12. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: PhD

I am back in Boston after taking the longest vacation of my adult life. I spent two entire weeks in Florida, my home state, after the end of the spring semester. In undergrad and in optometry school, I was always doing something over the summers—classes, a work-study job, lab rotations, etc. I love student life, but you work very hard with minimal time off. For example, at NECO between the end of second year (spring) and the start of third year (summer), there is an infamous one day break, which is the Sunday between your last exam on Saturday and your new clinic orientation on Monday. So after completing my third year at NECO, in celebration of the end of my optometric courses, I took an extended vacation and it was lovely.

I separated my time in Florida among Tampa, Anna Maria, Orlando, Lakeland, and even Tavares. I got to see my family, celebrate my best friend’s birthday, and celebrate my dad’s birthday. I could not have asked for better weather, better company, or better food. I made sure to get in a healthy dosing of fried chicken, sweet tea, and waffle fries.

But I have to admit, I was ready to come back to Boston by the end of my break. I love that I live in a walking city. I love the sense of community here and I love all the inviting cafes. Moving to Boston from Florida is the biggest change I have made in my life thus far, and I love it.

There are many differing opinions on change. Some welcome it, some ask for it, and some deny, deny, deny, until they cannot deny the change any longer. But of course, we all agree that change is inevitable. Not surprisingly, the world of research also plays by the rules. In fact, change is the goal of research. Scientists are adding to the foundation of knowledge, facilitating further experimental studies, and improving the quality of life for humans.

In my modest research career thus far, I have recently hit a swivel in the road. I am one week into a brand new lab rotation. This lab rotation is a far jump from my zebrafish, as now I am literally looking into human tissue. I am studying the hippocampus, a small area deep in the brain that functions in memory. More specifically, I’m looking at histological sections of the hippocampal neurons and their protein expression. I am learning the new technique of imaging tissue and carrying out analysis of the protein expression. Luckily, I am working with a very helpful PhD student who has experience in imaging.

Why are we looking at protein expression in the hippocampus? In research, you are always looking for patterns. We have tissue samples from “normal” controls and from patients who had Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Throughout the imaging and analysis, we are blind to which tissue came from which type of patient, but after we have our data, we will look for patterns that can separate out the AD samples from the controls. Any significant differences in the protein expression we find may be biomarkers for AD and/or reveal novel pathological mechanisms involved in AD. Of course, the long-term goal is to help treat people who have or will develop AD and aid in early detection.

My new lab rotation is a nice change of pace after a refreshing trip home. I am very fortunate to be in this city with many opportunities to work beside brilliant scientists. My next steps are to tackle these new lab techniques and immerse myself into the huge amount of information on AD that already exists. Hopefully I will be adding to the collection of knowledge on this disease, creating positive changes for others.