What was the selection process like to participate in the clinical research at Boston Children's Hospital? What got you interested in the opportunity? How long were you working there?
Like most pre-med research opportunities, my clinical research at Boston Children's Hospital began at a research symposium where the director of my lab presented her research to undergraduate students. I expressed my interest in contributing to her research, and began an email correspondence with her to work out the details of my summer internship. I came into college knowing I wanted to study medicine, and found her research to be particularly unique in its potential applicability into patient care. Additionally, the research had implications on developmental neuroscience—a field of study that has always piqued my intellectual curiosity. For the internship itself, I worked ten weeks at BCH, and began writing a manuscript for the research I had done in those ten weeks this past winter break.
What were you studying?
My research was focused on the effects of repeated and prolonged exposure to anesthesia and sedation on infant brain development. Specifically, we studied the brain development of infants born with long-gap esophageal atresia—a birth defect in the gastrointestinal tract that required many hours of surgery and weeks of sedation within the infant's first year of life—at the end of life-saving treatment.
What kinds of tests did you run?
This study was strictly an associations study: we looked into the correlations between critical care treatment parameters (e.g. hours of anesthesia, days of paralysis and sedation, etc.) and brain development parameters (e.g. number of MRI findings, brain tissue volumes, etc.).
Was it mostly individual work or were you on a team of researchers? If it was a group, what was the dynamic like?
The work was mostly individual, though several other undergraduate students were working with similar datasets on their own projects. Our projects required occasional collaboration, and our lab supervisor encouraged mutual learning within the group of undergraduates, especially when it came to scientific writing and data presentation.
What is something you're most proud of or what was one of your favorite experiences?
One thing I am most proud of is contributing—even if in a limited manner—towards the body of knowledge that will eventually improve the care and developmental outcomes of babies born with devastating conditions. Through studying patient medical records, I was humbled to see the personal impact healthcare professionals can have on the families of sick infants, and came to fully appreciate the importance of basic clinical research. Additionally, my lab supervisor was an incredible mentor and offered me dozens of hours of shadowing time in the operating room, on top of her individual teaching sessions on basic scientific and communication skills.
Could you see yourself doing something like this post-graduation?
As of now, I am planning on pursuing an MD-PhD, likely in the field of neuroscience (preferably at its intersection with philosophy), before practicing neurosurgery. Research is a crucial and constructive part of this learning career, and I definitely see myself conducting research post-graduation.