“unforgettable experiences”

By Andrew Choi

Am I crying or is my face uncontrollably sweating right now? I think I am doing both as I write about my unforgettable experiences over the course of the past 6 weeks and finalize my poster.

As I think back, I am very grateful for the takeaways of the research field, acquiring them through scientific journals, lab experiments with my mentor, and both formal and informal discourses. It seems impossible to describe all the episodes and occurrences during the program in this one blog post, but all I can say is that they were all unique and phenomenal in their own respective ways. As aforementioned in my previous posts, gaining new perspectives and insights and being acquainted with many of the techniques, such as stereology, immunocytochemistry, immunohistochemistry, my peers have utilized throughout their careers proved to me the great impact this program can make on many individuals of the younger generation. CIRM Spark not only taught me the ongoings behind the bench-to-bedside translational research process, but also morals, work ethics, and effective collaboration with my peers and mentors. My mentor, Gen, reiterated the importance of general ethics. In the process of making my own poster for the program, her words resonate even greater in me. Research, education, and other career paths are driven by proper ethics and will never continue to progress if not made the basic standard.

I am thankful for such amazing institutions: California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for enabling me to venture out into the research career field and network. Working alongside with my fellow 7 very brilliant friends, motivated me and made this journey very enjoyable. I am especially thankful my mentor, Gen, for taking the time to provide me with the best possible resources, even with her busy ongoing projects. She encouraged me to be the best that I am.

I believe, actually, I should say, I KNOW Cedars-Sinai’s CIRM Spark program does a SUPERB and astounding job of cultivating life-long learners and setting exceptional models for the younger generation. I am hoping that many others will partake in this remarkable educational program. I am overall very blessed to be part of a successful summer program. The end of this program does not mark the end of my passions, but sparks them to even greater heights.

“thankful to have been given this opportunity to conduct this cutting-edge research”

By Nikhil Chakravarty

Oh my! I can’t believe that this is my last blog for this program. These seven weeks have really flown by. It’s hard for me to write about this without getting caught up in the moment. After doing all this, I am so blessed to be able to say that I forged the connections that I have with these other like-minded students and the members of my lab. I am extremely thankful to have been given this opportunity to conduct this cutting-edge research. Going off this vein of research, since writing my last blog, my stem cells have really gotten better. I started seeing clear organoid formations by day 13! This was awesome and slightly ahead of schedule. However, I found out by day 21 that the cells died. I mean, ALL the cells died!!!!! How did that happen! I checked the cells on day 18 and they were still good. We’re not sure what happened, but luckily, it was at a point where data collection had to stop anyways, so it didn’t really harm my data collection. Most of these recent days have been preparing my poster and my presentation for the conference, which I am really looking forward to! After finding out that I would represent the Cedars program at the conference, I felt a sense of pride, but at the same time (and the other interns can attest to this), I also felt terrified. I do speech and debate at school, but this is not a speech tournament. This will be the first time that I am actually presenting scientific research, so I am, justifiably, nervous. However, my lab has been extremely supportive and has helped me work on everything. I simply cannot thank my PI and everyone else in there enough. The other interns have not been shy in congratulating me and supporting me. Joking around with them and just having a good time altogether has really made this experience even more rewarding. So, for the final time, this is Nikhil Chakravarty, signing off.

“one big unit that works together to save lives”

By Jeremiah Fountain

As I finish up my last few weeks at the CIRM Spark program, I begin to realize what I anticipated coming in to this program is nothing that I envisioned. First of all, I thought this program would be really intense and all of the adults in the lab would be really strict. But it turned out to be a great stress free, loving environment where all of the interns could really learn and enjoy their time at the CIRM Spark program. What I loved the most about the program were the “field trips” we took to different parts of the Cedars-Sinai campus. It really shows how everything is connected and that Cedars is one big unit that works together to save lives. The idea of realizing that what we do in the CIRM Spark program could actually benefit someone else’s life is truly amazing.

I have learned so much from the past 7 weeks, from Immunocytochemistry (ICC) to western blots. An ICC is a common laboratory technique that is used to anatomically visualize the localization of a specific protein or antigen in cells by use of a specific primary antibody that binds to it. Western Blots which are sometimes called protein immunoblot is a widely used analytical technique used to detect specific proteins in a sample of tissue homogenate or extract.

I would like to make a special thanks to Anjoscha, Uthra, Andrew, Alexis and Prasanthi for helping me around the lab and teaching me new techniques and skills every day.

“the importance of bench-to-bedside research”

By Amanda Wu

Hello again!

