Through their lens: Gloria del Rosario Castaneda learns that research is research because there are still unanswered questions

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.

Gloria del Rosario Castaneda did a stem cell research internship this summer in the laboratory of Fan Yang at Stanford University.

Gloria del Rosario Castaneda with her mentor and other students in the Fan Yang lab. She submitted this photo to our #CIRMStemCellLab Instagram feed.

You know you’ve had too much biology when you unconsciously type “genes” instead of “jeans.” Some may say I’ve had too much biology during my CIRM internship this past summer, but I would disagree.

My past summer has been filled with bittersweet realizations, startling discoveries, and gigabytes worth of new knowledge. I have found a new passion: biomedical research. My specific project focuses on the rapid synthesis of monodisperse, biodegradable polymeric microspheres using droplet microfluidics, then studying their potential to encapsulate important therapeutic factors by manipulating the characteristics of the microspheres to achieve different coordinated release profiles that could demonstrate as useful to advance regenerative medicine. I had the opportunity to learn how to culture multipotent human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells, which were used to determine the bioactivity of released growth factors from the microspheres. The most confusing thing to me about my project is that I actually understand it.

But that is not why I am fascinated by stem cell research nor biomedical research. The more I listened to my mentor and teachers discuss stem cells, regenerative medicine, and the specific impact my project would have, the more I realized that people don’t fully comprehend any of it. That is why it’s called “research,” but even after research becomes bio dogma, we will only get close to completely understanding it, just like a simple logarithm will never reach zero yet go beyond infinity. It’s this desire to touch zero as I my research nears infinite that makes me want to pursue research.
My findings reflect my passion. Some of my findings suggest that I can engineer microspheres of different polymer concentrations to create different release characteristics and accomplish temporal release at variable rates. However, my data for spheres of variable size are inconclusive. In other words, the data doesn’t make sense or demonstrate a clear trend. Although I have worked intimately with my project and it makes sense, I realize I don’t nor will ever understand everything there is to know about the concepts involved in my project.

Now that I am rereading this blog, I am starting to think that I might have had too much biology. I don’t comprehend all of it, but I am getting closer to zero as I near infinity.

Gloria del Rosario Castaneda

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