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.
Brian Woo did a stem cell research internship this summer in the laboratory of Jill Helms at Stanford University.
As a fresh high school graduate switching from the east coast to the west, I was incredibly nervous at first about this internship. I was moving away from New Jersey, away from my home, away from my friends. I was moving away from all realms of security and comfort. I had never worked in a lab previously, and had no idea of what to expect. Thus, being given the opportunity to work with and shadow researchers at the Conboy lab at UC Berkeley, I was hesitantly unsure about the prospects of learning firsthand what it was like to work in a lab.
Little did I know that this internship would be one of the most enjoyable and intellectually enriching experiences of my life. Working under the mentorship of Michael Conboy, Christian Elabd, and Wendy Cousin, I learned more than I could have ever expected to learn. I learned everything from the pathways involved in muscle regeneration to various lab techniques such as cell culturing, Western blotting, and PCR amplification of DNA.
When I would try to explain some of the processes to my family, who have had no experience with biology, they were amazed and confused with the complexity of some of the stuff that I was doing. Furthermore, seeing the application of biology directly was very intriguing and exciting. Being allowed to carry out lab techniques on my own was incredibly enjoying, as I was being given the opportunity to fail and then learn from my failures with friendly and helpful mentors correcting my errors. I also enjoyed being able to make new friends, having just moved from the other side of the United States, with other interns and the mentors. Some of the most challenging aspects I encountered are the fragility of some of the experiments, for some could be ruined with a simple and careless touch. In the end, however, this internship taught me much, and has opened up my mind to a possibility in a career in research.