In the summer of 2022, we hosted Diego Nazario as our Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow (SURF). For ten weeks, Diego worked side-by-side with his mentor, Eugene Joeh. Diego describes his experience in this unedited blog post below.

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MY SUMMER AT SCRIPPS RESEARCH
by Diego Nazario (University of Puerto Rico at Cayey) 
August 19th, 2022

“A blank canvas… has unlimited opportunities” by Stephanie Perkins; a quote that I repeated inside my head as I walked into the lab the first day of my internship. My experience in this kind of environment had only come from classes in school which made me even more nervous when I saw the team of scientists that I was going to be working with. Then I sat down with Geno, my mentor, and had a talk about expectations and the reality of the program. In that conversation, I mentioned how I was looking to figure out if pursuing a PhD was the right decision for me after college and, without hesitating, he told me that he would try his best to show me what the life of a grad student really looks like. From that conversation on, I realized that I was in the hands of a great mentor.

 

Moving on, within the first days in the lab I got to meet the rest of the team, which were very welcoming, and as I asked them about each of their projects, it felt wonderful to listen to their voices filled with passion because it was the first time where I felt that I was closely surrounded by a community of scientists that aimed to make an impact with their work; inspiring me to start my own path through this journey. From learning simple things as culturing cells to doing western blots and live cell proximity labeling, it was all challenging at some point, but definitely worth the time and the energy spent. I remember vividly the first time I had to do proximity labeling to tag the interactors of basigin by myself, and how terrified I was to mess the experiment up and surely enough, I did. The strange thing is that, from that point forward all I wanted to do was try the experiment over and over again until it worked because I realized that, even though I didn’t get the result I wanted, I really enjoyed the process. This new sensation boosted my confidence in the lab and as I talked more with Geno, Mia, and the team, I felt more comfortable working on new experiments and overcoming the challenges that each of them presented. 

 

With this said, I learned a lot in this lab thanks to the team that pushed me to a point where I’ve never gone before. Honestly, the most important skill that I learned in the internship, is the way that they taught me to think about science. More specifically, the correct way to troubleshoot failed experiments by combining the previous literature with the knowledge I’ve acquired from previous experiences. This way, I can better understand the root of the situation which would eventually allow me to find multiple solutions to face the problem. This skill, which seems simple, is a crucial part of the life of a scientist that I didn’t necessarily think about before coming to Scripps and now I use it consciously even out of the lab.

All things considered, I can’t be more grateful for what Geno, Mia and the whole lab did for me through this internship. Coming here with little to no experience in the lab had been a factor that concerned me a lot, but within the first week they made sure that this wasn’t a problem and now I can confidently say that I feel comfortable in this kind of environment. Without a doubt, what I learned in the program I’ll cherish forever, and it was all possible because of the incredible people I met here. If I had to describe this experience in one sentence, I would say that I arrived this summer to the Huang lab with a blank canvas and left with an astonishing work of art that is yet to be done because with every new opportunity and experience that I get related to the lab, a fresh stroke paint is going coat the plain-woven fabric that was once blank.

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Diego presented his research at a campus-wide symposium.