Author Archives: brett

Goodbye Boston

It’s sad to say but summer is coming to an end. It is ridiculous to think that I have been working here at Dana-Farber for over two months. It is safe to say this summer is going to be hard to beat. So many adventures, so many new friends, and to top it all of, I have learned more about Ovarian Cancer than I ever thought I would. The research was unbelievable. This opportunity taught me how to perform protein assays, Western Blots, Immunofluorescence, siRNA knockdown, and proliferation assays. Within each of these I learned so many little techniques and tricks-of-the-trade. I mean, just learning proper aseptic technique for cell culturing was interesting. Hopefully I’ll be able to use my new skills in the labs at school. The project as a whole did have some progress. We were able to successfully identify a protein that is translated and secreted by Ovarian Cancer cells and not by healthy Fallopian Tube cells. Based on previous knowledge, this is the first step to finding an early detection biomarker for Ovarian Cancer. I was also able to located where within the cells this protein resides. Interestingly it is highly developed so there is going to be some more work done with this project once I leave. Unfortunately my last few experiments didn’t work out so well so someone else will have to repeat them.

I did speak to my principal investigator and he said that these results are going to make their way into a paper so good news is I will be publishing a paper, which is something I never thought would be possible in just one summer. This has definitely taught me to never slow down. Also keep persevering because in the end it will reward you. It may take longer at some times but giving up will 100% lead to nowhere.

As for Boston, can I say that it is a great place to live! There are so many college students everywhere and the city is just so full of adventures. I was able to go to all the suburbs and explore. I made it to the North End to have dinner in little Italy. I walked around Harvard Square and tried candlepin bowling for the first time. If you ever have a chance to come up here I would definitely recommend the bowling because it was a blast. Since my last post I also made it to New York City and Maine. New York was wild. I’ve only every been there one other time but I don’t remember it too well. The city was packed and people were moving fast just as I pictured. Maine was incredible. The mountains were beautiful and the people were so nice. I went to a friend’s house up by Bar Harbor and went hiking in Acadia National Park. The hikes were a bit intense. The first day we did a 7-mile hike over 5 mountains. It was nothing too intense, just long. The second day, we did a very scary hike. We basically walked on a foot of rock directly next to a 500-foot cliff for about 1.5 miles. I was petrified but in the end we made it out all right.

I’m sad to say I am leaving but it’s time to head back to Florida and then New Orleans next week. Thank you to everyone who helped me with this summer for making it possible. This was truly an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Hope to be back one day. Signing off!

Half way done

I can hardly believe it’s already been four weeks here in Boston. I’ve already had an amazing time and I still have another month and a half left. Last week my friend and I went to the North Shore to a small beach town called Marble Head. It was absolutely beautiful. Beaches and harbors for miles. We went to visit a friend of ours and stay on her boat in Salem Harbor. That was quite the experience. We stayed up all night on the harbor and slept in the boat’s cabin. It was some fifty-year-old wooden boat… very cool.

Two weeks later we were off on another adventure. It was my first time ever going to the Hamptons. An old friend of mine had invited us out to her mansion with a dozen other people for Fourth of July weeks. I had never seen a house like this. She had literally everything you could think of: pool, tennis court, bachi ball, chipping greens, putt-putt, and waterslide. We sat around by the pool all weekend and had an endless supply of good ol’ American Barbeque. It was really great seeing her cause it has definitely been a while. She was actually a Tulane student also but graduated this past year. Definitely a memory I would never forget.

Now I know it’s the reason I came to Boston, so I should probably fill you in about my summer internship. The research job has been going great. I have almost complete autonomy. I would say about 90%. I get to make my own hours, run my own tests, and determine the direction of the project. It’s a lot of responsibility but I definitely love the challenge. My problem is that I know my expectations are probably unrealistic. I would love to do everything but time is just a factor I can’t control. I am going to try and do as much as I can though in the next six weeks. I don’t remember if I spoke about my research in the last posting but the project I am working on is an Ovarian Cancer Biomarker project. My job is to do background literature searches on each of 50 different proteins found to be in Ovarian Cancer lines and purchase antibodies that I can use to study each of the proteins I’m interested in. Originally, I started with three proteins but my list has now grown to six. I ran western blots for each of the proteins in order to determine if the Ovarian Cancer cell lines we have in stock are expressing the proteins of interest. A western blot works by growing up cell lines and extracting proteins from the cells, which are then loaded into wells of a gel. Once set up, an electric current is applied to drag the proteins through the gels. Each protein moves at a different rate based on their size. A molecular ladder is used to determine the size of the proteins. The proteins are then transferred onto a membrane, which can then be probed with different antibodies that recognize each specific protein. Membranes are exposed to chemoluminescence cameras and the image is then analyzed and recorded. So far I have done half of the proteins so I still have some more to do. Overall, this project is getting more interesting everyday and I cant wait to see what’s going to happen in the next few weeks. Thanks for reading… Until next time!

First Week at Dana-Farber

One week gone by and I can already see how my summer is about to turn out… amazing. It’s my first time in a big city like Boston and I don’t know where to start. I literally want to go everywhere and there are just not enough hours in the day. The funny thing is, in the past week, I have been everywhere except downtown Boston. My friends have taken me to Newton, Weston, Dudham, Salem, the North Shore, Marblehead, Cambridge, and yet I haven’t even seen the Prudential. But it’s only the first week and I still have another two months ahead of me.

Slept on a boat in Salem Harbor and woke up to this!

Slept on a boat in Salem Harbor and woke up to this!

On the other end of the spectrum, work, has been incredible. I got a research internship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and I would not be happier. In one week I think I have learned more than fifty textbooks could teach me. It’s crazy. Yes I’ve worked in a lab before but nothing like this. There’s at least twenty people in this factory room all day. People are here at 4, 5, 6, in the morning and stay through all hours of the night. They’re like zombies. But you can’t blame them. They love what they are doing. As for me, my project was just assigned and I couldn’t be more excited to start. For the past four years my adviser and several of his colleagues have accumulated a list of 10,000 protein abnormally expressed in Ovarian cancer cells. In the past few weeks they have somehow magically simplified that list to 60 proteins. My job is to take a few of those proteins (6-9) and analyze them through different analysis techniques in order to determine if they can be used as an early detection bio marker. Sure you may think it sounds boring but I am so stoked that its almost embarrassing.


Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

So far my P.I. (principle investigator) has had be grow up cell lines, split plates, freeze cells, prepare medium, condition medium, and start lysing them. Soon I’m gonna move on to the big finale… Western Blots. Basically its a two day procedure that I am going to have to perform literally a hundred times. It might sound tedious but as of right now its all I can look forward to.

My office

My office

As for my house, its ridiculous. I’m living at the AEPi house and MIT and I have never seen anything like it. And no, I am not in AEPi. They have some sort of summer housing program for college students and I found out about it online. It’s a five-story brownstone building right on Boston University campus that sits directly on the Charles River. Coming from the suburbs of South Florida I had no idea what to expect. But city life is pretty cool. Everything is within arms reach. They have every restaurant you can think of. Bars, shops, banks, doctors, barbers, movies, everything within a mile. Even Fenway Park is three blocks from my door. I love it.

My front yard

My front yard

Overall, my Boston adventure is off to a great start. I got to see my cousins, meet up with school friends, party hard, and learn a whole lot at my new job. Who know’s maybe I’ll be back one day for real. But, for now, its the scrub life. Until next time.