Contributed by Carson Ingold
Hello all, my name is Carson and I am currently a second-year medical microbiology student. I joined the Lee Lab last spring and have been working in the lab ever since! I found my way into the Lee Lab via BIOL 455 – General Microbiology, specifically, the required lab component of the course. I had previously become interested in research through some work in a psychology laboratory but found myself looking for a way to mesh the goal-oriented mindset and laboratory setting I fell in love with at the psychology lab, with the interactions of the bacteria I had become fascinated with.
Early in the course, my lab TA, Tanner Richie, gave a short biography, as usual. She mentioned how her research was focused around how changes in the population densities of the human gut microbiome affect health, a topic I remembered being mentioned at Bio Bonanza, and I was most definitely intrigued. After class that day, I asked Tanner for more details on her project. At the time, she was forceps deep collecting mouse fecal samples, for a project investigating the effect of fecal microbiota transplants on two groups of cefoperozone-induced mouse models of inflammatory bowel disorders, one of which was interleukin-10 gene-deficient. I was not too keen on the idea of working with mice again. But the in vivo studies showed that the change in microbial membership in the gene-deficient group was associated with alterations in the nitrogen metabolism of the microbiome. From this finding, Tanner began moving toward modeling the human gut in vitro for a series of nitrate assays and would be culturing HeLa and Caco-2 cell lines for those models. Tanner told me I would be likely be working on the in vitro study. This caught my attention, as I had never worked with cell or bacterial culture.
By the end of my freshman year, I had transitioned from the psychology lab to The Lee Lab, working with Tanner, and cell culture was in full swing. We began the summer culturing both HeLa and Caco-2 cells. The HeLa cells grew as expected and we ran proof-of-concept nitrate assays on a co-culture of HeLa cells and Escherichia Coli. After we proved the co-culture assay would work, the next step is to complete similar assays on the Caco-2 cells, as a truer model of the human gut. Our Caco-2 cultures over the summer had issues with contamination, but after obtaining a new starting culture, we are now closer than ever to being ready for Caco-2 co-cultures.
Needless to say, I found what I was looking for in a lab!