As a freshman in college, research in a lab was unlike anything I have ever done before in high school. Therefore, I was excited, but at the same time terrified of all the possible things that could go wrong. Will they have high expectations of me? What if I do not know what they are talking about? What if I mess up? These were some of the questions that ran through my head as I prepared myself for my first research experience. However, as I entered the Lundy lab, I was greeted by friendly smiles and laughter, whether it be from the neighboring lab or my PI, Dr. Lundy. The environment is filled with joy and passion. There is even a dolphin hanging from one of the office areas! If that does not represent the lab environment, I do not know what will. In order to foster these new relationships, lab members gather for holiday celebrations or even just to grab a quick bite to eat.
However, the person most integral to my learning experience is my mentor, Dr. Lucien van der Vlugt. Not only has she helped develop my skills as a researcher, she has greatly expanded my knowledge about immunology. She understands that I only have a limited background about their research coming in; thus, she continuously works with me to help me slowly comprehend the experiments we are conducting. She shows a remarkably large amount of patience, especially as I try to understand the concepts about the immune system. Gradually, I have learned how to conduct enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, bead capture assays, cell culturing, exosome isolation from mice, and PCR.
In addition, not only does she fulfill all the responsibilities of a research mentor, but she also goes above and beyond. For example, there was a day I had to stay late to help her finish an experiment. Since I had to stay so late, she gave me a gift the next time I was in lab to show her appreciation. This was an especially heartwarming gesture. Also, she lets me conduct a lot of experiments on my own, which is a nice confirmation of her trust and recognition that independence is essential to learning. Having someone there to guide me through my journey has definitely made my learning experience much easier, which is why I am grateful to be able to work with Dr. Lucien van der Vlugt.