Sadly, this will be my final blogpost for the remainder of the program as the seven weeks of my internship experience here at Cedars Sinai is coming to a close. Nevertheless, there’s so much to be excited about, especially the opportunity to present our research as well as observe that of other interns at the upcoming poster day at Cedars-Sinai and the CIRM conference in Berkeley.

Despite the countdown towards the end of this program, these past few weeks are still just as stimulating and insightful as the initial first few. In fact, some noteworthy occurrences other than my daily routine of cell counting and immunocytochemistry include a visit to our very own ALS clinic. To fully witness and comprehend the importance of bench-to-bedside research at Cedars-Sinai, we headed to the ALS clinic, where we were able to interact with patients and physicians alike in a more personal and direct manner. This opportunity to witness and partake in physician-patient interaction certainly widened my perspective about the clinical aspect of the medical field.

In addition to our visit to the ALS clinic, we also managed to fit a tour of Cedars Sinai’s imaging center into our schedule. As with the experience at the ALS clinic, the tour broadened my horizon with regards to the clinical facet of medicine as our guide explained the various types of imaging techniques and machinery utilized within research and patient treatment and diagnosis.

Along with our tour of the clinical facilities within the medical center, we also welcomed fellow high school students into the Regenerative Medicine Institute for Cedars Sinai’s own “Research Week.” During this week, we not only participated alongside the participants in various lab techniques including quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), but also learned about the various components of developing of a clinical trial before partaking in an activity to design our very own.

These last two weeks mark the final stretch for my cohort of internees and myself as we’re all bustling to complete our research projects so that we may finally present our findings to CIRM, fellow pupils, and others within the scientific sphere as well as hear about the intriguing research conducted by other students.

Since this is my very last blog post, I’d just like to thank CIRM and Cedars-Sinai for entrusting young minds and pupils like me and my colleagues with the opportunity to pursue scientific research.

Hopefully, this won’t be the last time you’ll hear from me in the scientific field.


“I will always be thankful for being a part of this program”

By Tania Perez

Sadly, my internship is coming to an end soon. When I first met with my mentor she said, “You will be here for a short period of time”. I thought to myself, “Really, it feels like a long time”. I’ve learned that being a researcher requires patience. The experiments for my project took a couple of weeks, so before I knew it I was close to the final week of my internship.

Right now, I’m working on my poster for poster presentation day at Cedars- Sinai Medical Center and University of California Berkeley. It’s a bit overwhelming but I’m sure everything will work out. I know that I should get the maximum use of my time more than ever since it’s almost over.

The people in my lab are really sweet, and I will forever appreciate them for taking their time to teach me. Since day one of my internship, they have been so supportive and patient with me. They are not only my mentors but my friends. At first, I was so scared that I would feel uncomfortable with them, but they have been great.

Throughout my internship I had the opportunity to hear the journeys of doctors that work at Cedars-Sinai. I also had the opportunity to visit the ALS clinic. I spent some time with an ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) patient and different healthcare professionals including a Neurologist and an Occupational Therapist from Cedars-Sinai who worked with ALS patients.  I didn’t know that so many avenues within the healthcare field existed that allow me to impact people’s lives every day. I will always be thankful for being a part of this program and being able to represent my Hispanic community, while showing that we can have a positive impact in the world.

“my memory of this summer shall stay with me for the longer years to come”

By Michael Fernandez

I’m rather sad that both my summer and internship are soon to come to an end. I would love to stay another couple of months or weeks even, to further learn more about retinal anatomy and physiology unfortunately, that would most likely not be the case. Nonetheless, I’ve learned more than what I’ve originally thought I would when I started this program. There’s been extra content and topics that I’ve learned about that is in great interest and relation towards the retinal anatomy and physiology such as the practical application of stem cells for retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Exosomes and other lines of stem cells have also been in my topic of interest, along with the lab. I’ve learned about the basics of cell culture and how to properly take care of stem cells. Histology and immunochemistry however, was my favorite part of this program, it was very useful for me to learn about if I were to apply for an internship with a lab some time later in a few years. Overall, this experience was rather positive for me, even though there were some negative events along the way such as technical issues but, those types of problems were pretty simple to solve. In the end, even though this program came to an end rather quickly, my memory of this summer shall stay with me for the longer years to come as my first internship in an actual lab.

“time flies when you’re having fun!”

By Eshanika Chaudhary

Hi everyone!  As I’m sure you all know, my group’s time at Cedars through CIRM is coming to an end, and all I can say is… time flies when you’re having fun!  Just kidding, I have to write like 600 words, so I’m going to have to elaborate a bit.  But seriously, I’m shocked at how quickly the past few weeks have gone by, which I guess proves I was having a really good time!  I’ve learned so much, met some really amazing people, and quite frankly I think I’ve matured as a person as well.

