Before the start of the spring 2017 semester I had never heard of Nicotinic Acetylcholine receptors. I am a Microbiology major so I never thought I would be working in a Neuroscience lab that works on neurotransmitter channels. But, this summer I found myself right in the middle of a research project that I had zero knowledge or previous experience about except for some rudimentary understanding from a Foundations in Neuroscience course I had taken just in the spring semester. So, I am starting this internship from zero and working my way up by learning from my failures.
I did get the opportunity to come into the lab early and observe an undergrad lab assistant using the rig; so I had a basic idea as to how it worked. The rig is a two-electrode voltage clamp that uses glass electrodes to change membrane voltage and record the ionic current that is caused by acetylcholine receptors. I think I have broken probably six electrodes since the start of the summer. Glass and I do not get along and I struggle to remove the electrodes from their holders without breaking them but hopefully as the summer progresses I will succeed in my endeavor to not break electrodes. My clumsiness has given me the opportunity to learn the process in order to make new electrodes which I really liked. I enjoy learning new things especially if I get knowledge on how to operate lab equipment.
I am so thankful for this opportunity to be a part of undergraduate research because it helps me to get an idea of what it is like to be a graduate student. I am so excited for what the rest of the summer holds because I know that I will learn so much along the way. I started this summer internship with zero knowledge and I think that just within these first few weeks I have gained I would say 25% understanding about the research this lab conducts. I did have to read previous students’ theses that gave me so much information which helped me to better understand what acetylcholine research is hoping to obtain. The research that I am working on this summer is connected to Parkinson’s diseases and the possibility that acetylcholine receptors can further the study on long lasting treatments for those afflicted with the illness.