Week 2: A Day in the Life...
As I ride the shuttle bus each morning to the Longwood Medical Area, I become increasingly excited for what the day will have in store. Days at the Fortune Lab are far from boring, since each one brings a new learning experience, broadening my knowledge of both laboratory techniques as well as the vast scope of public health.
On most days, I immediately start on my project. Conducting the necessary lab procedures takes a full 9:30am to 5:30pm day. But time always seems to fly by—despite repeating the same procedures daily, work never feels monotonous. What makes bench science so stimulating is that the potential result of your procedure is always unexpected. I may perform the same basic technique multiple times, but each time I make slight adjustments based upon the results of previous experiments. And the results of each procedure are different. So much of lab work is based upon trial and error. There have been days when all of my procedures failed to yield the results I needed. But then that moment comes when that desired result occurs. From that moment, I gain a deeper understanding of the bacterial mechanisms taking place in my project. It is that moment of discovery that keeps lab work exciting.
While waiting for the lab machines to complete each process, there is time to also interact with the members of the lab. Sharing laughs while getting to know the other undergraduate students, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and Dr. Fortune creates a warm, friendly lab environment that makes working there so enjoyable. And whether we are having lunch or water breaks, we learn from each other, both on a scientific and personal level. Through this
experience, I have learned how much advancement in science relies on a community. When one performs lab work, you are not truly working alone. One becomes a part of and a contributor to a greater scientific discussion and community of people who share excitement in the same field. There is so much collaboration. We exchange updates of our lives and projects. And in doing so,
we learn new ways to better our contributions to the scientific community, whether by making one’s project more effective or by gaining a personal awareness and understanding of public health via new discoveries made by fellow lab mates.
Every Tuesday, the other undergraduate students and I attend talks that are part of the Summer Program in Biological Sciences in Public Health, sponsored by the Division of Biological Sciences in the Harvard School of Public Health. Each talk focuses on different topics that aim to inform us about what graduate school—school of public health, medical school, and others—is like and the steps to take in our undergraduate years to prepare for future degrees related to sciences, ie. MPH, PHD, MD/PH.D. By hearing the accounts of graduate students, I can more clearly see how to take my current growing interests and actually turn them into a future career.
Every Thursday, I attend Fortune Lab meetings, where members of the lab present updates of their work. With each presentation I attend, I get a better grasp of the types of projects taking place in the lab and the biological mechanisms of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. They also are salient examples of how important discussion and sharing knowledge is in the scientific community. Thus I look forward to presenting my own work next week.
About the Blogger
Nzuekoh Nchinda is a Chemistry concentrator working towards a secondary field in Global Health at Harvard (class of 2014). This summer, she is interning at Dr. Sarah Fortune's tuberculosis laboratory at the Harvard School of Public Health. Through the Harvard Global Health Institute, Nzuekoh Nchinda will study diseases that afflict many third world countries with the goal of using the information to work in hospitals in her native Cameroon upon graduation.