Dennis Portillo

Blog Entry 1:

As I write this entry, the first week of the CIRM/ SPARK internship is rearing its head and is drawing towards a close. It’s amazing at how seven days ago prior to today, I was in bed confronting self-induced butterflies seemingly sprouting in my stomach. While that statement is nowhere near scientifically correct, it was a clash of nerves and excitement that were playing a game of seesaw internally. Flash toward to today, and while part of me is looking forward to sleeping in for the first time this week (yes, it’s summeritus), the other half of me is astounded at how fast this week has gone by. The expression of time flies when you’re having fun seems applicable here, with that being appropriate in regards to learning and meeting new faces.

Doing research outside of school has always been something that I’ve been looking forward to since the beginning of high school. While most are enjoying their summer by traveling or going out, my summer consists of spending a little over six hours in a laboratory, learning about topics that I barely knew existed. In school, my favorite subject has always been biology simply because it has been the one subject I have enjoyed reading further beyond the given course material. However, one thing that I never really got to experience was doing actual lab work. Going to Hamilton High School, the science courses that I have taken were generally more orientated toward lectures. Sure, some dissections came around once a year, but being the little nerd that I am, I wanted more. However, I still didn’t know what to expect in terms of what I was going to be doing, let alone what any of these published papers meant. With the help of Nur and Veronica, however, those nerves have been quelled, with them making every step of the way easier. Both so far have been patient while teaching, as well as being very nice, with the plan to learn as much from them, as well as get to know them more throughout the coming weeks. The entire Svendsen lab has treated me the same way, whether it be other post-docs or interns. Under Nur so far, I have learned more about a gene called BRCA1 and its role in DNA repair, whereas, under Veronica, it was geared more towards neuron activity and how electrodes can be used to record activity. Playing the role of data analysis, they both have emphasized many points, such as the stressing of asking questions, as well as the importance of communicating, while putting the “re” in research. On top of that, they’ve also taken a bunch of measures to make sure I still have all ten digits.

The CIRM/ SPARK program so far has been different from other internships that I have done, granted this being the only research one. With what I have learned so far, whether it be working with waveforms and sorting spikes to capturing pictures of cells with different fluorescent markers, it has only made me enjoy research more. Obviously, I can’t wait to work more hands on, but those days will be here sooner than expected, and by the end of the program, the main goal is to make sure I don’t lose Veronica’s very expensive program key, as well as learn as much as I can in regards to information on a topic and lab protocol/techniques.

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