Tuesday, December 18, 2018

URSP Student Elias Khayat Researches Alzheimer’s Disease

When I came to Mason as a freshman, I joined Dr. Jane Flinn’s cognitive and behavioral neuroscience lab to learn more about research and get an idea of what it entailed. I was paired with Bill Kochen, now my URSP mentor, to help him with his project on Alzheimer’s Disease. Through that project, I got to learn a lot about scientific inquiry and the scientific method. Last year, Bill suggested that I come up with a project of my own. At the time, a family member of mine was affected with dementia and symptoms began to arise, but during a stretch of a couple of months, he wasn’t in touch with a lot of people and that’s when the disease escalated, and the symptoms became much more severe. Using my personal experience and the one I gained from the lab, I came up with the idea to study the effects of social isolation on Alzheimer’s Disease both behaviorally and pathologically.
On a weekly basis, I handle the mice 3 times, and depending on the timeline my mentor and I set, I run different experiences or procedures such as genotyping, sex differentiating, behavioral testing or immunohistochemistry staining. One thing I learned about research, and specifically animal research is that lots of patience is required, and perseverance is key. To put things into perspectives, it took three months for our 24-page IACUC paperwork to be accepted.
I am very thankful for my mentors who have encouraged to do research. Unlike undergraduate classes, you get to come up with your own ideas and ways to test them. It takes your mind to places it hasn’t been before and truly makes you want to learn and understand the how and why of science. Though I am still in the beginning phase of this research project, I am looking forward to the challenges I will face along the way which will help me become a better scientist cable of advancing human knowledge.