I just completed my third week as a neuropsychopharmacology research fellow at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
Neuropsychopharmacology is a really long and scary word. It makes me sound way more intelligent than I am, but in these past three weeks I have learned more about science than all other science smashed together. I have that hot-stomach-burning feeling all day every day.
On my first day I was so nervous. Like, couldn’t sleep the night before nervous. I called my mom asking for fashion advice. which I never do, and we ended up fighting about what I should wear, which is why I never ask for her advice.
Stephanie, who is in charge of all of us Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows, is quite a character. She was wearing lime green from head to toe on the day of our orientation. She said she tried to keep her outfit ‘normal’ so she didn’t scare us on the first day. It didn’t work. But her personality put us all at ease. She was quick to joke about us and herself, and even quicker to laugh at herself. Most mornings I stop by her office because it’s on the way to my mentors and she is always wearing some crazy outfit. I’ve read about people like her in books, but I’ve never had daily interaction with someone who dresses so strangely. I like it.
We had lunch with our mentors. I knew I liked mine right away. His name is Daniel Lodge and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Are you going to introduce us, Stephanie, or do we have to fucking do it ourselves?” It was totally a joke because Stephanie didn’t know all of the mentor’s names so she got flustered. It’s definitely his style to joke around with everyone and that makes for a really great work environment. Did I mention Lodge has an Australian accent? Listening to his instructions is pretty easy on the ears.
Of course we talked about science. But when he asked me what else I do with my time, I told him I was in a sorority. He asked if I had starred in any American Pie movies. informed him that those girls aren’t even in sororities, then I corrected some of his stereotypical views about sororities. We talked about Australia and my brief visit there. I asked him if he could throw a boomerang and he said of course, we grow up throwing them about, but they are quite scary when the big ones come back at your face really quickly. I replied with “that’s what she said” and I think that’s when Lodge started to like me.
Then I met Jennifer. Jennifer is amazing. She is thirty but looks like she is twenty. She is so easy to talk to and acts like she is genuinely interested in what I have to say. We have great conversations and now we are Facebook friends. For the first week I basically followed her around all day but now that I’m doing stuff on my own I don’t get to see her as much it’s sad. The other two postdocs, Angie and Stephanie, are really nice and funny too, but they are older than Jennifer and they have kids so it’s a little different talking to them. I think they see me as closer to their child than their peer, which I am, but I like that Jennifer really treats me as an equal.
As for the research part of it, I’m doing tons of stuff. I do molecular work like Western blots and immunohistochemistry. I do behavior stuff like AST, EPM, and latent inhibition. I also did neurosurgeries to implant electrodes into rat brains and then I will use electrophysiology to record signals of dopamine between the medial prefrontal cortex and the ventral hippocampus. Everything that we do works towards our goal of curing schizophrenia, hopefully with stem cells. Lodge is about to start a clinical trial with humans to see if his stem cell therapy will work and it’s really freaking cool stuff.
I couldn’t be more in love with the work I’m doing or the place I’m doing it in.