I am a high school student from Germany benefiting from the wonderful opportunity of working in the Patel lab during Summer Session 2013. As a participant in a student project called the Heidelberger Life Science Lab, which is associated with the German Cancer Research Center, I was inspired by the idea of doing an internship in a laboratory of one of the leading universities worldwide. At UC Berkeley, I am gaining extraordinary insight into current research, including basic approaches and cutting-edge methods, as well as learning more about the American lab spirit and the US culture.
The research conducted in the Patel lab appealed to me because of its integration of many different types of biology, such as developmental biology, molecular biology, and evolution. I decided to join the germline project in order to help test whether germline replacement inParhyale hawaiensis can also occur in adult animals. Working with Christopher Winchell, I am performing microinjection experiments aimed at transforming the embryonic g cell (the progenitor of the germline). The transgenesis construct that I am injecting contains a heat shock-inducible nitroreductase (NTR) gene. My goal is to integrate this construct into the g cell’s genome, and then trigger germline ablation in transgenic juvenile and adult heat-shocked animals by transferring them to metronidazole (MTZ)-containing sea water. MTZ is a non-toxic prodrug that becomes a potent DNA interstrand crosslinker upon reduction by NTR. In this way, we can bring about cell death in the post-embryonic Parhyale germline in order to determine whether germline replacement is possible at all developmental stages.
Since construct integration into g happens only rarely, this project requires a lot of injections and therefore also patience. But nevertheless I am really glad to work in this lab and get impressions of what research here is about and how hard but also satisfying it can be to obtain valuable results.