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Friday, September 5, 2014

An Internship to Remember

No amount of TED talks or PubMed articles could have readied me for my unforgettable hands-on adventure in cardiovascular research this summer. Working alongside PhD’s and graduate and undergraduate students, I gained newfound insights into the lab environment and, most importantly, into leading investigations in aortic and mitral valve disease (e.g. stenosis, regurgitation) and aortic aneurysm. 
Claudia spent an intense four weeks working alongside PhD's, undergraduates, and graduate students at Penn.

For four weeks in July, I observed and assisted in a series of studies run out of Dr. Giovanni Ferrari’s lab at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. I learned both standard and specialized lab methodologies, like how to isolate cells from human valve tissue, how to run a vertical gel and then a western blot, how to use a qPCR machine, how to load a bioreactor with human or mouse valve segments for stimulation, how to culture and harvest both aortic interstitial and aortic endothelial cells, and how to use different software, databases, and instruments. Eric, the Research Specialist, showed us videos of surgeries, and then, hours later, would bring us a human valve or human blood in a biohazard bag! Dr. Ferrari, the PhD’s, Dr. Emanuela Branchetti and Dr. Kathryn Driesbaugh, and the other students walked me through their overall research aims and earlier findings, such as their research on substances that induce osteogenic transdifferentiation in valve tissue. It was one big, challenging cause and effect lesson!

This work in Dr. Ferrari’s lab gave me context for the courses I’ve taken at GA and allowed me to see his team’s advanced biological examinations as an extension of what I’ve studied in school. All in all, it made me even more eager to conduct my own research in college and beyond!

After an exciting and engaging month, the internship ended with a bang. The office bought me treats from Federal Donuts, and I left feeling impassioned, with not just a stronger knowledge of cardiovascular research but also with a truly solidified interest in the sciences.

~ Claudia M. ‘15