After having the opportunity to take part in research for 2 years with Dr. Pascale Charest, I found myself wanting to broaden my research background and work with additional investigators. After applying for multiple summer research internships, I was ecstatic when I learned I had been accepted to the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). After a holistic 10-week research experience, I learned many things about working in the cancer research and treatment fields.
All students in the SURP were exposed to an unprecedented wealth of knowledge, concerning all forms of cancer research, during weekly seminars with world-renowned faculty. These faculty included scientists who were among those involved in the discovery of oncogenes such as Ras and the famous tumor suppressor p53.
Over these 10-weeks I worked in the lab of Dr. Richard White and more closely with Dr. Maomao Zhang who is currently doing a postdoc in Dr. White’s lab. My project focused on melanoma and the tumor microenvironment supporting metastasis, with the use of zebrafish as a model organism. I was introduced to many new techniques such as Gateway cloning, zebrafish husbandry, tumor cell transplants, fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, and ImageJ. I assembled a construct designed to overexpress the fatty acid transport protein 5 (FATP5). This construct was used to study melanoma lipid uptake in vitro using plate based functional assays, and tumor progression in vivo using a transparent zebrafish transplant model. Strikingly, FATP5 overexpressing cells translated to a significantly greater tumor burden. These data lead to the conclusion that lipid uptake in melanomas support tumor progression, specifically through active transport as demonstrated with FATP5.
The location of Sloan-Kettering was an additional perk of the internship considering it is situated in New York City on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. All the interns were afforded the opportunity to live, courtesy of MSKCC, in the Marymount Manhattan Dormitory. This living arrangement was awesome considering its vicinity to the cancer center and Central Park, where I would spend some days wondering about trying to see every forest and field.
Activities outside of working in the lab were also provided by MSKCC, such as tickets to the Bronx Zoo, opportunities to see Broadway musicals, and a cruise around Manhattan with SURP and Gerstner Sloan-Kettering Graduate School students together. During the 10 weeks I wondered throughout the city seeing both the Yankees and Mets play, attending a Smorgasburg festival in Prospect Park, kayaking on the Hudson River, venturing up to Boston for a weekend, seeing Jesse-Tyler Ferguson perform on Broadway, and enjoying an incredible dinner in Little Italy with a very special someone.
Overall, this summer I lived and experienced New York for what it offers both scientifically in its dense population of research centers and academic institutions, as well as culturally with its profound museums, grand parks, and astonishing inhabitants.