I was working on the video we’re making for the CIRM conference, and as I was putting it together it kind of dawned on me how lucky I am to have been a part of this program.  I mean, I’m in high school and I’m doing research in a cutting edge field in a cutting edge lab!  I got to do a lot of my own experiments, which I was thrilled about, including staining organ culture cells for imaging and running quantitative PCR (after also extracting the RNA and deriving the cDNA from it!), and I have a poster to show for it.  It was also really interesting to see how everything we do in research directly applies to people in need.  Personally, I’ve thought a lot about if research is for me because the thing I love most about medicine is the human aspect, and doing things like visiting the ALS clinic and hearing about clinical trials for other projects from my lab made me realize that I don’t have to give that up to pursue research and showed me how wide-reaching the effects of one lab’s research can be.

The next few months are going to be really busy for me with college applications and that, and I think that the experiences I’ve had here both in and out of the lab given me a lot to think about in terms of what I want to do with my future.  For example, I thought I would for sure apply to a combined undergrad/med program, but after talking to some MD/PhDs that I’ve met through my time here, I’m beginning to think that a combined MD/PhD program after I get my Bachelor’s might be a better fit for me.  I’m also getting a feel for the type of research I might be interested in now that I’ve had exposure to a wet-lab environment, and that’s definitely having a huge influence on my plans.

Overall, I think working in a real-life environment has given me a much more comprehensive and accurate idea of what it would be like to work in a lab, and while I’ve known I’ve wanted to do something related to science/medicine since a very early age, this program has gotten me very excited about research in particular.

“All good things must come to an end.”

By: Jennifer Siddique

The CIRM SPARK experience is truly one of a kind. I have been immersed into the world of research for six delightful weeks. As I approach my last week, I would like to reflect on my experience thus far.

The best way to appreciate the life of a scientific researcher is to follow their footsteps. After spending six weeks in this program, I can safely say that research is not easy. It takes hard work, dedication and patience… a lot of patience. You must love what you do in order to be a researcher.

Prior to this experience, I had very little knowledge regarding stem cells and the research side of science. I have heard of stem cell research before, but it was not until this CIRM SPARKS program that I was able to experience stem cell research firsthand. The unceasing efforts put into a single scientific project is remarkable. It takes a team of passionate researchers to make any scientific advancements.

One of my favorite moments during this summer internship has to be when I was finally able to do an ICC and use fluorescent microscopy on my coverslips without giving it a second thought. It became second nature to me. It took me a few weeks to become familiar with all of the steps of ICC and subsequent imaging but once I got it down, I felt like a true researcher. [Well, as true as a seventeen- year-old high school kid can be.]

Alysia, Ginger, Laura, Veronica- thank you. Without you, none of this would be possible.

With that said, I will forever be grateful for this experience. I do not know what I did to deserve to be a part of this program, but I am truly honored. I would like to think of it as simply being in the right place at the right time. I cannot believe that my last day as a CIRM SPARK researcher is nearby. As the saying goes…

All good things must come to an end.

“new path for my future career”

submitted by Tania Perez

I’m already on my fifth week of my internship, and it feels like just yesterday when I was so confused on the terminology my mentor was using. As the weeks have passed, I have learned so many amazing things. I’m surprised I even understand it! So far, we have done many trials of creating a biophysically dense in vitro microenvironment using inert macromolecules such as Ficoll which is supposed to accelerate extracellular matrix (ECM) production. We believe that creating native tissue-specific ECM may help to maintain the stemness of the cultured-limbal cells. We used immunostaining to compare the ECM production by these cells under dense vs. standard culture condition. I am so happy now because I know the immunostaining protocol by heart. Knowing this procedure is very important in most of the research labs, and I’m overjoyed I get to see it done so many times. Also, the results of my project seem pretty good.
Being a researcher is a tough job. There is a lot of waiting time periods with many unexplained results. What I like the most about research is that sometimes your outcomes cannot be predicted. Moments before viewing the results is the most terrifying and exciting time of the whole process. I feel myself cringing as I anxiously await for the best outcome. It may not be the way you expected but the remarkable thing about research is that you have the opportunity to change the results by altering certain factors. For example, I had the privilege of seeing the western blot procedure. For a couple of months my lab members had problems with western blot, but they troubleshot and finally got it to work. The moment they figure out the problem I realized the real power a researcher has! They are capable of thinking and experimenting new ways to prove their expected results. Sure, it took awhile to troubleshoot but along the way they learned so many new things. As a researcher, you are always learning. I had never considered being a researcher, but now I may be looking at a new path for my future career.

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