Summary Post: Goodbye My (Feathered) Friends

It has been almost two months since I finished my summer research project, and I am just now posting my summary post, but better late than never, right?


Overall, my summer research experience was a positive one- my lab partner and I worked out a lot of unforseen roadblocks, were able to use sophisticated RNA extraction methods, and spent a healthy amount of time hanging out in trees (see attached photo). At the beginning of the summer, I thought I had a clear picture of how the summer was going to go: I expected to continue to collect embryonic tissue from control and mercury eggs, extract RNA from those embryos, and then send off our RNA samples to get sequenced by the end of the summer. Boy was I wrong! We did continue to collect samples from control eggs, but as I’ve mentioned many times now, those mercury eggs never appeared, despite all my wishes, prayers, blood sacrifices, etc. We did extract RNA from our samples, but that was not nearly as simple as I had been expecting. We had to tweak the concentrations of our reagents, adjust our gel protocols, try alternative extraction methods, and ultimately add in a DNase treatment after much debate. In retrospect, I am SO glad that I decided to apply for this summer research grant, because without this crucial summer period of all-research, all-the-time, I don’t think this work would ever have the slightest chance of getting published, considering how many unforeseen issues arose and required our full attention. 


By the time I left campus at the end of June, my lab partner and I had collected countless tissue samples and extracted RNA from around 50 samples (not including those that we treated with DNase). That’s a LOT, especially considering that each RNA extraction run takes around 2.5-3.5 hours! On top of that, we got tons of experience working through issues through trial and error and digging through the literature, built relationships with the faculty members advising us on our project, performed mercury analysis on our samples on the DMA machine, and truly got a sense of what doing research as a career could be like. Now that we are back on campus, the hope is to get our samples packed up and shipped off to be sequenced in the next week or so, work on data analysis when we get our results back, and then write up our paper to be published! Exciting stuff!