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Undergraduate Research


Dr. Layden was new at the Lehigh University Department of Biological Sciences and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get some hands on research outside of the classroom. I immediately emailed him to get a position in the lab before all the positions were filled, like they were in most other labs. He scheduled a meeting with me and sent me two very dense publications to read before the meeting. Little does he know that I did not fully understand the publications before our meeting. At our meeting, I had no idea what he was saying but I kept nodding my head to make it seem as if I wasn’t an idiot…but I actually was an idiot. Three years later, I can guarantee you that I am far from an idiot. Working in the lab was demanding, and Dr. Layden pushed me way past what I thought were my limits. I learned a lot, ranging from lab skills to communication skills to just life skills in general.

On my first day of my lab, I had the splendid opportunity to meet Caitlin Tedeschi. Initially I didn't think we were going to get along. However, over the next few weeks of feeding animals, changing water in the bowls, organizing the newly opened lab, Caitlin and I grew really close to each other and I am proud to call her one of my best friends to this day …even though we fight every time we see each other.

The next undergraduate to join the lab was Courtney Turiano. She was very quiet for the first few days and did not talk much to me and Caitlin, but once again, the tables had turned within a few weeks and the three of us stuck together like the Three Musketeers. We really miss her :(

I grew close to a lot of the other people who joined the lab as well such as Caitlin 2.0, Jamie, Dylan, and Nisha but I won’t talk too much about them because this blog post will be endless. Jamie is like the mom in the lab. She is always looking out for all of us and has the solution for everything. I would not be where I am without her help and support. Dylan’s Santa Claus laugh and conversations with Nisha during our lunch breaks make any in situ filled day much better.

During my time in the lab, I have learned how to clone genes through the use of PCR, gel electrophoresis, ligation, transformation, plating, mini-prep, and sequencing. I have also learned how to perform mRNA in situ hybridizations, qPCR analyses, and microinjections. After hundreds of hours of research, I have successfully confirmed multiple targets of the Delta signaling pathway. We can use the data from these experiments to generate preliminary mechanistic models for the function of Delta signaling during cellular differentiation. We plan to test these models in future functional experiments. My hope is that we can use our mechanistic understanding of Delta signaling to better treat aggressive tumors by developing therapeutic targets for genomic therapy. While radiation and chemotherapy have saved the lives of millions of people suffering from cancer, some of the side effects of these treatments can be unpleasant. Advances in genomic therapy have the potential to provide patients with fast, efficient, and harmless treatments. With a belief that medicine treats patients of the present and research treats patients of the future, I thought it was important to incorporate the research aspect into my academic career to supplement my overall passion for medicine. Working in a research lab has allowed me to build upon my time-management, communication, and problem-solving skills through time-consuming experiments, weekly meetings, poster presentations, and grant proposal submissions. I will use the skills I have learned in Dr. Layden’s lab to provide the best care to my patients in my future career as a physician.

I presented my research at the Society for Developmental Biology National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts using funding from the Robert Langer-Neal Simon Award. I was awarded the Robert Langer-Neal Simon Award to help fund my research and travel expenses for a conference. Robert Langer is one of the world’s most widely recognized researchers in biotechnology. He is known for isolating the first angiogenesis inhibitor, which has played a role in saving millions of lives. I am honored to have received funding from him.

Despite our stress filled days in the lab, we all get by with a little help from each other (and a lot of help from Jamie). The everyday, odd, random jokes and the lab dinners/barbecues make lab life worth living.

Thanks Dr. Layden for your continued support and guidance and for accepting this idiot into your lab!

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