MISTRE broadens student's horizons

MISTRE broadens student's horizons

MISTRE broadens student's horizons

Brittany Mangas- first MISTRE participant

Microbiology and Immunology Summer Transitional Research Experience (MISTRE)

Brittany Mangas- 2016

 When I applied for the Microbiology and Immunology Summer Transitional Research Experience at the University of Louisville several months ago, I had no idea what to expect coming into the program. My knowledge in the sciences was fairly limited in high school, and the opportunity to expand that was overwhelmingly exciting. What I was even less prepared for, however, was how much I would truly end up learning in these eight weeks in more fields than I imagined.

During the summer, I was mentored by Neal Bhutiani, a surgical resident in the process of working towards a Ph.D. Neal was very patient in explaining what it was he was doing specifically in his own experiments, as well as teaching me techniques and necessary lab skills I would need later in life. By the end of the first week, I was able to successfully create a useable gel to run a polymerase chain reaction. At the end of the eight weeks, I am now able to run the reaction from start to finish on my own, as well as analyze the results to pick out which mice show positive and which show negative under the U.V. lamp.

Not only was I able to gain experience in something I will likely be doing later on in my schooling, but Neal allowed me to participate in things I was curious about. I helped grow bacteria, stain slides, and use different microscope techniques, such as confocal, to view them. Many of these things are more advanced than what I will be exposed to during undergraduate school, making them that much more interesting to see.

All my life, I have set a clear path that headed straight towards Neuroscience. Because of this, I never took the time to open my mind to other fields of science that are just as interesting. Immunology was definitely a hard topic to grasp, and that only covers the basics! This field would take several lifetimes to master, but I have loved every second of trying this summer. I began by studying the differences between the innate and adaptive immune system, and then moved on to cell types and functions. I spent a lot of time focusing on several T-cell populations, including TH1, TH2 and TH17 cells, as well as CD8 T-cells. After further explanation from Neal, I began to understand the concept of cytokines and receptors involved in these cells that allow the immune system to work as intended. I spent some time reading different sections in Dr. Eglimez’s Immuno-biology textbook, aiding me as both a source of knowledge and preparation. As I have mentioned, my previous teachings in biology were very limited, and there were several things Neal sat down to review with me that I did not grasp on my own. By the end of every work day, I had learned a new concept in Immunology.

I spent some time at the University outside of this lab and inside another, working with primarily microbiology. Working alongside Ashley Best, I washed bacteria and removed it from various suspensions in order to run it through a PCR, eventually to extract it from the gel. Working with Ashley showed me a much different side to this program, one that I enjoyed just as much. Looking at similar things through different perspectives aided me in grasping wide concepts in science.

Flow was another vital part of my summer in the program. I spent a day with Bob Miller reviewing Flow Cytometry after spending time on my own looking over some material. He opened the machine and explained how the laser functions as well as how the data is processed in the machine and displayed on the computer. Forward scatter and side scatter are measured, determining the type of cell that is found based on complexity and size. After working with Bob, I had a better understanding of the variety of methods that need to be used in the lab to obtain the information you need in order to successfully run an experiment.

Perhaps my favorite part of MISTRE was working with the mice. Although I was not allowed to experiment with them myself, I was able to watch Neal perform the most important part of his project in person. I was able to see the foundation for genotyping from start to finish, and learned how testing as “positive” or “negative” comes into play when it is time for breeding. In addition, having a personal experience with animal testing will help me defend how essential it truly is for humankind throughout my life. Neal taught me many regulations during my time in the turnaround and barrier that will make sure I am safely working with animals when it is time to do research on my own further in my career. These include maintaining the cages, checking for signs of discomfort in the animal, proper weaning, and how perform tail snips to be able to accurately genotype.

Working with Neal for the duration of this program has been an enlightening experience. Not only was I able to learn about the workings of immunology, but I gained knowledge that will help me in all aspects of life. These include proper time management, successful interactions with peers, and even balancing school and work.  Having already completed medical school, he was able to teach me many things that would be beneficial to me to know over the next eight years of my life, as well as equip me with diagrams and websites to navigate successfully in science.

Overall, this summer has been the most eventful one yet. I have learned more in these eight weeks than I have in an entire year of high school. I gained tremendous interest in research, and have a new acceptance for the idea of exploring as many fields of science as possible- Neuroscience may not be for me. Spending a summer in a lab may not seem exciting to the average American teenager, but I would not have wanted to do anything else. I am appreciative for the opportunity to participate this year, and hope the program continues for many years to come.