This summer I had the opportunity to intern at the Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program specifically in the Stem Cell institute at the Yang Lab. Before the program even started, I had no idea there was such a thing as using stem cells for regenerative medicine or what cardiomyocytes were. I had taken a Biology class and knew the basic functions of a cell however, I did not know beyond this.
I remember the first day clearly, everyone in my institute was so nice as well as the people in my lab. I remember being handed a packet on a topic of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs). I sat there. Reading. I had no idea what the first sentence meant and I felt overwhelmed with the terminology as I kept reading. Fortunately, my mentor, Michelle, was able to explain everything in a way that would make sense to me.
I recall Michelle talking to me about this “universal cell” that they were able to find from the umbilical cord in order to repair a damaged heart and suddenly I was amazed about how promising stem cells can be for regenerative medicine. Then, she started to explain that once the amniotic cells were injected in the heart, unfortunately the cells wouldn’t survive for long. I was so interested in knowing the mechanism of this different type of cell and how they were able to repair injuries.
As I was learning how to change the media for the cells, pipet, and so forth I kept reading packet after packet wanting to learn more and more about what experiments have been conducted by different researchers and what was successful and unsuccessful. I enjoyed learning all these different techniques researchers would also use as well as understanding how things connect together like iPSCs and cardiomyocytes (iCMs) and exosomes.
The most challenging part of this program was being able to learn the different terminology and being able to keep up in the lab meeting when people presented the work they have done in a course of a week. The people in my lab were so nice about explaining everything out so that I would understand but I realized the more I kept seeing the same words in reading packets or presentations I was able to understand more clearly and eventually be more comfortable in understanding with what they would present.
Now that the program is coming close to an end, I realized research specifically in medicine is not something I would want to pursue as a career. Though medicine is not my area of interest in research, now that I know more about stem cell therapy, I know it is something I would want to keep up with to see what improvements or challenges have been overcome to repair cardiac function. I am still interested in the idea of becoming a doctor because I love helping people and problem solving. This type of research is fascinating but I know it is something I am not passionate about. I am grateful to have been given this opportunity, to work in a lab full of intelligent motivated researchers who I was able to learn so much from.
My family as well is so appreciative that I had the chance to work at a research lab because not many opportunities are out there for students to have a hands-on experience. They are proud of what I have learned in a course of 8 weeks and would encourage many who already know research in medicine is something they are excited about, to apply.