My research experience with my mentor, Dr. Bode, actually began last summer while I was working in two other laboratories in the NIU biology department studying multiple myeloma as well as completing a bioinformatics internship. I would often see Dr. Bode around the department and soon had the opportunity to interact with him on a more personal level during several events in the biology department. One such event was the monthly meetings hosted by the BIOS Cancer Research Club that I attended whenever possible. The meetings are an opportunity for the faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students to share their research experiences and become familiar with the work that our colleagues as well as guest speakers from other universities are conducting.
Once I learned about the Honors Scholars position, I asked Dr. Bode if he would be willing to be my mentor. Several of Dr. Bode’s lab members had recently graduated which gave me the opportunity to fill one of the vacancies in the lab. After my initial meeting with Dr. Bode to discuss how my project would be conducted, it became apparent that I would need to use the skills I had learned during my bioinformatics internship and would need help on some of the more difficult Linux programming tasks. Thankfully, Dr. Yanbin Yin – who I had completed my bioinformatics internship with the previous summer – was willing to work with me.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I met with Dr. Yin often to discuss which datasets to analyze and to compile a matrix of the data we would use as well as a list of the genes we would study. Dr. Yin then completed some of the more complicated programming to normalize the data before sending it to me for further analysis. We also met with Dr. Bode several times in order to make sure that we fully understood the data we were comparing and learn more about the characteristics of liver cancer. After Dr. Yin normalized the data, I constructed heatmaps and graphs and presented our findings to Dr. Bode.
Working with Dr. Bode and Dr. Yin has been a great experience and has taught me the values of collaboration and problem solving. I have been able to use the skills I learned last summer in order to provide Dr. Bode with relevant data regarding the expression of amino acid transporters in human and mouse liver cancer. Bioinformatics was something Dr. Bode did not have much experience in, and Dr. Yin had not studied liver cancer. Because of my previous exposure to both fields, I was able to help bridge the knowledge gap between my mentors and provide them with novel findings about amino acid transporters in liver cancer.
Dr. Bode has also introduced me to several other aspects of research that I would not have had the opportunity to learn about in a classroom setting. For instance, Dr. Bode and I met yesterday in order to discuss my poster for the 2014 Summer Research Symposium. Dr. Bode was very helpful and provided insightful critiques of my writing and poster format. I also learned even more about how liver cancer functions and some of the latest treatments that are being tested. Working together, Dr. Bode and I were able to interpret our data and reach scientifically sound conclusions. Without his knowledge of liver cancer, it would have been very difficult for me to have my poster critiqued in a manner that preserved the essence of my conclusions while still being scientifically accurate. With Dr. Bode’s help, I now have a greater understanding of the characteristics of liver cancer and feel confident about the findings of our research.