Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

A new experience in Alzheimer’s disease research

Written by Aarav Dubey, BS candidate, Washington University in St. Louis and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

Members of the Karch Lab enjoy a lunch outing together

This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to conduct research in the Karch Lab on the WashU Medical Campus. I am currently the youngest person in the program, having only finished my freshman year of college, and as such, I was initially quite nervous about this summer. How was I, just a teenager, supposed to play a role in the complex world of novel scientific research?

Once I started my research experience, these concerns went away almost immediately. I found everyone in the lab incredibly welcoming and excited to include me. As time passed and formalities faded, I became good friends with my lab colleagues.

My mentor, Miguel, especially helped me feel welcome as I took baby steps into the world of Alzheimer’s disease research. I am grateful to have had such a patient and encouraging mentor, who helped me see every mistake as an opportunity to learn and grow as a scientist. I also felt a level of independence in the project I worked on, and having Miguel guide my thinking and supporting me exploring new ideas, made this research project feel more exciting and personalized.

Generally in the lab, there is also a strong sense of community. During my first weeks, I learned about the different lab projects and roles everyone has. As my project developed and became multifaceted, I felt comfortable taking new steps knowing that I could ask anyone for help. Beyond this, I loved simply bonding with my peers over coffee and getting to know about their hobbies, interests and quirks.

My lab partners also held frequent meetings to discuss Alzheimer’s research by Karch Lab members and various scientists from around the world. Sometimes in these meetings, we would lose track of time as it was so exciting to see what members of the Karch Lab were working on. The years of experience and enthusiasm regarding scientific discovery that my peers showed during these meetings, made the lab an exciting environment while fostering curiosity within myself. Everyone had respectful and thoughtful suggestions to give the presenter, which further diversified and strengthened the research. Though not having nearly as much niche knowledge as my peers, my questions were received with enthusiasm and my suggestions with sincerity. Discussing journal articles by other institutions helped me recognize the scope of Alzheimer’s research and made me feel a sense of solidarity within the scientific community.

This research was an extremely new experience for me, and one that I expected to be quite challenging. I am grateful to have had such a wonderful experience with lab partners who so strongly believe in the true essence of research: solving problems in solidarity. I hope to carry the lessons learned during the research and the curiosity sparked within me to all my future scientific endeavors.