Hi! My name is Carrie Anne Jones, I am a rising junior at Whitman and currently interning at OHSU (Oregon Health and Science University) in Portland, OR. I am on the pre-medical track and have been spending my summer under the supervision of Dr. Sandra Rugonyi studying the development of the cardiovascular system. Because of the similarity between the heart structures of humans and chickens, we use chicken embryo models in our studies.
For the first couple weeks of my internship, I was taught the basic necessary skills for the project I have been working on, including incubating eggs and even performing surgical operations on the embryos! Since learning the basics, I have been working on my own individual task for the summer: to develop a procedure using fluorescent dyes which specifically tag nerve tissue to visualize the nerves on the surface of the heart. Unlike internships I have previously participated in, the development of the protocol has been entirely up to me, allowing me to really experience how much trial and error occurs in a lab! I have had to research chicken embryo development, anesthesia use, surgical methods, and more to fully complete my protocol. It was hard to imagine how much work goes into something like this until I had to do it all myself! This has been frustrating at times, but having independent control over my experiment has also been a very rewarding experience so far.
The first half of my summer has been spent learning the basics and beginning to experiment using the dyes. I’ve discovered the dyes are not as easy to work with as expected, but after a lot of trial and error, I’ve gotten close to figuring out a suitable protocol for the task. Once this is completed, I will spend the rest of the summer applying this research with as many subjects as possible to more completely track cardiovascular nerve development through gestation.
Going into this internship, I was hoping to improve my lab skills and to learn more about development and the cardiovascular system, a topic I haven’t covered much in class. Did you know hearts originally start to develop as a tube and then twist into the four-chamber heart that we all know and love? I didn’t until this summer! At this point in the summer, I feel competent in my lab skills, and plan on spending the rest of my internship continuing to gain experience and knowledge through my own work, and through observing and learning from other members of the lab group. Because of my interest in surgery and anatomy, I feel so lucky to not only have the chance to spend the summer working in the medical field, but to be working on a project that allows me to explore this specific field that I love!
Experiences like Carrie Anne’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff