Thinking back on my experiences with CURF, it is undeniable that I have significantly improved my skills as a researcher. Throughout my time in the Brodsky lab, my research has pushed me to learn several new protocols and techniques. Among these, I was given the opportunity to learn various new computational, molecular, and biochemical lab techniques in order to select, clone, and express 17 different pre-existing human missense variants in the Renal Outer Medullary Potassium (ROMK) channel protein and subsequently assess their functional impact and stability in a yeast model, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Beyond this, I have also learned the sheer importance of persistence, flexibility, and patience while approaching the numerous challenges that often accompany scientific research.
Although I have been working on my particular project for the past three years, it’s safe to say that each stage of research comes with its own unique set of difficulties. Initially, I began working in the Brodsky lab as a lab aide, with almost no prior lab experience. As the only freshman in the lab at the time, I can recall feeling extremely overwhelmed and intimidated at first; however, I quickly learned to lean on my research mentor and fellow undergraduate researchers throughout the process. Although the learning curve felt steep at times, I found it especially helpful to ask questions as frequently as possible. To this day, I would still consider my teachers, peers, and mentors my most valuable resources as I continue to grow as a researcher. Ultimately, my most important realization from this past semester is that communication and collaboration are both the most vital tools when taking on a seemingly overwhelming research project.
As my experience with the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship draws to its conclusion, I plan to utilize the knowledge I have gained from the CURF experience to continue my investigation of Bartter’s disease-causing mutations in ROMK. Specifically, in the upcoming spring semester, I will continue to perform cycloheximide chase assays and western blot assays to further assess the stability of a subset of the original 17 ROMK variants. Moreover, I will also begin writing my senior honors thesis with the ultimate hope of graduating with honors in Biological Sciences at the end of this academic school year. In the more distant future, I also hope to attend a genetic counseling graduate school program, where I will continue to utilize my scientific skills to make a positive impact on the patient community. Overall, my journey to becoming a researcher has been a positive one in more ways than one, and I will strive to apply the skills I have gained throughout my CURF experience in all of my future scientific endeavors.