Blog Entry 1:
My name is Kevin Kim, and I am a rising senior at Loyola High School in Los Angeles. Along with my mentor Dr. Alex Ljubimov, Ph.D., I am working in the Regenerative Medicine Institute under the eight-week CIRM SPARK grant/program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, located in the heart of Los Angeles. I applied for and came into this program not knowing a single thing about formal academic research, often holding onto the childlike misconception of evil scientists cooped in a dark, dreary lab with tubes and strange concoctions everywhere; however, I knew that biological and medical research and endeavors were my passion, and I always had wanted to discover for myself the link between music and neuronal/emotional response and patterns. However, I was heavily unfamiliar with any research component or formality. By the time I applied and was accepted into this program, the only exposure to the hospital (and Cedars-Sinai) environment was the clinical patient buildings.
I was accepted and assigned to the Eye program, focusing on corneal regeneration and the role of different proteins and gene therapy methods in aiding the cure/progression from blindness or eye wounds or issues rooting from diabetes – a complex idea that I initially and admittedly had no interest in. I was so focused on my fascination with the brain that I didn’t fathom that my experience in this newly assigned department would be interesting, or even useful.
Clearly, I was wrong. With the help of two illustrious, courteous, and knowledgeable researchers, I was able to attain a true perspective of what goes on in a real lab, which clearly is not the bubbling concoctions and dark rooms, while having true exposure to all lab equipment, solutions, and procedures such as fume hood safety and work, making PBS solution, and reading scientific journals. In fact, on my third day of interning, a pair of corneas from a postmortem donor with long-term diabetes arrived at the lab, prompting a procedure that included learning about the anatomy and layers of the cornea and the observation of the postdoctoral researcher committing to primary limbal epithelial cell isolation.
My impressions have certainly taken a turn from skeptical thoughts to complete fascination with the wonders of the eye and cornea, and I certainly do hope for more opportunities for hands-on work.