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Student Spotlights

Michelle: MMBio

Michelle Nischiguschi was part of a team at Penn State Medical Laboratory where she was trusted with tasks to complete for her post-doc mentor. Read about how much she loved her work here!

What was your internship experience?

My internship has been unbelievable. I did not realize coming into the internship that besides being able to do what I love, I would also be welcomed so warmly to the lab. Most of my internship I worked under a post-doc, Rinki, who was from India. She trusted me to perform a lot of her own experiments which provided me with a hands on learning experience. Because she trusted me to do what she asked of me, treating me as a fellow scientist, I felt empowered rather than unqualified.
The work we did was with Cytomegalovirus (CMV). In particular, we were trying to determine the function and interactions of a CMV protein that has limited coverage in the literature. I was involved in every aspect of Rinki’s project. I worked in cell culture, propagated and harvested virus, imaged samples with the confocal microscope, ran RT-PCR and many western blots, was involved with much of the DNA cloning process and much more. We had some promising results, but this work is still in it’s infancy and so no major breakthroughs were made. Despite this I learned so many important things about working in a lab that I can take with me as I move on to graduate school next fall.

What did you learn during this experience?

I learned how vital it is in research to keep an organized and detailed lab notebook. Not every day follows exactly from the previous one. If you do not document everything you do, you will have no idea where you left off or what you need to do next. In science, troubleshooting is absolutely critical! If you do not known what you did, you will not be able to fix it the next time. There were plenty of times that others in the lab (or I myself) referred to my notebook to find out what I had done or where I had put a particular sample. Because of this, I really focused throughout my internship on keeping my notebook current and as exhaustive as possible in preparation for a more unassisted research experience in grad school.

Which courses helped prepare you for this experience?

Everything that I have learned in my microbiology classes at BYU was somehow related to what I did at Penn State. I was very nervous at first before I arrived for my internship because I had some, but not extensive lab experience. A number of scientific protocols take advantage of the basic molecular mechanisms that we learn about in our classes to obtain a result. It was an easy jump to learn to perform the protocols and learn how they work with the textbook knowledge I already had. I learned to think critically about research in the classroom so that I could be critical and questioning of any scientific research I do.
Many times during my internship I intentionally was able to perform a procedure knowing what type of result I wanted to receive.
I was also able to reflect on some of the results I had received from certain experiments and try to draw conclusions about them and determine how they relate to other results I had previously obtained.
As I spoke of in a previous question, from my microbiology classes, I was able to integrate what I had learned in the classroom to the research I was doing in order to ask appropriate questions.

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Michelle when she was working with magnetic beads in order to perform a pull-down for their protein of interest. She thought it was so cool!
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From left to right, Lab members: Nick (graduate student), Praneet (graduate student), Natalie (lab technician), me, Ally (lab technician), and Rinki (post-doc who Michelle worked under most of the time!). They ordered Indian food one day from a fantastic place in Mechanicsburg called Banana Leaf and all had lunch together!