By Sam Roberts
This summer I was lucky enough to be presented a once in a lifetime experience, one which some people could only dream of. The experience I’m talking about was my internship through HBCAC at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. My partner Sara Frawley and I were tasked with a two folded research and community knowledge project. The internship was three days a week, two days in the Chen Lab researching the effect of glyphosate and Roundup on the liver gene expression of rats. The other day we worked in the Center for Advanced Medicine (CAM) building spreading pesticide information to the public as well as sitting in on Region 2 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) meetings. The different buildings allowed us to experience multiple aspects of the research process.
The Chen Lab gave me a fantastic introduction to lab research as well as genetic research. Working in Dr. Jia Chen’s lab under Dr. Yula Ma, Corina Lessur, and Maya Kappil. We were taught everything we needed to know to complete our experiment. We started the internship knowing nothing about performing necessary lab actions, but now we are able to work in the lab almost independently. It was very slow at first, pipetting water repeatedly and other tasks like that, but our mentors were able to instruct us very effectively and teach us a large amount of information in a small amount of time. For out project, we worked on Glyphosate and Roundup, a herbicide that I personally researched in school as well as learned about from my other internship mentors at the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition. I was fortunate enough to be able to work hands on with the chemical that I have working with for so long.
The CAM building offered a more community focused and slightly slower paced take on environmental research. Working under Dr. Sarah Evans, we performed community knowledge assessments of pesticide use on Long Island and observed PEHSU meetings. The Long Island research opened my eyes to the sheer amount of pesticides that are used in New York, and more specifically Long Island, every year. I also realized the discrepancies between what people think they know about pesticides and reality. Many people don't really know the truth about the chemicals they use in their daily lives. PEHSU meetings are a gathering of accomplished environmentalists, doctors, and researchers who discuss medical cases that doctors bring to their attention and environmental topics that are pertinent to our health. Watching these meetings take place taught me about how scientists communicate and debate their research. Another amazing experience that I am incredibly thankful for.
Finally, thank you to everyone who helped me to obtain this internship as well as my mentors from the internship itself, Karen Miller and Melanie Gabrell. Thank you to Drs. Chen, Ma, and Evans as well as my mentors, Corina Lessur, and Maya Kappil. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You have provided me with a life changing experience that I will never forget.