My interests include playing the piano and running cross-country. Also, I enjoy writing short stories and music in my spare time. My greatest interests, however, are my deep curiosity about molecular biology and genomics and my passion for protecting the environment. In college I plan to pursue genomic research and become a medical practitioner through an MD-PhD. degree, which will enable me to help people in two ways: I will physically treat ill people while also working to find solutions to the diseases they face every day. Also, I hope to spread awareness about the deterioration of ecosystems and the environment as well as advocate for grassroots efforts and campaigns to stop the decline in its tracks.
My DRI experience was amazing and very pertinent to these interests, exposing me to lab research methods on a topic I deeply care about. I began by filling out all my paperwork and successfully completing all the introductory online courses: computer and internet safety, sexual harassment, “deemed” exports, workplace safety, and lab safety. After, I toured the DRI campus. I saw Ecopods (containers easily manipulated for growing plants under different conditions), the mixed algal consortia raceway in the greenhouse (which I later would base my experiment off), and Dr. Christian H. Fritsen’s lab. His lab was absolutely incredible. My projects included research on diatoms to account for certain storage lipid sizes under certain conditions. I analyzed photos, constructed a times series, and made a logarithmic regression to present this information.
I found that storage lipids are larger when they are deprived of nutrients and recognized that if scientists could harness their energy, a potentially new biofuel could be created. Additionally, I learned laboratory skills such as preparing and dyeing slides for microscopy, taking fluorimeter readings, and analyzing the cells with the computer software Image Pro Plus. In the microscopy lab, I used specifically DIC light microscopy and EPI fluorescence microscopy to study the diatoms’ storage lipid bodies and cyanobacteria cells. The EPI fluorescence microscopy was particularly exciting, because the storage lipids lit up in such a way that it was like looking at hundreds of stars in the sky. Also, I met other co-workers and learned quite a bit about professional research.
I worked at DRI twice a week for two hours each day with Dr. Christian H. Fritsen as my mentor. He taught me new laboratory techniques and how to place my data in the context of his larger experiment. Under his guidance, I became more independent in my work and expanded my mind to think critically and more deeply about how small aspects of the environment, such as cyanobacteria and diatoms, behave under certain conditions and can potentially affect the greater world. Additionally, I produced a poster to show my work and had the opportunity to display it at a graduate-level social event. Overall, my internship was an extremely enriching experience, and it was incredible to have had an opportunity of this scale while still in high school. I am extremely grateful that Mentors sponsored my hands-on lab experience and research, which truly enabled me to take learning beyond the classroom setting.