The name of the game this week has been work hard, play hard. I’ve been the first one to get to lab and the last one to leave every day this week. My typically schedule has been 7:30am to 8:30pm. The hours are tiring and the experiments require a lot of focus to avoid mistakes, yet the passion I have for my research topic and my desire to make some small contribution to my lab’s work before I leave, keep me motivated to stick it out. I have so much that I want to accomplish in the remaining two weeks I have in Switzerland.
This week I learned how to inject mice intraperitoneally (into the abdominal cavity). Essentially, our the drug that we use gives the mice seizures, and we are seeing what effect those seizures have on their brains. I still have a difficult time picking up the mice in the proper way. You have to grab their loose skin and pull it tight behind their back so that they can’t move while you inject. I’ve gotten bit once because I didn’t pull the skin taut enough. It’s doesn’t hurt that much, but it made me jump and I nearly dropped the mouse. Having a mouse running loose in our lab would definitely not be good. I think my hands are too small to pick up the mice the way that my supervisor taught me, so I’m trying to develop my own hand position that works better.
I’ve gotten pretty good at brain dissections, which is important because we have a lot of brains to dissect in a short period of time. I’ve also started getting some interesting results for the qRT-PCR experiments that I’ve been working on. It’s encouraging to know that even if my injection experiments don’t pan out, I’m still guaranteed to have some data to put on my poster at the end of the summer. When I discover something that no one else in the world knows, even if that discovery is very small, it’s such an amazing feeling.
I’ve run into a couple of mistakes along the way. The biggest one was that my original drug injections were much too dilute due to a math error I made when calculating the proper dilution, so the mice didn’t have any seizures and were pretty much wasted. Luckily my supervisor is extremely patient and did not get mad at me at all. Working in an environment with supportive people really makes a huge difference in one’s research experience. I’m able to reflect on my mistakes and learn how to avoid them in the future, rather than just being upset.
To reward myself for a 65-hour work week, I had some fun with the other interns on Friday evening. In honor of Bastille Day, people all over France set off fireworks and throw huge celebrations on July 14. We are close enough to France that we can see the fireworks from across Lake Geneva, so everyone gathered by the beach to relax, enjoy some wine, and watch the show. It was a nice way to close out the work week. On Saturday, I plan to travel to Montreux for the annual jazz festival. Then on Sunday, a few of us will be journeying to Zermatt and doing some hiking with views of the Matterhorn. Be prepared for some awesome photos soon!