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This summer I got to work with a student as part of the FSF summer student program. I have never taken part of a summer research program and have never directly worked with a student who was partaking in a summer research program, so I had zero expectations or assumptions going into this summer. This program includes students who are admitted or enrolled into an accredited veterinary program in the Unites States. Needless to say, the research experience of those that enroll can range from never stepping foot inside of a research laboratory to those who have spent years in research either at the undergraduate or graduate level. I’ve spent about a year and half here at the lab learning new skills and techniques, ranging from cell culture to a simple blood draw via tail stick, and now it was time to put those new skills to the test. The student we were assigned had a lot of small animal experience but never had experience with large animals, including bovine; they also had no past research experience. This meant I was provided with the unique opportunity of teaching a student a completely new set of skills in a short period of time, with my newly acquired skills. The extent of which I got to teach our student includes proper bovine management, blood collection via tail vein, proper laboratory techniques (ranging from lab safety to basic pipetting),cell isolation, cell culture, and a variety of assays using either flow cytometry or plate readers. On top of all this, I was also learning these specific assays for the first time and learning how to isolate neutrophils, as these were our target cells for the project. This provided another unique challenge of both learning and teaching at the same time.
It was slow at first as finding the best method for neutrophil isolation proved difficult, although we were able to complete our goal. Then, we moved on to validating our assays with our target cells. This also was a long project as it required us to master each assay to ensure we could replicate it later on in the project. However, by the time we finished validating our neutrophil isolation, treatment groups, and assays, the summer had come and gone. We were able to completely validate all that needed to be validated but sadly could not finish to the point of final results. I believe this summer was a learning experience for both me and our summer student as they got to learn a lot about laboratory science and research, and they certainly learned a lot about cows, whereas I got to assume a leadership role where I both taught a student entirely new skills while I also learned new skills myself. My final comments on this experience was that it was a unique learning opportunity that proved to be very difficult, as it required very quick learning and interpreting as well as a great deal of patience, but in the end it greatly expanded my skillset and leadership skills.
Picture of the lab with the summer student