Julia Ruff ’20 – Baylor College of Medicine, Hugo Bellen’s Lab (TX)

Posted on Posted in Externships, Student Contributor, Summer Opportunities

My week at the Baylor College of Medicine was very exciting and worthwhile. Going into the week I had questions such as what steps did my host, Doctor Megan Campbell, take to achieve this position, what does working in a lab actually look like, and is this a position I want to work towards. So with these questions in mind, and some nerves, I started my journey from Boston to Houston. As soon as I landed, Megan greeted me with a welcoming smile and took me under her wing for the week. Megan is working in Hugo Bellen Lab in the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, that works specifically with fruit flies, or Drosophila . I was able to not only able shadow Megan and learn all about her pathway to Houston, but she made it possible for me to get hands on experience in the lab which I am extremely grateful for. I helped Megan with a DAM, Drosophila Activity Monitor, analysis. I was also able to learn how to dissect Drosophila larval brains, how to stain them with antibodies, and take a picture of them with a Confocal Microscope (photo below).

From spending the week with her I was truly able to see how a lab works and what this job entails. Megan also made sure to introduce me to multiple of her colleagues, so that I could learn from their stories. I even got to spend three of the afternoons shadowing people from three other labs. This made it possible for me to see four different labs and see that not all labs are
alike. In fact all four of the labs were very different, from how they were set up, to what they were studying, to who was working in the lab. Everyone I met was very excited to tell me about themselves and how they ended up in the research field. I was very grateful for this. I was not only able to hear their incredibly impressive stories, but I was able to truly see the unique paths
that people took to this career. Everyone I met also had a lot of advice to impart on me whether it was what field to get involved in, to what they would do differently today.

The week that I spent in Houston taught me more than I even hoped to learn. Lessons such as how to handle flies and steps to take for certain experiments, but more importantly what does the average day of a scientific researcher look like and how this job affects their life. This job seems to be highly demanding with monumental degree requirements, long works days and
the added frustration of trying to figure out and explain undefined concepts. Yet with all of the struggles that come with this job, the people I met this week would not want to be doing anything else. Their true love of science and desire to explain the unknown, makes everything else worth it. I went into this week unsure if this is a job I could see myself in the future, and
even after becoming aware of the burdens, I am more sure than ever that this is something I want to pursue. This week at the Baylor College of Medicine with the amazing Doctor Campbell, answered and clarified so many of my questions. I cannot wait to get into the lab back at Gettysburg!