Hello! My name is Rebecca Beuschel. I am a junior Biology and Neuroscience student working in the Grant Lab at the Science and Technology campus. My project is a branch of the main IPF project, which is focused on discovering the possible causes of the terminal lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). I have been a part of this project since August 2016. This semester, my project focuses on looking at contraction patterns of collagen, a structural protein in the extracellular matrix, in both normal lung fibroblasts and fibroblasts from patients with IPF. The focus is on the expression levels of multiple proteins, including PLOD, which is involved in collagen contraction.
I initially got interested in this project after taking cell biology with Dr. Grant during my first semester at Mason. I expressed interest in working to discover if I wanted to go to medical school or to focus on research and graduate school. She gave me the opportunity to work in her lab for the Spring 2016 semester and both train and get a taste for the IPF project. I’ve been working on this project with the other members of the Grant Lab ever since.
Getting the chance to work in a lab and see what research in biology was really like, I changed my long-term goals from being a medical doctor to becoming a professor (of something in the scope of molecular and cell biology) while also leading a lab. Working on a project and gaining lab experience this early is just the first step to achieving my goals in life. I’ve learned a lot of basic cell biology and genetics lab techniques so far, and have gotten the chance to present research. I’ve also learned how to properly convey information when presenting – understanding how knowledgeable the audience is on my topic and how to get the audience to understand the information.
Work is divided between my partner and I. We do a number of things in the lab during the week: set up collagen matrices with the cell samples in order to mimic the lung environment, extracting RNA from these matrices and/or plates and converting it to cDNA, setting up PCRs (polymerase chain reactions) – a method of amplifying a certain sequence of DNA based off leader sequences, called primers, that cover both ends of the sequence – for the cDNA, toxicity assays for specific drugs of interest, or setting up plates for sequencing (we do a lot during the week!).
I’ve discovered the value of teamwork this semester. I usually work on my projects alone. However, the magnitude of the project called for two people working together. Collaboration makes the research process more enjoyable – more work gets done each week, and I personally get to learn more each time I go into lab.