Getting settled in and initial thoughts on this fellowship opportunity

I can’t believe the first month of my fellowship has flown by so quickly! I began working in Dr. Erik Peterson’s lab in the University of Minnesota’s Center for Immunology Research at the beginning of June. So far I have been immersed in both the theoretical and technical aspects of lupus research. The fellowship has been made even more exciting by the fact that I have never been to Minnesota before, let alone the Midwest; I have just finished my first year of undergraduate at Yale, and my family lives in New York.

In the lab, I have been preparing the skills and knowledge I will need to embark on my project. This has involved reading research articles on white blood cell function, their biochemistry, and their action. Reading has taken two forms, directed and independent. For my directed reading, Dr. Peterson and I have been working through papers–we meet and I present their figures, discussing the methods and the data, and interpreting the results. In preparation for these mentoring sessions I do literature searches to better understand the highly specialized nature of my reading.

In the day to day running of a lab there are many routine assays and procedures performed. I have assisted in the extraction of DNA from mouse tissue samples, and the genotyping of mice. This is so we can determine whether the mice that have been bred have the particular forms of the genes we are interested in studying. Having completed my animal training, I have now been getting used to handling mice in preparation for my project.

By far the most important part of the fellowship to me so far has been the opportunity to shadow members of the Peterson Lab and adjacent labs to learn first hand how some of those experiments I have been reading about work in practice. This fellowship is an unparalleled chance for undergraduates to embark on independent research in such an important disease as lupus. I’m really excited about my project and can’t wait to tell you more about it!


About the Author:

2012 Student Summer Fellow Pietro Miozzo, from New York, New York, will be a sophomore at Yale University in the fall. Pietro is studying molecular, cellular and developmental biology in the pre-med program there. Pietro is working in Dr. Erik Peterson's lab in the University of Minnesota's Center for Immunology Research this summer, looking at the development and function of immune cells that have been implicated in a number of autoimmune diseases. The group is looking at the function of a powerful lupus-predisposing gene, and its role in potentially altering the functions of cells in fighting infections and in suppressing the activation of lymphocytes with capacity to damage skin, joints, and other tissues in lupus.
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