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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Lab work prepares students for careers

Science majors are joining lab teams early in college and reaping the benefits of hands-on research experience.     

With the possibility of working alongside professionals on various labs on campus, students can see the theories taught in class applied to studies with actual human impact.

Sometimes, practical experience comes before theoretical learning. Nathan Cromer, a physiology junior, started his work at professor Henk Granzier’s lab during the spring of his freshman year.

Cromer conducts cardiac ultrasounds and echocardiograms on mice, as part of a study on genes that contribute to heart failure.

In some of Cromer’s upper division courses, he’s learning things he already knows. “”Basic techniques I’ve already learned in lab and have been able to do,”” he said.

He and another student are the only undergraduates in the lab with 15 to 20 people, a rather large one, since most have nine people.

This semester, Cromer is working 15 hours a week for around $10 or $12 an hour, he said.

Going into college, Cromer thought of becoming a medical doctor. Work in the lab changed that for him. He is now thinking of going to graduate school for research or law school with emphasis in the patent field.

Cromer has done 750 echocardiograms on mice since March of last year.

“”I’ve been having a blast with it,”” he said, “”I really enjoy everything about the research that I do.””

For him, research’s uses are one of the most rewarding aspects of this work.

“”Now I can do these surgeries, the echos and lasers, all bunch of different muscle mechanics, dissections. The longer you’re in lab the more things you learn,”” he said.

Nina Martin, a junior studying molecular and cellular biology, has been conducting research in a smaller lab with associate professor Melissa Halpern. They study the causes of a neonatal intestine infection, doing microsurgeries on mice.     

Martin started working there right after her freshman year. She was “”still kind of green,”” she said, and when she started “”(it) was totally different from any lab class I’d ever taken.””

Working for around 12 hours a week, she makes $10 an hour, but she would “”probably be doing this without the incentive of money.””

The skills she learned could help her get a job as a technician, even without a graduate degree, she said. It also helped define her career path.

“”When I came in, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do … I didn’t even know if I liked science. This really has solidified that I want to do science and I like research. So I want to go to grad school and continue the learning process,”” Martin said.

In her fourth year working at a lab, junior Aubri Carman is working on her thesis project. While Carman grows bacteria, harvests data and does literary reviews, working with research has taught her much more.

Networking, having professional responsibilities as a student and using high-tech instruments that only staff usually has access to are some of things she gained from the experience. Though she is working for credit as part of her project, as a freshman Carman got a paid position by just emailing a professor.

Now, because budgets are being cut, “”paid positions are really hard to come by, especially now because professors aren’t really getting a lot of funding,”” she said.

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