CURF #3: A Reflection of What Research at Pitt is Like

The world of research is a perfect combination of exciting and enigmatic. There are many days where you head into the lab not knowing what the outcome of your experiments will be but that’s what makes it exciting. One of the key parts about research I have learnt from my time here is it requires being extremely organized. There are many times where data from the lab is only analyzed almost 1-2 months after the experiment was run so it is crucial to know what cell lines are used in these experiments as well as what concentrations of solvents were used. Having notes about these are essential for data analysis but also for further optimizing the experiment. For example, we work with antibodies a lot which are used in staining to identify proteins of interest. These antibodies cost more than $300 for a vial of 100 micrograms. So keeping notes about what concentrations were used helps us keep track of how much was left as well as if we can reduce the concentration we use so more can be saved. 

I have spent 8 semesters doing research at this institution in various labs and departments and the similarity amongst it all has been the ability to apply content we learn in the classroom and the real world. As time has gone by, I have often realized I can ask even my professors about some experiments and how to further improve them. I have been fortunate to have professors who have engaged with me on how to further optimize and improve my projects. For example, as part of writing my honors thesis for the bio dept I have been fortunate to learn about softwares such as Biorender which make explaining an experimental model much easier. Another great resource I have had at my disposal is access to most journals and articles. Many times, when you go to access scholarly work you have to pay for it, but the University provides us with access to most of the journals and articles that are on the internet today free of charge which is a huge benefit as it allows me to read and review as many sources as I would like. 

As my CURF project and my time at Pitt draws to a close I hope to stay in touch with my PI and further discuss what the next steps for my project would be. I have certain ideas as to what I would like to pursue next regarding my research but that has to be approved by my PI and then passed onto a new undergrad! 

The image above was made by Dr. Anita Saraf MD PhD (my PI) using biorender, the software I had mentioned earlier. Such a schematic is extremely useful to describe the NOTCH1 protein and how it is transmembrane and consists of an intracellular domain (NICD) and an extracellular domain. Images such as the one shown above are preferred much more than words as its much easier to visualize the protein structure and how it might regulate transcription of hairy enhancer of split genes (HES).

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