. What I enjoyed the most was getting to do lab procedures by myself. Although my mentor watched over me while I did everything, there were some times when I was able to do things by myself. I felt very independent; however, I was still scared that I would mess up. But the feeling of not messing up when I did something by myself was what made me feel proud. For example, my mentor trusted me to prepare bacteria culture and I was able to follow all the lab procedures and proper lab techniques to do so. If I messed up in any step, then my mentor would lose trust in me and not let me do stuff by myself anymore.

What I found challenging was memorizing procedures. There are a lot of different procedures, so when I memorize them I sometimes get them mixed up. For example, there were two types of bacteria medium that I made. The ingredients for each of them are different, but they both turn the same color once the ingredients dissolve. I have to write down the ingredients for each medium so I do not mistaken one for the other.

Lastly, my mom thinks this is a great opportunity for me. I never did anything academic in my past summers so my mom was really proud that I tried so hard to get into this internship position. It is a great place to occupy my time so that I don’t just stay home and do nothing. She was also proud that I found a subject of interest for myself and I am determined to stay in science when I go to college.

Dustin Nguyen

Dustin submitted this video about his experience: