Week 3: Diabetic neuropathy – A Small British Car
At times I feel like I have to compare my lab to a small British car. I say British car because our PI, or Principle Investigator, is a very British man. The car comes from the fact that my lab is focused on Diabetic neuropathy, with each lab member focused on a different facet like the different components of a car engine. The lab is composed of four main members– undergraduates (that’s me!), graduate students, post-docs and lab technicians. Typically each graduate student, post doc and lab technician has their own projects that they work on, working together with the PI to come up with a plan for testing in order to try out a new treatment or test a new theory. The undergraduates are then liberally sprinkled around the lab as the minions of those heading the various projects.
is just that, its own little unit. This has its pros and cons. The pros are that is allows for each person to fully understand every component of their project. When explaining an experiment, things are very easy to explain when you have done everything yourself. It has been really incredible in allowing me to see the bigger picture in my project – beyond just the experiments and into the full arch of the project from testing to analyzing. The con is that it can make a
project very slow – ten people on one project is faster than ten people on five projects.
I have been given a very unique opportunity in that I am not working under any of the post-docs, graduate students or lab technicians. I work for an established researcher, Dr. Corinne Jolivalt, and, while she has guided the project that I am doing for her, I have been allowed to carry out all the experiments, tests, and data analysis myself. We work together on a schedule for
tests and discuss the analyzed data together, but I am able to see each from start to finish. So I guess I am a minion but a minion with a lot of freedom.
Another wonderful part of having so many projects going on at once is that it creates an enriching environment where each person has the opportunity to learn from one another. While I am working on an animal model someone else is working on a potential treatment for diabetic neuropathy and yet another person is working on the impact of insulin on diabetic nerve degeneration. Each conversation brings forth new knowledge and insight into the very complex and diverse issue that is diabetic neuropathy.
While having so many different people from different backgrounds creates a really enriching environment, it can also create a stressful environment at times. I quickly found that,
while I do have people skills, I could be better equipped so I turned to a trusted aid,“How to Win Friends and Influence People”, a book written by Dale Carnegie in 1936. While it is old fashioned, like its habit of discussing such events as the Tea Pot Dome scandal like they were only yesterday, the principles that it discusses remain true and helpful even in the 21st century. So my summer is about research in more than one way – research on diabetic neuropathy and research on human relationships. So far I believe I have achieved small victories and successes in both – from documenting early corneal nerve degeneration in diabetic mice to diffusing tense