By Bryan Lin, PhD student at Pryzdial lab, CBR
The summer studentship program at the Centre for Blood Research (CBR) is an opportunity for undergraduate students to gain their first view into real-life research and for some, like Michael Nosella, to stay on long after the program has ended.
Back in Ontario, Michael was interested in music and collecting geography maps. When he came to UBC he chose to study Biochemistry. During his undergraduate studies he discovered the CBR summer studentship program online and decided to apply.
Why were you interested in the CBR summer studentship program?
I was looking for some hands-on experience in an actual lab and I happened across Dr. Natalie Strynadka’s work on structural biology and antibiotic resistance, both of which are my main scientific interests. After a successful interview, I started working with Dr. Strynadka in the summer of 2014. Although I have taken courses that involved training in lab work, life in an academic lab proved quite different.
What aspects of the academic lab struck you as most surprising?
Though it was really cool to see the huge repertoire of equipment and gadgets available to my disposal, I would have to say what was most surprising is the degree of freedom. Instead of following a strict procedure that would be graded, I felt more involved in my work as I had to think, be creative and plan the means to reach my goals. This was one of the main reasons I decided to continue in the lab as a Co-Op student, which is my current position.
What is your current project about?
I am working on the extraction and purification of a transmembrane lipid carrier molecule, which is involved in the formation of the bacterial cell wall. This work contributes to the larger goal of developing a high-throughput assay for developing new antibiotics against bacteria, such as the particularly problematic methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Being creative in science is necessary when things do not work as planned or a problem cannot be addressed by conventional methods. Were you ever frustrated or had any challenges during the studentship program?
There was a point where my preparation method for purifying my proteins continuously did not work. So I had to devise a new approach to tackle this problem. I ended up using a different bacteria strain and thankfully, my protocol changes worked great and I overcame the problem.
That is wonderful that your diligence triumphed over the obstacle. Not all students get to obtain these types of experiences. Did you feel the CBR summer studentship was worthwhile and would you recommend it to others?
Absolutely, gaining experience in the lab was great, but what I found to be the most valuable part of the experience was having the opportunity to connect with the members of the CBR faculty, as well as other summer students.