My Neuroscience Research Internship with the University of Iowa

Over the summer, I worked remotely with a neuroscience research laboratory at the University of Iowa. I spent most of my time working on a project which was closely supervised by the lab manager. The goal of the project was to identify genes that contribute to structural brain abnormalities present in Autism Spectrum Disorder and similar neurodevelopmental disorders in mouse models. To do this, we had to overlay gene expression data with MRI data of the structural abnormalities related to the neurodevelopmental disorders. This process involved a lot of coding to get the images to perfectly line up, but luckily the lab manager was eager to help me develop my previously nonexistent coding skills. 

The photo shows the resulting overlay, with the MRI brain structure data underneath of the colorful gene expression data. After running statistical analyses on all of the genes that we analyzed, we seem to have found a group of genes that are working together to cause the structural brain abnormalities.

After finishing the project, I was told I had to present my results to a laboratory in Germany! Apparently we had gotten our MRI data from them and they remained interested in how our analyses turned out. The extreme dedication to my growth as a scientist by the laboratory I was working with turned out to go further than I expected. They wanted to push me to lead this presentation on my own, even knowing that I had minimal knowledge on the topic as an undergraduate student. I am very grateful they did so, because now I will be much more confident when I am put in a similar situation down the road.

Overall, the experience was better than I could have expected, especially being that it was remote. I would definitely recommend using your Wheaton Edge Funding to participate remotely in a research laboratory if possible as it is free work for them and you get to learn so much.