(l to r) Samia Habli '16, Zahrah Abdul-Shakur '16

BY | Samia Habli ’16
Saida, Lebanon
Biology

Zahrah Abdul-Shakur ’16
Mwanza, Tanzania
Biology

As part of the new Minnesota Regenerative Medicine Undergraduate Internship Program, we spent 10 weeks at the University of Minnesota’s Stem Cell Institute under the supervision of Professor Randy Daughters and in Professor Chatterjea’s lab at Macalester. The lab work focused on vulvodynia, a chronic vulvar pain condition, as well as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an interstitial lung disease caused by abnormal tissue remodelling, looking specifically at the correlation between mast cells and basal cell activation..

In lab, each student worked individually or in a small group on a project tied to the bigger picture—modeling and understanding vulvodynia. By deepening our understanding of the pathways of the disease, we could shed light on possible interventions.  

Last spring, we both took Research in Immunology with Professor Chatterjea where we learned how to read scientific papers through our journal club, and got hands-on experience learning various lab techniques. We also worked on independent projects that gave us the opportunity to apply our knowledge in experimental design and data presentation.

Throughout this internship we worked closely with our professors, but we also attended lectures by professionals in the field. In our weekly journal clubs led by Professor Daughters, we learned about the historical perspective as well as the current topics in stem cell research, and the social and ethical aspects associated with this field of research. We also learned how to develop our initial ideas into well-written research proposals and to present them in a concise manner.  

We also participated in Scrubs Camps across Minnesota that bring together high school students to explore careers in science and medicine. We introduced students to stem cells and the field of regenerative medicine, and answered questions about college life and scientific research. We continued this work in the fall at Laura Jeffrey Academy in St.Paul.

Our experience in the regenerative medicine internship taught us that doing scientific research requires patience, attention to detail, and the ability to deal with unexpected results and obstacles with an open mind.

It takes time, effort, and a lot of trial and error before you can see tangible results, but it’s incredibly satisfying to see the smaller pieces come together and fit in the bigger picture.

September 28 2015

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