Angela Nicholson

Biochemistry '14

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The night before arriving at MIT, I was filled with excitement at the upcoming summer. But I was also filled with fear. I was about to walk into a situation where there were many bright minds and I didn't know what to expect from a place so revered.

My first week at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research was daunting, the second week, difficult, but pretty soon I discovered that with curiosity and a determination to learn, I was aptly fitted for this environment. The encouragement I had received from professors at Biola University reassured me that I was prepared for this. My coursework there had exposed me to concepts that form the foundation of scientific research.

This summer has proved invaluable to me for many reasons. I was able to see firsthand what the life of a scientific researcher is like. I got to know the postdocs and hear what path they had taken to arrive at MIT. Additionally, listening to other professors during our weekly meetings allowed me to hear from people outside of my department and sometimes outside of MIT. Becoming more aware of the routes that scientists have taken after their undergraduate training helped me to gain a broader perspective on my options following my upcoming graduation from Biola.

Through working in Dr. Yingxi Lin's laboratory, I had the opportunity to learn many new techniques during my time there. I used whole cell patch clamp electrophysiology and calcium imaging for the majority of my research. Additionally, I ran contextual fear conditioning as well as brain dissections and sectioning. The postdoc who I worked with always taught me the reasoning and background to any technique I was using, which enabled me to gain much more knowledge than if I was only taught the mechanics of what to do. By seeing my own project come to completion, from initial testing to final data analysis, I feel empowered to tackle another more difficult project in the future. Without this summer research program, I would not have that confidence.

Another beneficial resource of the program is the preparation for graduate school that it provides. I spoke with many faculty at MIT regarding their opinions on graduate school and applications. Their insight will shape the approach I take when I apply. Additionally, I have a better idea of what graduate school will be like because of the way this program immerses you in that environment, where graduate students are working as well.

The MIT Summer Research Program has shaped my perspective on research and given me the right set of circumstances to explore if I am ready for graduate school. With the program coming to a close, I have realized that this summer has given me a launching board to reach a higher po- tential. It has enabled me not only to develop valuable labora- tory skills but also to personally explore this field further and refine my interests. Without the encouragement of faculty at Biola, I would have never applied for this program. I am truly grateful for their dedication and willingness to help students the opportunities ahead of them.