Thursday, April 23, 2015

URSP Student Neha Bansal Researches the Rift Valley Fever Virus

I started working full-time at Dr. Kylene Kehn-Hall’s lab through Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program in summer 2014. What really attracted me to Dr. Kehn-Hall’s lab was her research with Rift Valley Fever Virus (RVFV). Her lab is a part of National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University, where many infectious diseases pathogens are studied. RVFV can be used for bioterrorism; hence, an effective therapeutic is urgently needed to prevent the spread of this disease. We discovered a FDA-approved drug that significantly inhibits the virus. My project is to find the target or mechanism of that drug.

I conduct lot of experiments such as tissue culture, Western blot, transfection, infection and plaque assay on weekly basis. Studies with mammalian cells and virus are performed in a biosafety hood to prevent contamination and bacterial infestation. The most important thing while working in lab is to have patience and follow the procedure carefully because many experiments take an entire week to complete. A small misstep may cause starting the entire experiment over, which can greatly delay the results.
Every day, I learn something new – something that I discovered through my experiments, a new technique that I learned in the lab or learning through my mistakes. There is never a dull moment for me, and I am very excited to see the end result of the studies I am conducting. Working in Dr. Kehn-Hall’s lab made me realize the importance of research in society. I also realized how much I enjoy being in the lab, and this is what I want for my career. I am interested in pursuing infectious diseases research in graduate school, so the experience I gain in the lab right now will be extremely helpful to me later. Undergraduate Student Scholars Program has provided me an opportunity to stay in Dr. Kehn-Hall’s lab to finish my project, and develop some useful lab techniques that would benefit me in future as well.