Thursday, May 5, 2016

URSP Student Megan Harbour Tests the Effects of Heavy Metal on Molecular Structures

There are two fields that have always fascinated me: psychology and the chemistry behind it. As a combination of both, neuroscience was the perfect mix for me. Even better, I learned there were many different types of fields which all conduct different forms of research. From evolutionary to cognitive neuroscience, the variance between subfields is surprisingly broad. I originally sought out research in Dr. Flinn’s lab to test the waters and determine which subject would be a good fit for me. I’ve been trying to decide what subfield to go into, and while I’ve been leaning towards behavioral and molecular neuroscience, research has given me a way to experience both. Dr. Flinn focuses on a combination of this, testing the effects of heavy metal on molecular structures, such as tau tangles, which which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and the changes in behavior that inevitably, occur. For me, this project was not only a way to gain experience, but a way to make sure I was on the right path while still being able to help find solutions to a problem that plagues our community.

I have also learned that even projects that seem simple have a lot happening behind the scenes, inside and outside of the lab. While my project tests for memory deficits using Novel Object Recognition, this behavioral test is only run every month or so, and there’s so much that happens on a weekly basis. Usually, I help to socialize mice by going in for handling a couple hours each week. I trouble shoot software analysis methods for trials, and conduct data analysis on what we have already collected from early cohorts.  Additionally, I help as a research assistant for other Researchers projects within Dr. Flinn’s lab. Because of how involved this project is, I have learned vast amounts of about the inner workings of a lab. Just this week I learned more about how specific behavioral tests are run, and immunohistochemical stains that can pick up tau tangles in the brain and make them easier to visualize. Overall this semester long project has helped to learn more about research methods and how I can make a difference in my field.